I was doing keyword research for Amazon ads for my bawdy Druid Trilogy when I stumbled across the Shingles series. Basically Goosebumps for adults, Shingles is as dirty hilarious as it gets. My mission over the next few months is to read through the entire series, which shouldn’t take so long given that they’re relatively quick reads, about a hundred pages each. I’m splitting them into triple batches, thus the Pervy Terror Trio title for these posts.

For background, I have vivid memories of reading Goosebumps in my bed well into the wee hours when I was supposed to be sleeping. Any time there was a Scholastic book fair at school, I always insisted Mudder get us a copy (by ‘Mudder’ I mean Mom, by ‘us’ I mean me – Newfoundland English). In short, I was a fiend for R.L. Stine’s books as a kid (at least the Goosebumps ones, the series targeted at older kids and their pubescent neuroses – Fear Street – was shite as far as my young mind was concerned). I also am as big a fan of blue comedy as you might find, gleefully absorbing Adam Sandler CDs and filthy stand-up as I aged.

Finding Shingles was pretty much Christmas in April for me.

A note about my reviews: I consider myself an appreciator, not a critic. I know first-hand what goes into the creation of art – the blood, the sweat, the tears, the risk. I also know that art appreciation is subjective and lernt good what mama tell’t me – if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I’m not a school marm grading a spelling test – I’m a reader who enjoys reading. If a book is entertaining, well-written, and I get absorbed into it, five out of five. I have gone as low as three stars – anything less than that and I will not review a book (chances are I DNFed anyway). Regardless, I wouldn’t even put a star rating system on my reviews but for the reality of storefronts like Amazon.

Take from that what you will.

The Ghost Of Hooker Street (Shingles #1) by Robert Bevan – 5/5

Any book that has a six-year-old ingesting opiates and hormone medication while his older sister steals bondage pics of their mother and cocaine from a hidden safe in a rival tween’s father’s bedroom mere pages into the story is alright by me. Coles Notes: the caricature of neglect that surrounds protag chilluns Sarah and Tommy is only the start of this no-holds-barred romp through seedy scene after seedy scene, all ignited by a search for a way to kill Mr. Riley, the black mailman who has stolen their mother from their terrible father.

Why bring up race, you might ask. Well, it plays a pretty significant role. As do drugs, prostitution, murder, pedophilia, domestic abuse, spirit possession, blackmail… in fact, it kind of reminded me of Tales from the Hood, that old horror comedy I loved watching as a teenager. Or even a certain music video from a certain rapper’s certain hit. Murder was the case they gave Lashaunta, the titular hooker ghost.

You see, the kids stumble across Lashaunta’s corpse, only to discover a ring bearing her ghost and the spectre’s own desire for revenge against her murderous pimp, one Shaggy Ballz. In their quest for revenge, perverted priests attempt to rape the children, Ballz gets his comeuppance, a Wendy’s is held up for Frostys and burgers, the ring – and Lashaunta possession – swaps bodies more times than you can spit, Mr. Riley gets his, and yes, Virginia, there is a twistedly happy ending to this fucked up tale.

That’s only scratching the surface of the convoluted plot, which is more of a vehicle for gratuitous filthy and extreme comedy that is so over the top that no one could ever take any of it seriously. If you like to laugh at ridiculous pervy shit, get this book.

Well done, Mr. Bevan. Well done.

Gary’s Children (Shingles #2) by Rick Gualtieri – 5/5

Having read the book, and on closer inspection, I now realize that the big black object in the background of the illustrated cover is a Fleshlight – on sale, no less. Sorry, the Jacklight, the totally different, not getting sued version of a flashlight you can fuck. Still, the mess – those of the dildo persuasion get a better deal than those with cocks seeking a rubbery home.

Which is part of the plot, actually.

Our man in misery, Gary, loser of the pitiable type, likes whacking off. A lot. Mostly because he’s completely inept when it comes to the fairer sex. As a man who found himself afraid of women as a youth, I can totally sympathize with some of Gary’s monologue, which colours the pages coward. Having resigned himself in many ways to his own stunted growth, Gary can’t even muster up the courage to enter a Hello Titty sex shop to buy a Jacklight 2.0, the new and improved version. Instead, he ends up in the second-hand shop next door.

You know the place from every horror movie dealing with cursed objects: weird owner, weird goods, yet one oddly appropriate item that the owner kind of sells to him while seeming detached – apart from a demonic moment of glee when the owner realizes the victim protagonist is about to seal their fate and buy the thing that spells their doom.

In some ways it’s a cautionary tale about cowardice – Gary can’t even be straight up with the shop owner. He pretends he’s getting his Dad a gift for his birthday, and that ‘gift’ ends up being a prototype Jacklight. What ensues is a sexcapade with the pocket pussy that sees Gary haunted by the ghosts of children he could have had – had he impregnated any of the scant few women of his past. These kids soon become mushy grey shades who terrify Gary.

The character portrait is quite well done. We get a glimpse of Gary’s dysfunctional relationship with his mother, which explains some of his fears and distrust of women. We see Gary get tantalized with women throwing themselves at him, and it is insinuated that Gary is actually kind of attractive. Except that each time this happens, the ghosts of future not happening pregnancies show up and tell Gary they would have been born of a potential relationship that seems to be blossoming before him… which itself is a self-fulfilling prophecy. To wit, the curse of the Jacklight is to show Gary the potential for an end to his onanistic frustration and then pulls the rug out from under him.

It’s not a happy finish for Gary, which is kind of common with horror. It’s somewhat Lovecraftian, not in the ‘oh, it’s an octopus, so it’s Cthulhu’ kind of way, but rather because it ends with the protagonist having gone completely insane and landed in a mental institution… which actually was the denouement to a number of Lovecraft’s stories.

Also, the Jacklight sloshes with semen constantly.

The Monkey’s Penis (Shingles #3) by Steve Wetherell – 4/5

Yes, it’s the monkey’s paw story except with a big stuffed monkey dick. That shoots a load when one of the three wishes is expended, finally leaving naught but a limp sausage.

This story was good, but perhaps not quite as impactful as the previous two. It starts improbably enough, with a high school nerd’s alcoholic Mom buying him a $50 stuffed monkey cock for his birthday. It’s enormous, dreamed as perhaps an ape’s cock by our protagonist Chris, and he immediately tries to return it at the same ridiculous kind of curios shop trope as the one in #2. The shop owner refuses, of course, and Chris accidentally wishes for a cock like the monkey penis after Chris’ buddy Stu gets involved.

I enjoyed the read, but the story was a bit flat after the first two. Chris gets up in class, monkey boner for all to see, gets sent home for having a boner, there’s talk of tucking boners under waistbands rather than tying them to legs with belts – that kind of thing. The rest of the wishes are poorly thought out, and the consequences are as you’d expect from a monkey’s paw tale – unexpectedly awful. Neo Nazis worshipping Chris awful, dystopian hellscape awful.

The turkey is always fucking dry, people!

Still, the story ends happily enough, but it did not feel as well-crafted as the first two. It was more a vehicle for pubescent angst and other high school type shit. It was kind of funny, but not as laugh out loud funny as Hooker Alley, nor was there any moral poignancy like Gary’s Children. If Hooker Alley was Aqua Teen Hunger Force, this was one of the middling episodes of Space Ghost Coast to Coast.

You can check out Shingles on the 'zon here.