The Hell Candidate by Graham Masterton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
”I want you to understand that a strong nation doesn’t necessarily have to be a repressive nation. I’m not a prude or a puritan. I’m not a harsh disciplinarian. I’m strong because I’m a man, with a man’s appetite. Just like I want my women to be strong, with a woman’s appetite. We can be powerful without being narrow-minded. We can be leaders without being canting moralists. We have a rich nation, crowded with fruits to be relished and enjoyed. Food, drink, beautiful women. They’re all ours for the taking. Ours for the unashamed taking.”
Jack Russo joined the campaign of the senior senator from Colorado for President when Hunter Peal was still a moderate, but something happened after they stayed in an old, creepy house in New Jersey. His whole message changed.
”Hunter was the master of illusion. He was also a master of euphemism. It was at a Kansas delegation caucus that he coined his famous phrase about ‘moderating the material expectations of the less productive members of our community’-in other words, taking steps to make sure that the deprived stayed deprived.”
Hunter was suddenly vastly different, more aggressive, way more right of central. He wasn’t the only one experiencing changes. Jack was seeing things that made him start to believe the rigors of the campaign trail were catching up with him. His girlfriend Jennifer had never looked like this before. ”Jennifer’s eyes were totally white, like marble. Two tiny pupils seemed to be indented in them, just as if they were the eyes of a statue. They stared at me with utter coldness, utter indifference, and as I stared back at them I became aware of a chilly rustling somewhere in the room, as if an invisible spirit in a frosted clock had slid out of this world and back into the next.”
Jack was rather attached to Jennifer’s pink, flexible, soft flesh and had never had any lustful Pygmalionesque desires for cold, hard stone, regardless of how beautifully it was carved. He also saw a dark, bristling shape running across the lawn that raised the hackles on his neck.
And were the statues on the lawn...moving?
Jack Russo, you poor bastard, you have landed in a Graham Masterton horror novel!
Jack wasn’t the only one to notice the 180 degree change in Hunter Peal’s political ideas. The whole Peal staff was alarmed, especially when polling showed this bastard was going to win. ”I never thought the day would come when this whole country would throw sweet reason out of the window and vote for nothing but personal prejudice and individual gain. I never thought the day would come when I’d go along with it, either.”
Does that sound vaguely familiar? Like maybe something that happened in American politics recently? Or how about this. ”The choice you have made tonight is the first step in making our nation GREAT AGAIN. Powerful again. Rich again. And self-assured again.”
Jog any memories?
As if things weren’t bad enough, Peal had acquired psychokinesis powers, which meant he could project illusions to those who were listening to him. He could conjure up flights of B-52 bombers or wheat fields as far as the eye can see.
What the FRILL is going on?
”It was a huge, bulky outline, as dark as sin. But its eyes glowed slanted and orange, like the eyes of a wolf, and on its head were two curved horns. It stank of stale incense and animal sweat, and it was grunting with grotesque delight.
‘Jennifer!’ I yelled. And then I whipped back my bedclothes and seized hold of the demon’s body with both hands.
It felt horrifying. It had bristles all over. Bristles that were prickly and sharp with some kind of static electricity. Bristles that crackled and spat and numbed every muscle in my fingers.”
Dare he think it? Had Hunter Peal been possessed by the Devil? Jack had a choice: he could quit the campaign and go back to Butte, Montana, or he could stay around to try and save the nation from Hunter Peal. ”The ancient Greek tragedy writers would have loved this one. They would have called it The Fall of Russo and had me putting my eyes out in Act IV”
All fine and good for Russo to say, ”Hey, let’s save the world,” but his girlfriend Jennifer was the one that the beast had a real boner for. Except for a few delusional Goth chicks, I don’t think that forming one half of the beast with two backs with Satan is on most women’s bucket list. Call that a **Double Shudder** moment.
The interesting thing about this book is it was written in 1980 as a response to President Ronald Reagan’s campaign, even though Masterton drops Reagan’s name in the book a few times to make sure that he can not be accused of actually saying that Hunter Peal was based on Reagan. With the advent of President Donald Trump, it was suggested to Graham to revive this book. I can’t think of why!
The book is a blast to read, but I will issue a few cautions. The sex is GRAPHIC. Masterton has written several sex manuals in his long tenure as a writer, and believe me, the guy likes to explore the full repertoire of sexual experience. So if you have even a thimbleful of prudishness, you might avoid this book or skip through those scenes.
The writing is actually really good for what I would consider a pulp horror novel. (This book was a suggested reading from Paperbacks from Hell that I reviewed recently.) I used several quotes from the book in the writing of this review, and those only represent a smattering of the many notes I made as I was gasping and shivering my way through the reading of this psychotic novel. There are also several DON’T OPEN THAT DOOR moments in the book that were such vintage horror delights, erhhh I mean dreadful petrifying experiences.
The moral of the story is Be Careful Who You Vote For!
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