The Maggots Underneath the Porch is another gory, graphic tale from the mind of Patrick James Ryan, who loves crafting stories where the splatter is spectacular, the horror is shocking, and the payoff is quick and merciless. After reading his full novel The Night It Got Out and his anthology Blood Verse, I wasn’t surprised when this one had the same violent, gruesome flavor to it.
The Maggots Underneath the Porch takes place in the mid-70s in a small Indiana town where Jimmy Turner, a young boy who lives with his housebound grandmother, is coping with growing up, a love of baseball, and the tragic loss of his parents. On top of this, his grandmother has gone from being obese to completely immobilized, stuck in a chair in the family room. It has become so bad that a hole has been cut in the floor so she can cast away her garbage and also take care of bodily functions. She is coated in filth and flies when Jimmy’s Uncle Pete visits and makes an effort to get her better care and to support Jimmy, but things are quickly getting worse. Grandma is rotting from both the inside and out. Even worse, something is growing inside her guts…something rotten that wants to break free.
It’s pretty simple. If you love grindhouse gore, this is a novella for you. It is a quick read that provides some decent character development for Jimmy and his Uncle Pete, but the focus is on the action and the terror they and everyone deals with when they come face to face with the horror inside Jimmy’s house. The pace is fast and in several instances we are introduced to a character moments before they meet their gruesome end. This is not for the faint of heart or those without an iron constitution.
The author does tend to shade into the ‘tell vs. show’ arena here and there with how he spins his tale, but nothing that is too distracting from the story itself. After reading prior works, Patrick James Ryan continues to sharpen his story weaving skills. He loves playing on the nostalgia elicited by the good old summer days of kids playing baseball and spending their time out in the sun rather than inside playing video games. While I was not in my early teens in the 70s, I can appreciate what the story represents-a simpler time where Jaws was on the big screen, collecting beer cans was a fun hobby, and getting a wiffle ballgame together in the front yard was a blast. There is a lot of innocence to the kids that are Jimmy’s friends. Innocence that gets shredded and devoured once the horror begins. This is good B-Movie, grindhouse horror for those who love their stories full of pulpy carnage.
The Maggots Underneath the Porch can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Maggots-Underneath-Porch-Patrick-James-ebook/dp/B074VG8BTX/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1519435992&sr=8-1
The Night It Got Out is the first full length tale from author Patrick James Ryan, who previously wrote Blood Verse, a compendium of horror influenced short stories and poems. He dives into the equivalent of the classic B-Grade monster movie here with zeal, telling parallel accounts of a virtually unstoppable creature whose only purpose is to kill anyone and everyone who stands in its way.
Don Girard is the police chief of Magnus Pass, the town where a cargo truck carrying the imprisoned beast crashes, freeing it to go on a rampage of blood, guts, and utter chaos. Once the beast is freed, the government rushes in, with retired Green Beret Colonel Elliot Harmon leading the charge to kill or capture the beast.
Through flashback, we learn of Harmon’s unique relationship with the beast and the covert operations that created this genetically mutated killing machine. Though the police chief and Green Beret combine forces in an effort to stop the monster, it’s clear that neither trusts the other, and the motivations of each might be at crossed purposes.
This book moves quickly, shifting from one killing field to the next. From the cover of the book, the beast looks almost like a werewolf or something similar, but the way it’s described makes it more of an amalgam of various predators, including man, with razor sharp claws and teeth, plus incredible strength and speed. It is intelligent, cunning, and hunts humans out of hatred as well as a food source. Though there may have been some possibility of sympathy for this beast that has been manipulated and imprisoned by men its entire life, it was hard for me, as a reader, to see past its desire for unlimited slaughter to perhaps try and understand what it has been forced to become.
Since things move at such a rapid pace with this fairly short book, the reader’s relationships with both Girard and Harmon are rather clipped and terse, much like the relationship these two men share with one another. The bulk of the other characters and what we get to know about them serve only to migrate us from one scene of blood drenched death to another, just like classic monster movies do. We are given very brief glimpses into the lives of the creature’s victims, typically just before they are gone in a blink of an eye; eviscerated, decapitated, and devoured.
Of course, with the government involved, there is a subplot of secret government experiments and diabolical plots revolving the use of such an ultimate killing machine, but it is heavily overshadowed by the gore splattered action that crosses almost every page.
Overall, this is a fun, over the top gore fest. Readers looking for more subtle horror would probably be more inclined to read the author’s other book. Because The Night It Got Out splashes you in the face with buckets of blood, meat, and bones from start to finish.
The author continues to hone his craft with his second book and has done a bang up job with vivid descriptions with this story. I did, however, find it hard to make an emotional investment in either main character, Girard or Harmon. Perhaps it was the quick pace of the story and the limited time to get to know either of them, but I wasn’t drawn to either and found it hard to care what fate had in store for them. With that said, that isn’t a major stumbling block with this type of fast paced, vicious horror tale. Instead, just prepare to strap in and ride this gnarly carnage coaster until the end.
The Night It Got Out can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Night-Got-Patrick-James-Ryan/dp/0692329781/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1434824559
Blood Verse is Patrick James Ryan’s first published work and is an anthology of horror tales interspersed with poems. Each poem follows the same format of rhyming couplets-there is no free verse poems in the mix.
As is usually the case with most anthologies, you reach into the goody bag and aren’t sure what you will get each time, especially when there is no set theme. That is the case here. Certainly, each tale has a horror bent to it, but they range from the supernatural to the more ‘regular’ every day type tales of serial killers and grim misfortune. Kudos to the author for giving the reader a diverse set of shorts and poems with some unexpected and entertaining twists.
The good: the author does a solid job of backing up his stories with decent research that allows him to provide us with a book rich in diverse locales and plotlines. It’s clear that effort was put forth to give each tale some heft and a solid background that makes them feel more real. Though not every story has that ‘blink with surprise’ type ending that readers often expect, when they do happen here many were quite satisfying and enjoyable. There are some genuinely entertaining stories on these pages that I enjoyed a great deal. I know the term ‘fun’ is not always associated with horror, but I had fun reading them.
The challenging: I’m not going to say the ‘bad’ because that wouldn’t be fair to the author, because while some of the shorts found here didn’t resonate with me, they were still solidly crafted. I could see the potential in most of them and I admire the author for putting together a very diverse compendium of tales and taking some risks here and there. They just didn’t all hit the mark for me. One of the reasons is that there is a healthy dose of tell vs. show mixed into several of the stories. It is a challenge all authors face-attempting to avoid making the yarn they are spinning feel more like a newspaper account of what is happening. They instead want to give the reader a feeling of immersion, as if they are experiencing everything alongside the characters. The author does accomplish that immersion in many cases, but in some instances it wasn’t there. There were also some typos throughout, noticeable but not a major distraction.
While some stories just didn’t click for me (Pain and the Boxer, Desert Death, Hair as examples) others were very entertaining (Bus Stop, Road Rage Bigot, Walking the Dog, Elevator…among others) and that is what reading an anthology is all about: finding those gold nuggets that make reading a mix of different tales well worth the time, which Blood Verse succeeded in doing for me. Chances are, if you are a horror fan, you will find a few solid nuggets in this book as well.
Blood Verse can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0988659034/ref=cm_cr_thx_view