WTF Friday: Sacrificing Virgins by John Everson

Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't always get a lot of press, and which rarely benefit from any prominent retail shelf space.

They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

Despite having purchased several of John Everson's novels, Sacrificing Virgins actually proved to be my first taste of his work. Having finished it last night, I must say that it left me with one very important question - what the hell I was waiting for?

This is a collection that absolutely sucked me in, devoured my soul, and left me an undead husk, eager to be used and abused some more. The short stories here are wildly imaginative, darkly atmospheric, and seriously depraved. Alternately erotic and sadistic, they are sometimes full of the blackest humor, and other times completely barren of hope.

“She Found Spring” is a beautiful, yet sadly haunting sort of tale, a classic ghost story centered around the turning of the seasons. "Bad Day” is a terrifying, apocalyptic sort of tale that starts out with a bit of morbid humor, but which descends into hopeless terror as the plague of Luna Roaches begin breeding inside human skulls.

“Nailed” marks the first appearance of erotic horror in the collection, introducing us to a lonely woman and the stone sex toy she steals from a long-dead corpse beneath her garden, while "The Eyes" marks the first appearance of extreme horror in the collection, with a sadistic serial killer who has a fetish for eyes . . .

“Sacrificing Virgins” is where Everson completely won me over, putting a necrophiliac twist on the classic 'deal with the devil' story. This is one of those stories that repeatedly seems to reach a new depth of disgust, only to keep finding even deeper levels of debauchery. Somehow, “Whatever You Want” actually manages to push the envelope even further, with a slow-burning tale of erotic mutilation that just keeps getting darker and more perverse.

“Eardrum Buzz” merges elements of earlier stories, mixing music and bug in a blackly humorous story about the 'buzz' of a new band, the 'buzz' of a concert the day after, and the 'buzz' of something else. “Field of Flesh” is a companion piece to his erotic horror novel NightWhere (which I need to read next), involving a supernaturally kinky sex club, an all-too-eager detective, and the very dangerous temptations of sexual voyeurism.

“The Pumpkin Man” and “The Tapping” are stories where you know what's going on, and can guess the ending from the start, but they're so well told that you're content to enjoy the read. Both are distinguished by the uniqueness of their narrators, the creepiness of the atmosphere, and the ghost-story chills of the plot. “The White House” is a similar sort of tale where you can guess at the ending from page one, but it's the slow build of the tension, and the gradual reveal of the house's sins that make it so powerful.

“Star on the Beach” is another darkly erotic tale of 'harmless' necrophilia on a beach, while “Fish Bait” is a darkly humorous tale of a night in a redneck bar, but both are brutal reminders of the power of seemingly superstitious rituals of appeasement. “To Earn His Love” is another piece of erotic horror that touches on familiar themes, this time involving inappropriate student-teacher relations, guilty voyeurism, and poorly considered deals with the devil.

"The Hole To China” is a perfect closer to the collection, as beautiful and sadly haunting as the story that opened it. A tale of escape from the all-too-real horrors of domestic abuse, it relates the simple story of a boy digging his way to China, and the kindly woman next door who offers him a special shovel, along with some increasingly unsettling observations.

Make no mistake, Sacrificing Virgins is not for everyone, but that's precisely why I enjoyed it so much. I have barely scratched at the surface here, but this is a book that had me covering my eyes, turning my head aside, and reading almost tentatively at times. Some of it is beautiful, and some of it is shocking, but it's all powerful.

ebook, 440 pages
Published December 1st 2015 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.