Ghoul

Ghoul

Dressed in a cape and top hat, with a bone white face and madman's eyes, the Ghoul crawls from the London sewers to kill - bloodily, perversely, inexplicably.In Vancouver, the horror rock group Ghoul cavort onstage, their act a bizarre and violent front. But, for what? Drugs? Snuff films? Dirty money? Contract killings?Inspector Zinc Chandler of Special X thinks he knows.I...

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Title:Ghoul
Author:Michael Slade
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Ghoul Reviews

  • Tony

    What's my favorite horror novel of all time? Tough question, but the one novel that always first comes to mind is the sophomore effort, Ghoul, by the amalgamation of Canadian lawyers known as Michael Slade.

    Don't be fooled by the tittle. This is not a book about monsters or the paranormal. Ghoul is a psycho-thriller featuring the hunt for a deranged psychopath by detective Zinc Chandler, a member of the elite Canadian serial killer task-force known as Special X. That's right, it's about Mounties.

    What's my favorite horror novel of all time? Tough question, but the one novel that always first comes to mind is the sophomore effort, Ghoul, by the amalgamation of Canadian lawyers known as Michael Slade.

    Don't be fooled by the tittle. This is not a book about monsters or the paranormal. Ghoul is a psycho-thriller featuring the hunt for a deranged psychopath by detective Zinc Chandler, a member of the elite Canadian serial killer task-force known as Special X. That's right, it's about Mounties. All of you Canada haters out there shouldn't worry, though. Most of the novel takes place in and under the streets of London, along with various parts of the United States – most notably, Rhode Island.

    First published in 1987, during the great boom of serial killer novels ushered in by Thomas Harris' Red Dragon, Ghoul differentiates itself by having been written by die-hard horror fans who just happen to be Canadian lawyers – specializing in criminal insanity cases, no less. Slade's passion for horror, and understanding of the inner workings of the insane, brings a unique formula to the proceedings that tickles the horror geek in me like few other writers are capable.

    The novel has elements of both police procedural and murder mystery, and is chock full of horror movie references and ever escalating terrors. From the opening chapter, in which a teenage boy is buried alive as part of his initiation into a horror club, to the kidnapping of conjoined twins as part of a ritual intended to open the gates for the return of the Old Ones, this book has everything a horror fan could ask for. Did I say, Old Ones? That's right, but as I said, there is nothing paranormal in the novel, only the broken and torn mind of a psychopath. As a mater of fact, Ghoul can be read as a primer for H.P. Lovecraft, as the detectives investigating the case must familiarize themselves with Ech Pi El and his writings in order to track down the killer.

    Filled with blood and gore, the novel is bursting with interesting discussions on history, Lovecraft, horror films and psychological insights into the insane. Slade manages to make these passages, some several pages long, interesting and exciting; never once slowing down or impede the narrative. With this ability to inform and educate, while maintaining an action packed narrative, I often think of Slade as the Michael Crichton of horror.

    The prose is vivid and fast paced, while also taking time to build the story and characters enough that you fear for their lives (Slade is known for killing-off major characters in his novels, so you never know who is safe). Ghoul is a horror novel turned to all the way thirteen and reads like the greatest horror film never made. With depictions of exsanguination, acid baths, beheadings and skinning in order to bind a homemade Necronomicon, Ghoul is bursting at the seams with horror. It is an adrenaline rush that races to an exciting and satisfactory conclusion that would satisfy even the most jaded of horror fan.

    Currently, Slade has written fourteen novels set in the violent and horrific world of the investigators of Special X, and one outside that world, Crucified. While the make-up of Slade has changed over the years, with the current incarnation consisting of Jay Clark (the original driving force behind Slade) and his daughter Rebecca, I highly recommend all of his work.

  • Jeff Gamble

    quite possibly one of the best written horror novels ever.never before or since have i found myself reading a book one minute and then standing on the otherside on the room staring at the book wondering what the f*** is goin on.its worth the verbal acid trip to find out.

  • James

    i have to admit to being rather conflicted on the rating of this book, which i desperately wish i could have given a 3.5 if able, but in the end, there was just too much that i found appealing to give it a flat 3.

    my biggest complaints seem rather few when i think about them list-wise, but it's a strong list. there were, for a large portion of the book, too many story lines going on at one time, and by the time they were all pulled together, it wasn't so much an "a-ha" moment as an "oh, jeez" mo

    i have to admit to being rather conflicted on the rating of this book, which i desperately wish i could have given a 3.5 if able, but in the end, there was just too much that i found appealing to give it a flat 3.

    my biggest complaints seem rather few when i think about them list-wise, but it's a strong list. there were, for a large portion of the book, too many story lines going on at one time, and by the time they were all pulled together, it wasn't so much an "a-ha" moment as an "oh, jeez" moment. i can't really say much more about it, other than that one entire sub-story (which arguably isn't that "sub") could have been completely omitted without any detriment to the story.

    almost alongside that, there's the whole police procedural aspect to the story that i feel unecessarily slowed things down with overly detailed descriptions of crime scenes, as well as an over-boiled pulp-detective complex on behalf of one of the main characters.

    i say "almost" alongside the initial complaint about the storylines because as much as i found to complain about the police procedural and the pulp-detective characteristics, i also found something to enjoy in each. my natural curiousity won out a lot with regards to the procedural (though not all of the time), and a lot of times, pulp-isms make me smile.

    there was also the story itself, which is a little too complex to get into detail about right now, but which, when it boiled down to it, was inspired by lovecraft, horror movies & rock and roll, some of my favorite things. write a book about those? now you've got most of my favorite things, which just about outweigh my earlier complaints, though not entirely, which brings me back to the conflict mentioned at the beginning of this review.

    do i give it a 3 and undersell it, or do i give it a 4 and oversell it? in the end, i gave it the benefit of the doubt, largely because of the amount of time it took me to read, by the time i was done, i was more than ready to be done, which may have lead me to being harsher than i normally would have.

  • Lee

    A police procedural/horror story, that's the warped mind of Michael Slade. The second in the "Special X" series, and after "Headhunter", it's hard to believe this is a father and daughter writing team!

    This is a perverted, gory, blood fest. And a damn fine thriller.

  • Michael

    If you like to take your mysteries with a liberal dose of WTF, Michael Slade is the author for you. Plot twists, surprise endings, questions left unanswered or with solutions incorrectly guessed at by the all-too-human beleaguered police force abound. Coming on the heels of Headhunter, the second novel in the Special X series is a gruesome nod to such "dangerous" elements of popular culture as rock music, comic books, and horror novels.

    Despite being Special X #2, I consider Ghoul to be more like

    If you like to take your mysteries with a liberal dose of WTF, Michael Slade is the author for you. Plot twists, surprise endings, questions left unanswered or with solutions incorrectly guessed at by the all-too-human beleaguered police force abound. Coming on the heels of Headhunter, the second novel in the Special X series is a gruesome nod to such "dangerous" elements of popular culture as rock music, comic books, and horror novels.

    Despite being Special X #2, I consider Ghoul to be more like "Special X #1, part 2." It and Headhunter can be read in any order the reader desires because no characters from the previous novel appear in this one. Instead a new protagonist in the form of Zinc Chandler makes his debut, and while the next book in the series, Cutthroat, sees him and Robert Declercq team up for the first time, Chandler spends much of his time in this book outside of Canada, traveling instead to the US to liaise with a beautiful FBI agent in Rhode Island, then across the pond in an effort to track down the frontman to the rock band Ghoul, a guy who may or may not be responsible for a series of gruesome murders happening in London, but was almost certainly involved with a reprehensible killing in Vancouver.

    Speaking of London, Detective Chief Superintendent Hilary Rand is having an equally bad day as three serial killers have chosen to make life miserable for the common person in her fair city. The Vampire Killer has claimed a total of eight young girls, murdering them by draining their blood and cutting out their hearts. At the same time, a homophobic sociopath Scotland Yard has dubbed the Flower Bomber is planting explosives at areas where homosexuals are known to congregate, and is taunting Rand by sending her notes. Finally a third killer dubbed The Ghoul is busy getting his slaughter on, using the miles of sewers, tunnels, and forgotten paths beneath the streets of London to move without detection. The victims all appear to be chosen at random, but each site bears the markings of The Ghoul's handiwork, including what Rand assumes must be personal riddles for her, the meanings of which she has yet to work out. All three killers are engaged in a deadly game of one-upsmanship, each one reacting with increasing savagery when the other one steals the headlines. Rand, one of the few women to hold high rank within the Yard, knows her job is on the line and if her team doesn't produce results fast, she'll be put out to pasture.

    Slade's books are twisting, labyrinthine, often downright confusing, as the authors leap from scene to scene, character to character. We follow the psychopaths and sadists for a chapter, hearing their thoughts, getting inside their head, sometimes even learning their names. We watch their crimes as active witnesses, unable to look away but horrified by the results. Then it's back to Rand or Chandler as new evidence crops up, discoveries found, assumptions made. But it's not enough, it's too little, too late, and we know another victim will be fed to the meat grinder before long.

    We read on anyway, hoping Slade knows what he's doing, that the reveal will be worth the price of admission. Upon finishing Ghoul, I was delighted to learn that while I'd deduced a few important things before the grand reveal, there were still plenty of bits I hadn't worked out and one major whammy of a twist I didn't see coming but, in retrospect, was right there in print the whole time if I'd just been paying attention. Proof positive, if nothing else, that I should rule out a career in law enforcement no matter how much I loved The Hardy Boys growing up.

    Ghoul dives right into the extremes of criminal behavior as well as the technical details of police procedural, and while its impact is slightly blunted now in 2015 thanks to horror going more mainstream, I can easily see this book scandalizing readers upon it's initial release in the 1980s. Cannibalism, mental illness, murder, torture, incest, sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll baby: Ghoul's got it all and if you don't find at least one scene somewhere in here that your mind keeps returning to in the days to come then you've clearly seen some shit in your life that I'm better off not knowing. There's a reason Michael Slade's fans refer to ourselves as 'Sladists'.

    All in all, Ghoul's a fine read by a great trio of authors that can potentially appeal to a wide audience: amateur sleuths who fancy themselves good with the whodunnits will enjoy the chase along with Rand and Chandler; horror aficionados will revel in the extremes of nastiness on display between the covers as well as the homages to the likes of Lovecraft, Poe, and the old horror comics of the 50s and 60s before the days of the Comics Code Authority; police procedural and true crime devotees will dig the massive amounts of detail Slade uses when it comes to everything from technologically tracking a suspect and inspecting a crime scene down to the psychology, behavioral profiling, and tactics used by the bobbies and Mounties as they run down their quarry. It's dense, man--those 400 pages are slow, slow going and by the end you'll feel like you slogged through about twice that number. All I can say is I felt the payoff more than worthy of the energy I expended getting through it, and that's good enough for me.

  • Duane

    What an amazing book! Though I know that the depiction of a multiple personality in this novel is not actually the way such things work, it was easy enough to suspend disbelief, because of the completely captivating story and the concise prose style of the three people who write as Michael Slade. I found this thing in a used bookstore not too long after it came out (lucky me), and noticed a blurb on the back that said it had Cthulhu Mythos content. That was good enough for me to shell out the fe

    What an amazing book! Though I know that the depiction of a multiple personality in this novel is not actually the way such things work, it was easy enough to suspend disbelief, because of the completely captivating story and the concise prose style of the three people who write as Michael Slade. I found this thing in a used bookstore not too long after it came out (lucky me), and noticed a blurb on the back that said it had Cthulhu Mythos content. That was good enough for me to shell out the few shekels and bring the thing home, especially as there wasn't anything else very interesting on the shelves...and was I ever glad I did. Couldn't figure out til the very end which one of the personalities was actually responsible for the wanton destruction depicted in this book, though I had my suspicions. The suspense was unbearable for me, and I stayed up all night to read this thing in one sitting. While doing research for a book of my own, this book popped up and said "Read me". So I did, repeating the experience all over again. I hadn't exactly forgotten about Saxon, but time and the load of many other fine books had dulled the memory a bit. Not now. It will be quite a while before I forget, and btw, I read it while listening to the earlier work of Alice Cooper, who had a recommending blurb on the edition I have. Nice combo-I recommend it.

  • Orient

    A thrilling BR with my favorite

    BR partner,

    :)

    Woot, a creepy killer is stalking UK. Nah, it’s not Craig, don’t worry :D Great? Whoa, wait it’s not all, buy one - get four! A freaking discount on killers!!! Exciting, huh? What is more exciting is that the writer, Michael Slade, is a team of three writers - criminal lawyers, with great experience in criminal minds. And what do we get? A bloody realistic, very graphic book that makes a reader sweat a bit to figure it out whodunit a

    A thrilling BR with my favorite

    BR partner,

    :)

    Woot, a creepy killer is stalking UK. Nah, it’s not Craig, don’t worry :D Great? Whoa, wait it’s not all, buy one - get four! A freaking discount on killers!!! Exciting, huh? What is more exciting is that the writer, Michael Slade, is a team of three writers - criminal lawyers, with great experience in criminal minds. And what do we get? A bloody realistic, very graphic book that makes a reader sweat a bit to figure it out whodunit and how-was-it-done. “Ghoul” is the second book in a creepy engaging series which was recommended to me by Craig. Thanks again ;) To tell the truth there’s no way I could have picked this series by myself as Slade is not fluffy, he has claws and he likes to use them! I was terrified, stunned, enchanted and mind-blown. Exactly what I wanted :)

    Characters. It’s quite tricky to explain the ties of the characters and their character features without giving a lot away, so I’ll just say that there’s no shortage of mad people there and at first I was a bit confused to follow a couple killers with different story lines. A desperate Detective Chief Superintendent, various different killers, a tough and sincere Mountie, a silent simple school teacher with an adorable cat. What can you make of that? A bunch of twisted minds. I must confess, I rooted for the character who was not as good as it seemed. The backstories of the characters really got me, I was flinching, disgusted and terrified. Also I loved the connection to the menagerie of Mr. Lovecraft, it was interesting and I’ll ask Mr. Cthulhu on a date after Daniel Faust for sure :)

    One cutie want’s to say hi :)

    Wordbuilding. I really had a little struggle to sort the things out and see the connections between the various happenings, but when the clues started flowing, omg, this book blew my mind. Also like with “Headhunter” I had to put it down a couple of times. The reason is violence against kids. “Ghoul” has a way much twisted and stronger way to it. There were times when I flinched when the author described the acts of the murderers. It was brutal! The writing style resembles a report or a research sometimes and like in “Headhunter”, it helped to read the nasty episodes, made me more interested in police work, but banished my desire to get connected with most of the characters. Oh and I had really no problem living WITHOUT knowing so much about the sewer system :) I know that the authors did such a throughout presentation to help the story, but still... I was intrigued by the language of flowers, too :)

    To sum up this book is a great read to see into the twisted crazy minds of killers and test the toughness of your stomach. Despite the nasty stuff, the urge to know the killers identity, the motives and the great twists and turns made me want to continue this crazy ride with Slade and I wasn’t disappointed. I am hooked on Slade books for sure, they even compete with my fave Rollins Sigma Force!

  • Nate

    A hideous disappointment after how much I truly dug

    , which in my opinion is one of the ballsiest and most compelling mixes of the crime/police procedural and horror genres I've ever read. I really, REALLY wanted to like this book and spent a long time looking for it so I had nothing but the best intentions here...but I'd be reading it and I just wouldn't feel that thrilling, morbid spark I got from the first book. Then I'd put it down for like a couple weeks until I'd suddenly uncover

    A hideous disappointment after how much I truly dug

    , which in my opinion is one of the ballsiest and most compelling mixes of the crime/police procedural and horror genres I've ever read. I really, REALLY wanted to like this book and spent a long time looking for it so I had nothing but the best intentions here...but I'd be reading it and I just wouldn't feel that thrilling, morbid spark I got from the first book. Then I'd put it down for like a couple weeks until I'd suddenly uncover it in some random location and be like "Hey...why haven't I been reading this?!" and like 30 minutes later I'd answer myself with "Oh yeah...THIS is why."

    So Michael Slade is a pseudonym for actually more than one person working in tandem on these books. I feel like someone new came in or left since the first one, because this doesn't even feel like the same author. It's just...utterly predictable and lame. The focus on rock music (particularly Alice Cooper) and Lovecraft got nauseatingly trite and overplayed, which is especially bad because I fuckin' love rock music and really like Lovecraft. I just heard myself going..."I fucking get it. Lovecraft and Cooper. Lovecraft and Cooper. Lovecraft and Cooper. Who are you trying to impress with this shit?" constantly in my head. Of course Cooper blurb-fellated this book on the cover, Slade was mentioning him in every other paragraph. I know he has an ostensible excuse but it didn't fly at all for me.

    The procedural stuff was a huge boring pain in the ass as well. I get that at the time the technology Slade spends so much time explaining and examining was cutting-edge and fascinating, but unfortunately I read this in 2015 and it was like some guy trying to tell me how awesome an Atari is. I feel like there was a little bit of this stuff in the previous book, but there is a fucking DELUGE in this one. It just really hurt the momentum and atmosphere of the story. Slade was trying to conjure some spooky, London gothic aura here and then he's talking about fucking pre-DOS operating systems creating 3D models of sewers and it was just dreadful. It doesn't help the story itself is completely disjointed, jumping randomly across decades and oceans, back and forth until I don't know who people are and don't give a flying fuck anymore because it's frustrating.

    I did like the new addition of Zinc Chandler, who is like a silver-haired tough guy renegade cop type. I was really excited when Slade introduced him and put him through his cat-and-mouse game with the genuinely creepy Sid Jinks, but almost immediately after that Slade was constantly blueballing me with the stupid shit about the rock band Ghoul and DCI (or whatever...I can't get a handle on British police ranks) Hilary Rand's political struggles...you really could have shaved all that shit away, and had this been a pure Chandler-driven book and not only would you have saved like 200 pages it would have been much more entertaining and propulsive. Again, massive disappointments to be had around every corner.

    I didn't dig this shit. I really feel strongly about my theory about the human makeup of the Slade persona changing, and they need to fix this shit. I see that one of the two male Slades brought his daughter in to work on this shit. Listen, I like the idea of family-run businesses and stuff like that, but this is fucking writing, not a fucking bakery. The vast majority of people on the Earth are not good or even decent writers and I feel like this might have totally fucked up a really good formula. I already bought

    on the strength of liking the first book so much, but this makes me kind of look at it with apprehension when I run into it on my bookshelf, like a new acquaintance you're kinda dubious about.

  • Robert Defrank

    Short review: don’t bother. Minor Spoilers:

    Longer review: I tried this one out because I understood it to be Lovecraft-inspired. It was, in the sense that Dungeons and Dragons ‘inspire’ Chick Tracts.

    From the very first quote on the very first page – a quote supposedly from Lovecraft, long discredited by Lovecraft fans and generally accepted to be an invention of August Derleth – I suspected I was in for a disappointing ride. The story confirmed as much.

    In brief: serial killers are inspired by Lo

    Short review: don’t bother. Minor Spoilers:

    Longer review: I tried this one out because I understood it to be Lovecraft-inspired. It was, in the sense that Dungeons and Dragons ‘inspire’ Chick Tracts.

    From the very first quote on the very first page – a quote supposedly from Lovecraft, long discredited by Lovecraft fans and generally accepted to be an invention of August Derleth – I suspected I was in for a disappointing ride. The story confirmed as much.

    In brief: serial killers are inspired by Lovecraft and his works to commit gruesome crimes. Police investigate. Adventure ensues.

    While the authors (according to the hardcover library book I read, ‘Michael Slade’ is actually the pseudonym of three persons collaborating) are familiar with police procedure, the story and characters themselves suffer a short shrift. I found the characters very wooden, their dialogue serving only to move the plot forward or further expound on news and current events. Ironically, the most energetic and exciting parts were those segments told from the serial killers’ point of view, which puts forward an interesting puzzle about how and why this is happening. Hence the second star.

    Where the book went south for me was the depiction of Lovecraft and art in general. There are a few segues of speculation between characters of the danger of fiction, music, games, and the violence they supposedly cause.

    As for the Lovecraftian elements, the authors simply prove that they understand absolutely nothing about his work. When Lovecraft himself is described by one character to another, he is depicted as a regular Charlie Manson, inspiring his readers to acts of violence. The conversation concludes with the character opining that, no, in a free society we cannot censor this stuff, but oh how dangerous it is…

    In a final insult the last pages are merely a list of crimes of violence supposedly inspired by fiction, music and games.

    If you want something to make your blood boil, check it out. Otherwise, don’t bother.

    I read this book so you don’t have to. Don’t let my suffering be in vain.

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