Ken? Ken who? I thought, as I observed and read about this "brought back to print" horror edition from the amazingly brilliant Valancourt books. Reading the preamble to Hell Hound (rather alarmingly a google search states that Ken Greenhall was born in Detroit in 1928 and is now aged 89. This is inaccurate as he died in 2014 or perhaps this being a horror publication there is a hidden message here.......) Hell Hound was published in 1977 and formed a very limited output by the said author over the next 11 years. At a time when horror paperbacks where beginning to assert and influence an ever increasing reader base Greenhall could find no publisher willing to support him in his venture until a long forgotten Zebra Books produced a limited run with a cheap and nasty front cover (when horror books were often judged by their outlandish, intricate and colourful covers)
HH is a neat, short, original story of a small community seen through the eyes of a number of residents in particular "Baxter" a bull terrier.." a head like a hatchet. Malevolent blue eyes, too small and misplaced."... with some rather worrying antisocial behaviours. When we first encounter him he is the much loved pet of the unassuming Mrs Eileen Prescott. Baxter soon becomes tired of this relationship as "there is never laughter in this house, only the dull sounds of age and weakness."....The sweet little old lady meets an untimely death following a close encounter with a staircase and the friendly pressure of a loving bull terrier.... Nancy and John a young modern couple are "gifted" Baxter whose demeanour and character changes when it is announced that Nancy is pregnant. Naturally Baxter is worried that the relationship with his new owner will be dramatically altered when a child is born and endeavours to recapture their affections by what he sees as a little act of kindness!.....Jason and Sara Fine are worried about their son Carl, his unpredictable sometimes withdrawn nature, and his obsession with Nazi Germany. Would the companionship of a dog help Carl feel more comfortable and accepting of his adolescence?
This is a highly original and understated publication that really should have been showcased many many years ago. It is criminal to think that such a neatly observed, satirical work of outstanding quality lay silent before this new edition was finally announced. Grady Hendrix, in his introduction, pays a fitting tribute to the author Ken Greenhall..."He didn't aim to terrify, he wanted to undermine your sense of comfort. It's a harder trick , but it last longer.".... So here in the in writing of a newly rediscovered, and hopefully not to be forgotten author are some delightful observations..."And never let a dog lick you. A dog uses its tongue as toilet paper."......"Then I lie on the sofa and think of the couple. I wait to hear the faint, peculiar sounds they make in the darkness."....."he deposited on the intricately patterned old rug a small rivulet of urine."......"They're like snails, he thought. They need the shells of their houses and automobiles. Not so much for shelter as for reassurance."....."Most humans have few virtues. But, of course, they have many disadvantages to overcome. Their peculiar bodies, for example. Tall creatures that walk on two legs must be in a constant state of anxiety."...
This exceptional piece of gentle, unassuming horror has only been made possible due to the great work of Valancourt Books, whose mission is quite simply to discover and publish rare neglected and out of print fiction. Many thanks to them for sending me a copy of Hell Hound in exchange for an honest review, and that is what I have written. Highly Recommended.