Gerard Houarner, Writer
Stories you don't always take home to Mother...



The Beast That Was Max, a novel from Leisure
The Road To Hell, the "second" Max novel
Road From Hell

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, prejudice, intolerance.

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 being alive.

Max's story starts with a question: How does a monster become human?

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 inspirations.

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 human relations.

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 together.

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 predators?

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 plot sequences.

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 are published!

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 becomes worse.

Much worse.

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 elements:

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, distracting her.

"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 over her.

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 flames.”

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 lacquer.

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 with traffic.

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 he was.

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 his prison.

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 was over.

“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.
-- Fangoria 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 dust.

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.

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.
-- Hellnotes

“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 piece.”
-- 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.
-- Locus

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”).
-- Hellnotes

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.
-- Fangoria

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 by demons.”
--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 terrifying."
--Tom Piccirilli, author of THE MIDNIGHT ROAD and THE DEAD LETTERS

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 road.
-- Brian Hodge, author of Mad Dogs and World of Hurt

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