WTF Weekend: NightWhere by John Everson (@JohnEverson)

She yearned to go beyond... but some curtains should never be opened.

When Rae broached the idea of visiting an underground sex club, Mark didn't blink. He should have. Because NightWhere is not your usual swingers club. Where it's held on a given night...only those who receive the red invitations know. Soon Rae is indulging in her lust for pain. And Mark is warned by a beautiful stranger to take his wife away before it's too late.But it's already too late. Because Rae hasn't come home. Now Mark is in a race against time -- to find NightWhere again and save his wife from the mysterious Watchers who run the club. To stop her from taking that last step through the degradations of The Red into the ultimate BDSM promise of The Black. More than just their marriage and her life are at stake: Rae is in danger of losing her soul...

  

While I originally reviewed NightWhere last year, I wanted to take advantage of our Hell for the Holidays theme to revisit that review, and expand upon it by talking about Field of Flesh, my gateway to this world of dark decadence.

It was Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart that first opened my eyes to the erotic potential of true, blood-curdling horror. The House of Blood by Wayne C. Rogers (sadly out of print) came next, upping factors both fetish and fear, and making me wonder how much further an author could take it. While it's taken me far too long to enjoy the answer, it comes in the form of John Everson's NightWhere, the glorious finale in an unholy thematic trinity of blood, bondage, and blasphemy.

While there is no such thing as a perfect book (Mark's too-easy final assault upon The Red irks me a bit), this is about as close as they come. I wanted a work of erotic horror that delivered on both fronts. I was looking for a book that's as drenched in blood as it is in semen and tears. I craved a story that could turn me off and turn me on, often in the same paragraph. Most of all, I wanted to experience an author who isn't afraid to push the limits, to cross the line, and to risk offending just about every sensibility.

To put it bluntly, this is fucking it.

This is the most graphically obscene mainstream novel that I have ever read. It starts off edgy and kinky, with some BDSM play that gets a little rough and bloody, and then it bleeds right into torture porn, snuff, blasphemy, and necrophilia. It's graphic, it's disturbing, and it's also utterly fascinating. Everson plays with a lot of concepts and themes here, with love and marriage at the heart of it all, but he twists things in such a way that we're forced to confront our fears and our fantasies at the same time. He simultaneously conveys the dark passions that Rae chases so deeply, and the pure love that drives Mark onward. In our hearts (and perhaps our souls) we know that Mark is in the right, we know he's the hero, and we want him to save his wife . . . but it is so hard to deny the guilty pleasures that Rae invites us to share. There comes a point where, even though we may be hoping for redemption, we're willing to sacrifice her to see what The Black holds.

As much as this is a novel of pain and pleasure, torture and titillation, all of that would eventually become tiresome and repetitive were it not for the characters. Mark and Rae are a fantastic couple, a husband and wife with whom it's all too easy to relate at the beginning, and whom we become invested in as their lives fall apart. Sin-D is a fascinating sort-of guide to NightWhere, a promiscuous, all-knowing bartender whose pained humanity intrigues us from the start. Kharon is far too cold and inhuman to really engage us, serving more as a plot device than a character, but he does have his moments. Damia, on the other hand, is the kind of scene-chewing, over-the-top villainess who made me smile every time she popped up at Mark's side. Finally, we have Selena, a character who takes a while to really step out of the shadows, but whose back-story could be a novel all on its own.

While the supernatural plays a huge role in NightWhere, making possible so much desecration and defilement night-after-night, it is the human aspects that are often the most chilling. Amidst all the intricate mechanisms of torture, designed as unholy trials and rites of passage, it is not the bizarre cornfield of crucifixions that sticks with me most, but the simplicity of a booby-trapped dildo - a mortal invention, borne of spite and jealousy. When we can intend such unforgivable things for one another, simply so that we can 'win' the right to proceed deeper into darkness, it really drives home the idea that Hell (spiritual, psychological, or physical) is what we make of it. Unlike so many stories where the 'fallen' character is seduced into sin, pushed into perversion, John Everson does not allow us that out. We're not here because anybody got dragged kicking and screaming into it, we're here because it's precisely where they want to be. And where, even if you won't admit it publicly, you're inclined to linger perhaps a little too long, wondering if you could ever be more than a literary voyeur.

That brings us to the companion piece and novella-sized sequel, Field of Flesh, which I first encountered as part of the Sacrificing Virgins collection. What makes it a must-read is two things. First, it gives us a whole other perspective on NightWhere, stripping away the emotional attachment of Mark and Rae as lovers, and inviting us to follow a Detective's professional, purpose-driven descent into depravity. Second, it reminds us that despite the climactic events that concluded the novel, NightWhere is eternal. This is just as violent and erotic as you might expect (hope? fear?) but with a noir, hardboiled, often sarcastic sort of narrative sense that keeps it fresh.

Should Everson find time to put pen to paper and tell the story of Serena, you can bet your ass I'll be all over that.



Print Length: 312 pages
Publisher: Dark Arts Books
Publication Date: January 8, 2017
Originally Published: June 5th 2012 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.

The WTF Weekend gang is group of readers and reviewers who enjoy Weird, Taboo, and Forbidden fiction that is most definitely NSFW. Join us every Saturday and Sunday for more twisted tales . . . and if you have a review to contribute, please contact us!

Comments