SQUELLAND by Jay Slayton Joslin – a book review

Joslin’s second book is not what you think it is. The front cover offers something akin to the face of Jason Vooheers as a child, something burnt and disfigured, then you have the subtitle, which states that SEQUELLAND is a story of dreams and screams, all of which leaves you fully prepared to be immersed into a dark menagerie of men adorned with a glove fashioned into long knifes and hockey masks. And sure, you get all that and more, but cleverly disguised within this homage to the horror genre sequel, cackles a very personal journey for the author, one that beneath all the anecdotal mishaps, mistakes, regrets, triumphs, gore and lore, you’ll find something more interesting than the history of our most beloved horror franchises.

Joslin’s story is interwoven within the fabric of the interviews he’s conducted. It’s a very candid, self-effacing portrait of a man trying to find his place in the literary world. By interviewing the directors and writers involved in sequels to movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Cube, Friday the 13th, Nightmare of Elm Street, there’s a feeling Joslin wishes to understand more about his own creative self in the process. It’s akin to seeking a higher level consciousness through meditation; only here Joslin isn’t sat on a mountain for hours, but crawling through the rotting carcasses of a thousand corpses to reach the fringe of Hell, where amidst the blood and the gore, he’ll find salvation, or at least have enough inspiration to bash out a short story, or novel. This isn’t a criticism of him or the book. In truth, I found his doubts were my doubts, his insecurities my insecurities. For that reason, it was very relatable, and I applaud him for being so honest. The hope is now that having gone through the process it allows him a moment of reflection; to understand that sometimes, those who have done the things we can only dream of doing, did it not for the money, or the acclaim, but for the love of the genre.

I wouldn’t claim to be an Aficionado of horror. I, like most kids who grew up in the 1970/80s, have a nostalgic fondness for the cult hits mentioned in the book. I have spoken at length in articles and interviews of my exposure to the horror genre as a child, and of this I am certain; without the experience I wouldn’t be writing today. So to read about the genesis of the sequel from the inside was a revelation. There was a peculiarity to a couple of the interviews. Kat Shea seemed like the interview was an inconvenience, and the brevity of Mary Lambert’s contribution left me with wondering if the time she allocated to answer the question was while having her morning ablution. But others, mainly Adam Marcus, makes up for any shortcomings. If I had any criticism to offer, it would be that a few of the interviews were written in the same way a person speaks. So there was a lot of parlance that caused sentences to fragment. This is a personal thing and not a reflection on the author’s experience. Joslin’s did a good job to extract a balanced interview filled with enough insight you felt satisfied. If you’re into your horror this is a worthy addition to your collection. Whereas most books concentrate on the Tobe Hoopers, the Wes Cravens and the John Carpenters of the world, this is a considerate, and respectful look at those often forgotten; the brave souls who were willing to take the hand of the Devil when he extended it, and walked into Hell to rip it up

4.5 stars.

Published by craigwallwork

Craig Wallwork is the author of the novels, Bad People, Labyrinth of the Dolls, The Sound of Loneliness, To Die Upon a Kiss, and the short story collections, Quintessence of Dust, and Gory Hole. His short stories have been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize and feature in many anthologies and magazines both in the U.K. and U.S. He currently lives in West Yorkshire.

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