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Horror Masterminds S.L. Grey and Blumhouse Books Debut THE APARTMENT

Blumhouse Productions have made their first foray into publishing with Blumhouse Books — a joint venture with publishers Vintage and Anchor Books. With a mandate to “to publish original horror across all formats,” prioritizing scares over “stock shocks,” Blumhouse Books will take the studio’s signature cinematic style and “transfer it to the written word.”

They hope to accomplish this with their inaugural release, THE APARTMENT, by South African writing duo Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg, better known as S.L Grey, a terrifying new force to be reckoned with in the world of horror literature. While THE APARTMENT — an uncanny tale of house-swapping gone monstrously awry — has only recently hit bookstores, Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment has already snapped up the movie rights.

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To mark the occasion, and to bring you up to speed with S.L. Grey’s signature style, let’s take a look at their back catalogue…

In S.L Grey’s first collaborative outing THE MALL, tough addict Rhoda and book-selling emo wimp Daniel find themselves at the mercy of monsters, grotesque automatons and an evil corporate entity in a mirror realm known as the Downside. A desperate attempt to locate the kid Rhoda lost while scoring drugs at the mall, cryptic texts and the ever-present threat of something following them forces the pair down until they arrive in Grey’s satirical incarnation of a modern Hell: the Downside. The deeper Grey takes you down the rabbit hole, the crazier the story gets (you’ll never look at BAMBI the same way again).

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In Grey’s sophomore effort THE WARD, more is revealed about the Downsiders and their brutal bureaucracy via a one-way ticket to the title locale — a place even more chilling.

The story alternates between Farrell, a fashion photographer who wakes up blind in New Hope (a Kafkaesque institution nicknamed “No Hope”), and Lisa, an emotionally scarred plastic surgery addict admitted to the same hospital in a last-ditch effort to have cosmetic surgery when nowhere else will take her. When Farrell and Lisa become convinced that something is stalking the corridors, their attempt to escape leads them to the Downside, where monstrous orderlies, sociopathic nurses and the Administration await them. This time the authors tackle extreme body modification, human harvesting and narcissistic obsession. Once you’ve cracked THE WARD’s spine, prepare to be scared witless: it’s brimming with paranoia, great characters and weird body-horror.

The concluding chapter of the Downside trilogy is THE NEW GIRL… and in this novel, things get much darker.

THE NEW GIRL follows school caretaker (and sex-offender) Ryan and the hysterical, whistle-blowing American expat Tara (who has a sideline creating reborn dolls for grieving parents) and a Downsider family (The Kardashians meets the Addams Family, by way of the Firefly clan) whose daughter Jane has enrolled at the school which employs both characters. Ryan and Tara are drawn to the odd waif, though for entirely different reasons.

Ryan decides to blackmail the school principal after he stumbles upon some incriminating images of children being experimented on, and Tara is commissioned to make a “reborn” doll with grisly design specifications. When Ryan abuses a young neighbor and Tara accidentally destroys the doll, the dysfunctional characters are drawn into the world of the Downside.

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Grey follows the conclusion of their trilogy with UNDERGROUND, the locked-room murder mystery which unfolds like Alfred Hitchcock’s ROPE re-imagined by Michael Crichton. The novel shifts perspectives between several characters, all of whom are holed up in a luxury bunker to sit out the end of the world, while a virus ravages the USA… until bodies start piling up and they discover there is no way out.

THE APARTMENT is said to be inspired by “true events” — specifically, the horrific home-invasion scene. Sarah Lotz and her family were the victims of just such a crime in South Africa, and this incident informed the plot and characters to a large extent. At first glance, THE APARTMENT may appear as a back-to-basics ghost story (for the duo) in the vein of Susan Hill or Peter Straub… but with a far more measured and nuanced narrative.

Steph and Mark are a yuppie couple eking out an existence in South Africa and struggling in the aftermath of a home invasion. The PTSD-suffering Mark and long-suffering younger wife Steph need a break from the daily grind; at the behest of their insufferable friend Carla, they sign up with an online house-swapping agency. When they’re approached with the idea of spending a week in a luxurious, spacious apartment in central Paris, the couple jump at the chance. But when things seem too good to be true… they usually are.

Steph and Mark arrive to a derelict building full of long dark corridors, shuttered windows, grime and filth covering every surface, human hair stored in the wardrobe and a creepy hag (the building’s only other occupant) shrieking portentous warnings at the dumbfounded couple. THE APARTMENT has the duo firing on all cylinders: hypnagogia-induced episodes wandering wax museums; animal mutilation; displaced people, tainted places and dead children. The tone echoes Nicolas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW, EC Comics’ TALES FROM THE CRYPT and the writings of Roald Dahl.

So what is next for Blumhouse Books? Here’s a taste…

MEDDLING KIDS — by Edgar Cantero

In summer 2017, Blumhouse Books will release a new novel from Cantero, author of THE SUPERNATURAL ENHANCEMENTS. I’m guessing the plot might have something to do with SCOOBY DOO… or maybe not.

HALLOW’S EVE — Edited by Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton

An anthology of Halloween-themed horror fiction will be out next Fall, right in time for Halloween. Edited by popular anthologists, Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton.

HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SCREAM — Edited by Cristopher Golden

HARK! is another short story collection, arriving (as the title suggests) in time for next Christmas…

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