Max's World, an Introduction
Over the years, the topic of Max, a character that has generated
a small pile of published material, has come up during various
interviews. Who is he? What's his story about?
Max is an extreme character. He is not your parents, brother,
sister, neighbor, uncle, teacher, your best friend or worst
enemy from high school. Max is not cozy or warm or cuddly.
He is the bogeyman, a force of nature and of the supernatural.
Max is the darkness I believe is in all of us, the thing we
struggle to control or contain or ignore, that terrible aspect
of humanity that emerges in environments like war, ignorance,
But his story is about the possibility of change and overcoming
the darkness, no matter what the cost.
In Max's world, I feel I can write about just about everything
I find fascinating. Max and his friends are a band of extreme
characters living in a universe where all spiritual systems
are valid, co-exist, and interact with each other and the
real world. The stories deal with sex, violence, psychology,
religion, and they allow me to speculate about reality, spirituality
and science. I can be brutal, emotional, funny, sensual; I
can mix science fiction technology with gods and demons; and
I can indulge in conspiracies and political intrigue.
The world is a lot of fun for me, and at the same time I
feel I’m writing about true, essential aspects of life,
though not, of course, in a realistic or commercial style.
But along the way, I also try to deal with the emotional truths
addressed by the myths and sacred perspectives on reality
depicted in Max's world, especially, as the story progresses,
in the relationship between parents and children. I've also
reached for some of the primal stuff that makes myth so rich
and rewarding, the stuff that inspires wonder and terror in
Max's story starts with a question: How does a monster become
This is the central question driving the story of Max, a killer
for hire with supernatural power and inhuman appetites, in
stories and novels published by Necro Publications and Leisure:
The Beast That Was Max, Road to Hell, and Road From Hell.
To start at the very beginning, the series had a number
Of course, first came too many books, movies and comics
with monsters as a kid, for sure. Dracula's evil was fairly
straightforward – stalk, bite, blood. Got the evil part.
Frankenstein's monster raised a few issues – he didn't
ask to come back from the dead and be made into a freak. For
me, there were issues of identity that later became explicit
in reading people like Phil Dick. Mr. Hyde opened doors wide
to madness and horror from within, and the possibilities of
choice. And the original Outer Limits often seemed to raise
the issue of the nature of evil when it came to alien and
I was always interested in myths and fairy tales, especially
the ones involving transformation, and Cocteau's Beauty and
The Beast had a powerful effect.
There was also the typical crazy stuff you see and hear
as a kid that seems innocent enough looking back but so vast,
inexplicable and frightening when you're in it.
Too many damn college lit courses.
And then, there's my day job. When I began working for a
variety of mental health and drug programs in the 80's, I
got a long, hard look at vulnerability and the consequences
of trauma, pain, deprivation. I also had interesting encounters
with predators. Not the neighborhood characters I grew up
listening to as they debated pursuing career paths with the
cops or the mob. Certainly not school yard bullies or muggers.
There was some deeper darkness out there.
The pain experienced by people struggling with mental illness
or addiction had and continues to have a profound influence
on me. But a very different brand of psychiatric condition
had me asking questions about some people who exude hostility
with such intensity that just being in their presence provokes
a paralyzing sense of dread, or others who are so friendly
and helpful and cheery you just want to hug them because they
came to your rescue at just the right time, until they get
you. Some people had done terrible things in their past and
seemed to have changed, while others showed no remorse, and
in fact still reveled in the pain of others.
They really got me thinking about evil people.
In the worst of them I found the seeds of Max. In the best,
the ones who left that kind life behind, I found a question
about monsters and humans.
I became curious about redemption and the process of transformation
by which it happens, and what salvation means for those who
know they've gone too far.
The journey from monster to human simmered in a stew of reality,
life, myth and media influences, not really cooking all the
way through, until a chance viewing of a cable music channel
story on a set of Senegalese modeling twins brought everything
Though the twins on TV were perfectly normal, imagination
transported them into a context of abuse and the cruelties
suffered by orphans in a harsh world. They took a turn to
darkness as they lost any foundation in innocence. In order
to actually give them a chance at surviving, I grounded their
origins in the primal nature of gods and spirits.
I began to wonder who, or what, could survive them in a
story – who could actually love what they were becoming?
I didn't want to write just another story about predatory
women (or men) having their way with the opposite sex, so
I needed a strong counterpoint to the power I'd given them.
A killing machine driven by barely controlled appetites
and supernatural connections stepped forward from the back
of my head, up for the challenge. The twins became potential
prey who turned out to be predators, perfect foils for a mad
and violent entity who turned out to be Max.
I wrote their story, The Beast That Was Max, and I had the
twins and this raving, monstrous lunatic without mercy called
Max play out a little drama over prey. It was a showdown between
predators, and in the end the twins won.
In writing about their encounter, the old fairy tale of
Beauty and the Beast, as well as the real world journeys I'd
heard of and seen resulting in some level of redemption and
reconciliation, provided the key to Max's defeat, which was
also his turning point and the answer to the question of catalyst
in a monster's metamorphosis to human.: love.
Of course, love is a pretty broad concept. Warm, fuzzy love
didn’t ring true in the context of such extreme characters.
Turns out the love they needed had to hurt.
Well, that's when the world coming together in my head took
a really hellish turn. You answer one question, and a dozen
more pop up, like where did this guy come from and where were
he and the twins heading? Deeper issues emerged, because this
was a Very Bad Guy, but he was not acting that way when it
came to the twins . He was conflicted, not by the temptation
of being bad, but by the possibility of something good happening.
Moving beyond The Beast That Was Max, Max’s story
took shape as a series of consequences resulting from a character
turning away from his destructive nature. In terms of plot,
what allies had he betrayed with that decision, and what was
he leaving himself open to in terms of retribution from victims.
But an emotional arc also took shape. I became interested
in the process of how evil turns away from its nature. As
a predator, Max was emotionally immune to the consequences
of his actions and associations. But as a more complex and
balanced human character, life is not so simple. And there’s
also the ongoing question of redemption – how human
can such a character ever be after all the things he’s
done? What emotional consequences would follow such an act
– what other needs would arise to replace, or maybe
just live side-by-side with his appetites?
Could Max, driven by limitless hunger for power and sensation,
whose tastes for pleasure included the pain and suffering
of others, and who embraced his dependency on the demonic
entity within him to survive in the modern world, have any
chance for real chance at redemption beyond bonding with other
How deeply could he love? Would he ever move beyond a predator/prey
relationship with the rest of the world? Was there a chance
for compassion to curb his appetites?
Or would the price of a past devoted to insatiable hunger
be the denial of any opportunity for healing and salvation?
The question haunting this line of inquiry became the reason
why I've spent so much time writing about Max: How does the
inhuman become human?
So I came up with a nine story arc. Nine short stories.
That was going to be enough, I figured.
This is where Max's bibliography gets complicated.
The original triology of Max stories (The Beast That Was
Max, Trail of Pain and Letters, Angel of Death) was published
in, Painfreak, a story collection from Dave Barnett’s
Necro Publications, in 1996.
A follow-up novella (Truth and Consequences in the Heart
of Destruction) was published in a three-way collection from
the same publisher with horror icons Ed Lee and Tom Piccirilli
called Inside the Works.
Then Dave asked for a Max novel. I wrote Road to Hell
and he published it.
Five stories into the arc, and I'd gone from short story
to novella to novel. Oh well.
When a commercial publishing opportunity came up, I had
to come up with a “prequel” novella to establish
Max as an evil character and foreshadow the changes to come.
So I looked at the three short stories and the novella and
realized there was nothing to indicate how Max had reached
the point where he was ready to change his life in that first
story. So I wrote a 40,000 word “prequel” that
prepared the psychic ground for Max, put it together with
the rest of the material, which went under the name of The
Beast That Was Max. Of course, it’s a “novel
in stories,” but fortunately, I was following a tight
character arc so the main story flows through the shorter
Road To Hell was also picked up for commercial distribution.
Road From Hell took a while to write, to get right,
and to find a publisher, but at last it came out.
What's the actual story?
Well, hell, you have to read them – that's why books
Max's story is, I hope, an epic. I tried to give the reader
a wild ride.
The Beast That Was Max is a story of transformation
which sets up Max as a contract killer for governments, agencies,
corporations, and all the other vast and vague powers running
the world. As I've mentioned above, he encounters twins, Kueur
and Alioune, who change the way he looks at his life. What
follows are the consequences of that encounter: catastrophic
breaks with his demonic self, the Beast, and with his employers.
And then, he has a boy.
Road From Hell is a road story, a chase that starts
out in New York City and winds up in, well, someplace else
entirely. Consequences pursue him through Africa and into
the borderlands between life and death, where he forges alliances
with odd and sometimes mysterious characters while trying
to survive and protect those he loves. Gods and spirits are
involved, as well as a Palace of the Djinn, and a penis thief.
Max learns about the responsibilities of love. Sacrifices
are made, debts are collected, and in the end, though some
of the conflicts are resolved in Max's life, his situation
In Road From Hell, the story is about coming home.
Max pays for his sins. His companions search for a way to
bring him back to them. The Caravan of the Dead try to be
helpful, in their own way. And more sacrifices are made, this
time the lives of innocents, so that a balance can be restored.
You get a tour of Hell.
Here's a tasting from the books, tuned to the more fantastic
From The Beast That Was Max:
Smoke drew him to the altar piled with statues, toys and
candles they had passed on the way up. Spilled candles ignited
cigarette packs, money and plastic, starting a dozen small
fires. Max took a step towards the altar, stopped, suddenly
chilled, feeling his nakedness for the first time.
The altar's Kali statue moved. Blue skin shimmering in the
flickering light, skull necklace swinging, skirt of severed
arms exposing her thighs, the statue side-stepped through
the clutter of baby and animal dolls dressed in home-made
patchwork clothing. With each step, the statue grew, until
it stood as tall as Max atop the altar. Looking down on Max,
Kali smiled, flicked her tongue out at him. In her eyes, Max
saw the sign on the wall he had touched.
The cracked wall behind the altar burst apart. A tall, naked,
muscular black man pushed through the wreckage, a body under
each arm. The ruined eyes and chest hole of the corpse the
stranger carried under one arm declared its undead loyalty
to Rithisak. The twitching, bleeding Asian man under the stranger's
other arm wailed and pleaded in the Khmer tongue Max had heard
earlier in the evening. He did not need a translator to understand
the dying man's plea.
Max brought the shotgun up. The Beast screamed. Max fired
twice, peppering the walls and altar with shot. The Kali figured
twirled, hissed, eyes blazing. The tall man, his body untouched
by the pellet spray, threw the corpses down at Kali's feet,
"You are at a crossroads," the man said, embracing
Kali from behind as she scooped out Rithisak's compound from
the corpse eyes and chest hole and consumed it. "Choose
carefully." Kali picked up the freshly dead man, tore
the head off, raised the body overhead and let the blood pour
From Road To Hell:
“I—” Max began, then stopped as the darkness
before them deepened. A circle of black flames appeared, shimmering
with an all-consuming intensity, bleaching the surrounding
night, drawing out of it all the colors of its creation until
there was nothing left but a void that hurt the eyes, and
the mind, to perceive.
The Beast screamed in terror at the void. Max cried out,
“Don’t turn away from her. Keep staring at the
The ball of black fire collapsed into a tear-shaped pearl,
tail pointing up. The pearl floated for a moment in the void,
then burst. Wind screeched, whipped flesh. Max opened his
mouth to speak, felt the air being sucked out of his lungs
as if he were being kissed by Death. The Box returned to its
familiar darkness. In place of the pearl, a female figure
stood, her blackness more profound than the surrounding night,
her body glistening, shining, as if covered by radiant black
She wore a skirt of severed arms. Bands of rotting heads
decorated her ankles, her four wrists and hung in a necklace
around her neck. A string of naked corpses, tied hand to foot,
hung even lower than her necklace of heads. Her tongue snaked
out of her grinning mouth, a vertical slit opening wide along
the center of the sinewy meat. All three of her eyes stared
down at them, but it was the third that awakened a tingling
sensation on Max’s forehead as he gasped for breath.
Her tresses waved in the air like sea urchins filtering
water currents for prey. . . .
From Road From Hell:
His body ached with remembered tortures, the ghosts of torments
past. But the furies no longer came for him.
Their absence was another kind of pain, an echo of all the
things he could not recall, all that was missing and empty
inside him. He yearned for their touch, their hideous wounded
faces, their questions and excavations and procedures.
Max shifted his weight against a cool metal floor-to-ceiling
frame for a smaller set of windows, the last in a row that
took up an entire wall of the hospital visitor room. He had
never been able to look out from this far up in the facility
before. As far as he could remember.
Memories lied. There were holes in the pattern of his past.
It was a subtle torment, for the furies.
A woman dressed in folds of grey and black, her head covered
by a black scarf, her face veiled, sat at the opposite end
of the waiting room. She was not, as far as he could tell,
one of the jailors. He had seen her in the warren of tiny
offices, storerooms, larger waiting rooms, operating theaters
and hallways as he wandered the otherwise empty hospital,
searching for but never finding an exit, as well as missing
scraps of himself. She had ignored his greetings, and at times
appeared almost insubstantial, as if she had not entirely
arrived in this hell. He took her for another punished soul,
also forsaken, half-heartedly haunting him because she had
nothing better to do.
Outside, a sign in two-storey red neon lights beamed the
message “We’re Here To Help You” from atop
circular storage tanks on the other side of a slow-moving
train of tank cars and a highway jammed in both directions
A bruised layer of clouds hung suspended in the sky, a variegated
background in grays for derricks, high tension wires and smoke
stacks spitting fire and sudden bursts of thick, black smoke.
Endless rows of lights outlined the lattice-work pattern of
abandoned streets surrounding the hospital, punching through
the perpetual dusk that deepened but never quite entered night
as it stretched to the horizon. The lights followed the gloom
beyond the highway and railroad tracks, like criss-crossing
runway lamps. Conveyor belts studded with bare spikes rolled
between squat, stained structures that might have been factories
or warehouses set in the grid of streets, and to and from
the hospital. Their motion gave further animation to a landscape
where no living figures stirred.
Max felt the presence of souls everywhere: packed into the
tanker cars and automobiles, burning in the flames, trapped
in the industrial grid. He sensed, like a peripheral flicker,
the play of countless dramas between spirits bound to each
other by acts committed when they lived.
Max recognized their kind. They fell into two tribes, brought
together by murder’s intimacy, joined in spirit by cruelty
and pain. His brethren, the killers, were the most familiar.
Like him, they were the victims in the dramas being enacted.
And there were demons born from monsters like himself, who
had captured their creators. Killers like Max were the raw
material being transported through and processed in the industrial
complex of this hell, but it was the victims who had become
the machinery. Neither tribe was free. Both were trapped in
the economy of vengeance.
The sign, rooted and fed by its surroundings, was not directed
to him as an individual, but to his tribe. It was a message,
earnest and sarcastic at the same time. It was the name of
the land, its anthem, its purpose. The phrase blazing over
the landscape was the mirror to the killers’ secret
justification: we take because we are stronger. Which philosophy
was true, Max could not tell. But he knew from his experience
that both were real in their own domains. Here, the victims
were helping their murderers. Helping them to suffer.
Max stuck his head out the one window in the bank able to
swing open, desperate to take in more information. Vision
tuned like a night scope to the emotion heating the landscape.
The petroleum-rooted, raw-sewage tainted industrial stench
carried by the hot breeze blowing in his face brought him
close to gagging, but he had to see more. His eyes burned
as if they were real, stung by smoke and caustic air.
He breathed and drank and ate hell; he tore at its boundaries
and consumed its body. He became the bitter taste of its flesh
for a moment, and then its searing flames, and in another
moment he was the screams coming from within the hospital,
and outside, echoing in the empty streets, vibrating in the
walls of sealed buildings and cars and tanks. He rode each
sensation with savage abandon, remembering the suffering he
had caused, the pain he had forged. The old joy in satiating
the appetites his emptiness inspired filled him once more,
making him forget who he was, and what, and where. For a glorious
moment, he believed he had found this place tracking his enemies
and hunting his prey. He thought he was a killer once again.
But to his horror, the joy drained away from the shell of
his existence. The spirit that was all that remained of him
could not contain everything he had taken in or felt. He gasped
for air as if he could breathe, clutched at his chest as if
a heart might be seizing. He fell back from glory into what
Light blazed across landscape, though the sky remained overcast
to the horizon. It was not the brilliance of a storm of souls
passing through, which he could still remember from his last
encounter with the furies. There were no ghostly spirit shapes
flitting through the air, and he was not blinded by its eruption.
Shadows appeared across the rough field of cloud above, and
iridescent colors in shades of red and purple streaked across
the outcrops. Shadows lengthened below, as well, and shifted
with the movement of an unseen source of light, as if a secret
sun was racing below the clouds, invisible except for the
effect of its passing radiance. Heat prickled Max’s
face as he searched for the light’s origin. Shadows
doubled, tripled, falling one into another on the ground in
grades of deepening darkness, until the hearts of every shadow
seemed like a door through which he could fall and escape
In the brightness, the architecture of the surrounding hell
revealed itself. He saw deeper into hell’s nature, rather
than through it. There were chains everywhere. And stages,
as he had sensed, where players bound to each other by those
chains played their dramas of retribution and punishment.
In the vehicles, the trains, the buildings, underground in
tunnels and pipes, in the hospital that served as his cage,
the two tribes, monsters and demons, killers and their victims,
performed their dance of pain and rage to the traumatic shared
memory resonating in them all.
Like the original, murderous couplings that had forged the
bonds between killers and victims, they enacted their dramas
to emptiness. No one watched, approved, or blessed the proceedings.
Already, the light faded, the gloom returned.
Max screamed, though the furies did not provoke him. Reality,
in its nakedness, inspired his terror. He did not want to
know, did not want to see. But he had.
With brilliance gone, the landscape reverted to its original
dullness. He hung part-way out the window, staring at the
cars and trains, at the sheer drop of hospital wall to the
ground below, where twisted bodies planted on rusted, iron
spikes rolled into the facility on a slow-moving conveyor
belt. He knew he had seen something few others in that realm
had ever seen, or even knew existed.
“What—what was that?” Max said, falling
back into the waiting room. He was startled to see a window
in a wall that had just been solid. The furies gathered around
an operating table. A scream echoed his own. A blood-soaked
sheet was lifted from the table and taken away.
They were coming back for him, Max thought. His reprieve
“The grace of a god passing,” the woman in the
waiting room said.
And finally, what's been said about Max......
The Beast That Was Max
You'll be dazzled along the way by Houarner's distinctive
prose and unique blending of natural and supernatural elements.
I can guarantee you've never read anything like it before.
In a time when many writers merely try to reproduce the work
of more successful novelists, Houarner treads his own path.
You'll never mistake his work for someone else's.
-- Gauntlet Magazine
Gerard Houarner's gutsy brand of literary wetwork deserves
note simply because it is so deliciously extreme.
-- Cemetery Dance
His strength is in throwing out ideas at an alarming rate,
presuming an intelligence on the part of his readers that’s
refreshing. Popping like a Rob Zombie version of the James
Bond theme, Houarner’s imagination creates a tremendous
thrill ride. This is a rare chance to get in on the ground
floor of a new mover in the world of horror.
....one of the most unusual horror novels of recent years.
A very intense, brutal, and bloody novel.
-- SF Chronicle
In Houarner’s richly textured universe many things
happen, but everything has a cost.
-- Pirate Writings 15 (1/98)
I love a well written story. There’s nothing I enjoy
more than visceral imagery so lush that you can feel, taste,
smell, and see it. When the rhythm of the words is like a
song with a hook that gets stuck in your head for days. THE
BEAST THAT WAS MAX does that for me. It fulfills my thirst
for the clever turn of phrase and well-crafted imagery and
metaphors. At times it’s almost poetic. The good news
is that it doesn’t lose any of its horror in being so
and in fact the beauty of the words (if that’s even
an appropriate phrase to use in reference to descriptions
of wanton carnage) amplifies the impact of each description.
The most horrible imagery is artfully described as the hero
of this story rips the guts out of zombies and eagerly recalls
scenes of rape, murder, and mutilation from his past.
Perhaps I’m biased because I’m a poet myself
and an unrepentant gore-hound and this book provided both
poetry and gore in equal quantities, but I fucking loved this
book. At times it reminded me of Tom Piccirilli and even occasionally
of Clive Barker. I would not be surprised if Houarner listed
both among his influences.
I highly recommend this book.
Perverse spirituality, sublime pain, malignant heroism, male
pregnancy - These are just some of the many concerns that
course through this volume's blood. Puzzling, intense and
liberating of sorts, this narrative beast roams lyrically
free, while what Houarner riffs is just as wild. Houarner's
voice is hardly manic. The control, calm weirdness and amorality
segue back to the granddaddy of them all, "Naked Lunch"
by Williams Burroughs.
Characterization is grounded in tropes of traits, yet there
is true substance to the personnel as well. This is a tough
trick to pull off, and Houarner leaves all trickery in the
Images collide with the unnerving power of a bad acid trip.
Inimical cosmic forces vie with hired killers' wetwork, yet
the chasm between the two is never filled, just fleshed out
to no more than muscle, nerve and viscera caged by bone, as
most mysteries here are never fully revealed, let alone resolved.
Houarner doesn't allow you to fill in the gaps yourself;
he hasn't given you enough, just wisps and hints. It shouldn't
work, it wouldn't in lesser hands, but here it is noteworthy
to a fault, pitch perfect and pitch black, the pitchblende
giving off the hardest radiation around.
Amidst this novel's heavy breathing is an open-eyed wonderment
that cadges imagery from nightmare and hits you in the face
with it, though it's more love tap than full frontal assault.
This is Houarner's greatest gift, the ability to keep the
lid on while the cooking gets almost unbearable. Plus the
ingredients are offered in a shotgun approach that finds every
pellet ripping your brain apart to gray matter goo.
-- Avon Grove Sun, The Beast That Was Max
Gerard Houarner combines the elements of a techno-thriller
with that of a horror novel to create an original riveting
tale. The engaging anti-hero hooks the audience in spite of
his profession and the blood lust that consumes him. THE BEAST
THAT WAS MAX is a strong candidate for a Bram Stroker award.
-- Bookbrowser.com; Booksnbytes.com
Houarner's single novella, "Truth and Consequences In
the Heart of Destruction," continues with characters
first introduced in a trilogy of stories in his 1996 collection
PAINFREAK. Having read these earlier tales would undoubtedly
enhance one's understanding of the back-references, but it's
a testament to Houarner's care and skill that it's not essential.
He blends an unlikely but compelling combination of elements
from Clive Barker and Andrew Vacchs, as a world-class assassin
known only as Max gathers around himself a rainbow coalition
of tribal healers to alleviate an unexpected but fitting revenge
wreaked upon him by the spirits of all the women he has dispatched.
It's a furiously energetic piece, unfolding with hallucinatory
fervor in one location and in linear time, careening between
mystery, philosophical discourse, raw eroticism, and all-out
carnage, in the space of mere pages.
“Truth and Consequences” is of a quieter nature
compared with some of Houarner’s other work but that
does not mean it is any less powerful. Indeed, his prose surrounds
you with the tightness of the loft where the story takes places
and plays out before you the anger and violence and hatred
of the spirits who condemn Max. It is a tense and building
-- Lip Dink Book Reviews
Road to Hell
Easily the most uniquely remarkable thing about Max (and
the twin pair of lethal sirens who share his bed and life
and warped passions) is that he truly walks in two worlds:
the world permeated by shadow conspiracies and the continually
shifting political aims of the military-industrial complex,
and the even more shadowy world of gods and goddesses (typically
demanding ) and spirits (typically vengeful). This mixture
makes for more than just an intriguingly heady brew. It actually
seems within the realm of possibility....and who’s to
say that it isn’t? Boundaries, remember. They’re
only as enforceable as you’ll allow them to be.
-- Brian Hodge, introduction to The Road to Hell
Last year saw Gerard Houarner's The Beast That Was Max,
a distinctively nasty first chapter in the life of the title
character(s). Max, you see, is a government agent and supremely
effective assassin. His prime asset and his ultimate curse
is the Beast, the murderous alter ego dwelling deep within
his soul. Max is not a particularly good person, but the Beast,
by comparison, makes Max look like Mahatma Gandhi.
This year's Road to Hell continues the saga of Max.
As horror novels go, it's a doozy. Author Houarner is a smart,
intelligent talent who has gift for writing with serene beauty
about the most atrocious things.
The long of what happens is in the details, and those are
wondrously evoked. Road to Hell is crammed to the gunwhales
with an overload of sensory imagery of exotic lands, graphic
pain and violence, eroticism and just plain sex, magic and
myth, love and lust. Gods, demons, and government functionaries
trot on and off stage with operatic abandon.
Gerard Houarner writes extremely well. The feel of early
Clive Barker seeps in here, along with perhaps a tang of Cormac
McCarthy. And the sweatier, nastier, utterly doomed side of
Africa hasn't been seen in this degree of sensual detail since
Lucy Taylor's The Safety of Unknown Cities.
Houarner's main characters are memorable. But so is the supporting
cast. There's a lot to be said for fakir Dakimi, the penis
thief. And for Legba and Fa, the two capricious African gods,
the originals for the avatars found among the loa of New World
voodoo. The goddess Kali's walk-on, though that's not quite
the verb I'm looking for, is certainly memorable. So it goes.
The dramatis personae are extensive, and all are quite weird.
But Max is doomed; that's a given. And what he's heading
for at the end of Road to Hell is pretty nasty. This being
dark fantasy, though, it's not necessarily the definitive
end. Things can get worse.
Houarner's got a great knack for characterization and plotting,
for keeping the people real enough (in the context of the
story) and delivering a good story that moves along without
losing any of the momentum it has at the beginning. If anything,
things just get weirder, and for me weird adds interest. Enjoy
the Road to Hell, as it appears to be paved with magic, death,
guns, desert sand, and sex-starved gods.
-- inet Reviews, online
Houarner does a great job of filling this book with so much
weird shit the book never wants for actions or interesting
things. Houarner’s got a great knack for characterization
and plotting, for keeping the people real...and delivering
a good story that moves along without losing momentum, never
letting up for a breather, but pounding along non-stop.
-- Midnight Hour
On the surface, ROAD TO HELL is a horror novel, steeped
in violence, gore, and the supernatural—Death follows
Max like an acolyte, feasting on the carnage he creates. But,
to my mind the book is also grappling with the issues of fatherhood
and parental responsibility—at its heart, it is a book
about family ties and obligations. Like many new fathers,
Max struggles with his inner demons while trying to understand
the emotions, both positive and negative, his child arouses
in him. Add to the mix his (admittedly unique) job pressures
and personal issues, and ROAD TO HELL can be read as a metaphor
for sacrifices and rewards of fatherhood, and for the pain
of letting your children grow away from you. This subtext
grounds the more fantastic action, lending credibility to
some of Houarner’s more outrageous scenes.
There’s much to like about this book—Houarner’s
prose shines, and he displays a truly wild imagination (in
his introduction, Brian Hodge refers to it as Houarner’s
tendency to “color outside the lines”).
You may not know this just yet, but Gerard Daniel Houarner
has been slowly making a name for himself in hardcore horror
circles. ...his mix of twisted sex, deadened emotions and
black comedy has been garnering him a select circle of fans.
The Road the Hell is a well-written work, filled to the brim
with twisted ideas. Houarner’s work is great, and I
recommend you acquaint yourself with it.
Road From Hell
“A non-stop rampage of exquisite horror. Houarner
sets off a powder keg of awl-sharp imagery, occult intellect,
and bad-to-the-bone supernaturalism to further evolve one
of the most terrifying character-lines the genre has seen.
An irresistible thriller, horror, and fantasy novel wrapped
up as one, by an author who writes like Thomas Pynchon possessed
--Edward Lee, author of HOUSE INFERNAL and FLESH GOTHIC
"A fascinating and thought-provoking dark fantasy that
displays Gerard Houarner's top of the line literary craftsmanship,
ROAD FROM HELL is the perfect finale to the Max trilogy. Steeped
in mythology and the bizarre wonders of the supernatural,
the novel crosses genre borders as Max battles ghosts and
demons from the very pit of oblivion. Houarner's prose is
tight, the imagery shocking, and the scenes haunting and diabolically
--Tom Piccirilli, author of THE MIDNIGHT ROAD and THE DEAD
With his latest opus in the Max saga, Gerard Houarner conjures
up some of the most exotic, ferocious depictions of evil and
retribution you’re ever likely to encounter. There’s
a genuine sense of malice and bad intentions here, yet it’s
unleashed in the service of a tale of love, sacrifice, and
even something like redemption. The Road From Hell
not only brings Max’s current path to a fitting sense
of closure, but also resets the stage for something fresh
and new … whenever Houarner chooses to go down that
-- Brian Hodge, author of Mad Dogs and World of Hurt
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