Dedicated to fans of the hardest of hardcore fiction, this list should be considered with respect to all dietary plans in the New Year… or any other year, for that matter.
For example, if you’re planning to keep your holiday chow session on a continued loop this year, you should not read any of these books. Furthermore, if you don’t want your opinion of sexual intercourse, free-for-all trips to Mexico or the milk-makers of the world forever changed… again you should not read any of these books.
Lastly, if you hope to cling to the idea that you’re too damn tough to be rattled by some lame words on a page of paper… yes, that’s right, you should never read any of these books.
However, if your tastes occasionally run a little bit toward the disgusting, and there could be a potential maniac locked away in your inner core, get your memo pad ready… because we’re about to tell you about ten books that are really going to fuck with your mind.
THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by Jack Ketchum
Jack Ketchum is, in my humble opinion, the finest author to be featured on this list. The man is extremely versatile, able to tell different tales of all sorts with varying degrees of gore or graphic violence. He’s completely free to run with the story he concocts in his mind — and that opens a number of doors. Ketchum’s jaw-dropping piece THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is a strangely matter-of-fact story that feeds off its own direct style. Reading the novel could be likened to watching a legitimate snuff film (it’s loosely based on actual events); it’s without glitter and glam, it’s just a brutally realistic feeling story that reminds readers that there’re some disturbing individuals out there… and they could live closer than you think.
SURVIVOR by J.F. Gonzalez
J.F. Gonzalez’s work crept up on many readers; prior to the release of SURVIVOR, he’d already boasted a loyal fan base that jumped on the gross-out wagon early. The 2004 release of SURVIVOR, however, caused Gonzalez’s fan base to explode in size. One trek through the novel and it’s really no surprise: SURVIVOR is harrowing to the nth degree, and it’s going to make you feel near-unparalleled pains for an interesting character forced to endure some unspeakably sadistic acts. Gonzalez is a strong enough author to steer clear of hardcore content, but that’s not what he enjoys doing; rather, he enjoys breaking down gnarly acts of violence in extremely detailed fashion. The result will stick to your bones in a disturbingly enjoyable manner.
THE RUINS by Scott Smith
What’s interesting about Scott Smith — and what sets him apart from the vast majority of authors on this list — is that he never once puts gore at the forefront of his story; instead, it’s almost an afterthought that creeps up on readers in the final hundred pages of Smith’s riveting epic, THE RUINS. But when Smith pours on the details of amputation, invasion and borderline xenophobia, things take a shocking, X-rated turn. The film has proven to be a love-it-or-hate-it sort of affair, but it’s wonderfully faithful to the source (at least as faithful as censorship and the medium will permit), and it makes a valiant attempt at disgusting viewers as much as Smith’s novel. It ultimately comes up a bit short — but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable film that does justice to a legitimately stunning novel.
HEADER by Edward Lee
You want to know what grotesque really is? Grotesque is the “header” of the title, an act so depraved and horrific that it blurs the line between sex and violence beyond all possible description. Edward Lee is infamous for his grotesque, over-the-top depictions of inbred, perverted, sadistic backwoods lunatics — and HEADER is probably his best-known take on the “Hillbilly Horror” subgenre, turning a violent and vile act into the graphically detailed foundation for an entire novel. When it comes to pure concept, there’s very little on this list that comes even close to being as offensive — read HEADER and you’ll never be the same again.
HAUNTED by Chuck Palahniuk
Chuck’s greatest commercial accomplishment, as you probably know, is the birth of FIGHT CLUB, a breakout novel which was eventually adapted into one of the most familiar cult-classic films in existence. FIGHT CLUB is great in a dark, satirical way… but if you’re looking to deposit your lunch in your lap, one need only look to HAUNTED, Palahniuk’s highly atypical short-tale anthology (for the record, the stories within are connected in a very unconventional fashion). It’s stuffed full of strange and grim tales, and often ventures into territory so gruesome readers have actually fainted during public readings. Intense? You bet your ass!
SNUFF by Adam Huber & Eric Enck
Trust me, I don’t need to break this one down. What’s wild about SNUFF is the fact that some of its most disturbing moments unfold not as a result of the actions of the book’s antagonists, but a character that could be considered the protagonist. This one ranks right up there with the nastiest of the nasty, and should probably only be read if you’ve got a strong constitution. Interestingly enough, I read it not because I felt the desire to do so, but because I felt compelled to explore the depraved depths of fiction on paper, and had heard that SNUFF was a difficult read. It is admittedly perverse… and there’s more than a single sequence that requires dedication in order to complete.
COWS by Matthew Stokoe
Matthew Stokoe can be outdone in regards to pure gore, but few will outshine the author in terms of inventiveness, absurdity and intellect. COWS could be seen as a how-to guide for being intensely antisocial — and it features some outlandish moments, to put it mildly. The truth is, the bulk of the book is so far over the top you may find yourself laughing as opposed to squirming, but COWS reads like a novel designed to trigger that very reaction. It’s an acquired taste — one you may never actually acquire — but for those of us who allow our brains to travel to absurdly dark territories, COWS is a surefire winner.
THE SEVEN DAYS OF PETER CRUMB by Jonny Glynn
THE SEVEN DAYS OF PETER CRUMB is one of the lovely little treats that few readers seem to talk about, though it’s a compelling enough read to warrant plenty of chatter. Johnny Glynn crafts an interesting story, and he proposes a few questions that the depraved mind might have a real field day with. For instance, if you really didn’t give a damn about anyone or anything, what would you do with just seven days to live? The answer is often a bit tough to get through, but there are enough interesting maneuvers here to keep you invested in the story — right up to and beyond the final page.
AMERICAN PSYCHO by Bret Easton Ellis
I’ll openly admit that when it comes to the disgusting, it gets a hell of a lot worse than Bret Easton Ellis’ game-changing chiller. While the book can — and has — been out-grossed by others, it’s a remarkably well-written piece that forces the mind into overdrive on a frequent basis. Of all the amazing and unforgivable novels I’ve consumed in the last few decades, none forced me to think as much as AMERICAN PSYCHO. Most would probably agree that the film doesn’t do the book justice — but they’re best viewed, consumed and anticipated as two totally unique experiences. I think that actually says quite a bit about Ellis.
THE SUMMER I DIED by Ryan C. Thomas
This is another one of those awesome sleepers that very few seem to have heard of. While there are graphically stronger stories on this list, THE SUMMER I DIED is a consistently savage tale… and while I told myself long ago that I was going to review the novel, it’s one of those books that’s found a way to evade my focus. But that’s a genuine injustice to the story — which sees two buds walk headfirst into a nightmarish showdown that isn’t for the weak of stomach. I can’t tell you exactly why Thomas’ work has failed to captivate a larger audience, but I can certainly tell you it’s not a reflection of the quality of his work. Do look into this one, and explore more of Thomas’ writings — you’re in for a surprise.