Friday, July 10, 2009

Read Along With Me

Last night I finished up my latest read and started Peter Straub's Koko, a book that I've had my eye on for some time. So I don't have a review for you yet, but this is a re-release of a classic that's garnered some major critical praise throughout the years.

Peter Straub made his first appearance in the paranormal book world in 1975 with Julia, a book that was later adapted to film in The Haunting of Julia (or Full Circle), starring Mia Farrow. (In truth, he had one novel and a couple of books of poetry before that, but Julia was the first to deal with the supernatural.) But it was his 1979 release of Ghost Story that really got attention. Of course, Ghost Story was adapted to film in 1981 and has been hugely popular with horror fans ever since (it still pops up in forums as one of the best page to screen adaptations of the genre). In fact, Ghost Story, the film, was my introduction to Straub, rather than The Talisman, the amazingly fantastic book co-authored with Stephen King (read it! It's one of my absolute favorites of all time. I read it in college and was blown away by it.)

My mom was a fan of Ghost Story. She'd never read the book, but she loved the movie. I was probably 18 or 19 when it came on tv and she recommended it. Later, I read Talisman and Straub's 2003 Stoker winning release, Lost Boy, Lost Girl.

Given that I inhale books, you would think that I would have read much more of the man's work by now. Not so. Could be because many of his works were re-released while I was working at the bookstore and those editions are mostly out of print now. Sure, sure, you can find Straub's work at any used bookstore. In my defense, I've only recently started to go to our local one again, and did in fact buy one of his other titles on a visit a few months back. It's been on my TBR pile since then. But that's kind of a good thing.

Why? Because Straub has three books that are tied together through what is called the Blue Rose Trilogy. My purchase those months ago, after a recommendation from a fellow reader, was The Throat, a novel that just happens to be book three in the trilogy. And now, Random's Anchor/Vintage imprint is reprinting all three books. Koko, a psychological horror based around four Vietnam vets, is the first in the trilogy and a new edition is hitting shelves next Tuesday (July 14). Mystery, the second title, is being re-released in January of next year. And though it's not listed on Amazon just yet, The Throat will be due out sometime next summer.

Koko, like Dan Simmons's Song of Kali, won Straub the World Fantasy Award in 1989, Straub's first of many awards. He has won 5 Stoker Awards since, one of them for The Throat.

So, here's the review from PW when Koko was released in the 80s:

In his most gripping, most hallucinogenic thriller to date, the author of Ghost Story and Shadowland takes us on a dizzying spin through those eerie psychic badlands where nightmare and insanity seem to fuse with reality. It's 15 years after the Vietnam War and a string of murders in Southeast Asia convinces four veterans of the same Vietnam platoonone now a doctor, another a writerthat the murderer, whose trademarks are mutilation and a playing card with "Koko" scrawled on it, was also a member of the platoon. They resolve to find him, for purposes of their own, before the police do. Led by the platoon's one-time lieutenant, who has a cold-blooded killing of villagers on his record, they follow Koko's trail to the sleazy bars and sinister dives of Singapore and Bangkok, and finally to New York where one of them becomes his latest victim. A probe into the killer's grim childhood yields his true identity, as well as his genesis as a psychopath, but in a thrilling climax, the now-you-see-me, now-you-don't Koko proves just how wily he is. The characters are realistic and complex, and the story continues to resonate in the mind long after the final page is turned.

I have high, high expectations of this book. First off, I was so freaking blown away by Dan Simmons's Song of Kali, and warranted or not, I've somehow associated the two as being similar in style and tone (though not subject). You can read my thoughts on Kali (another I highly recommend) here.

Second, because Straub typically makes it to 9/10 of every favorite horror authors list I've seen.

And third, because I need something to snap me out of my slump!

Ok, well I'm off, because this is long enough as it is. Hopefully it's inspired you to run out and grab this if you haven't read it (check out and excerpt here), and if you have then you can tell me what you think of it.

Hope you have a great Friday. I'm off to a pre-screening of the new Harry Potter this afternoon.


Becky LeJeune said...

As a side note, Straub has a new release hitting shelves next year as well. It's called A Dark Matter.

Vickie said...

Becky: I know this is silly, but every time I saw the title KOKO, I thought it was a book about a gorilla. Thank you for clarifying and now I will get the book.
I loved reading and being scared by SONG OF KALI. I adore Dan Simmons anyway and that one confirmed.
I am honestly trying to remember if I've read anything by Straub. I've seen Ghost Story and that was a fab scare.

Unknown said...

I absolutely love Straub. I think I read Koko before I read the Talisman. Granted it's been a few years since I read it, but I remember it being a great read. Probably one of my all time favorites. I can't believe you haven't read it! Shame on you. :)

Becky LeJeune said...

Jen, shame on you for not telling me I should read it! Ah well. I'm reading now. All will be fixed.

Unknown said...

Ah, ya got me. Strange we never discussed him during all of our conversations. Hope you like it as much as I did.

Jaime said...

I have the whole trilogy (hand-me-downs from my dad), but I haven't read a one of them yet! I'll be watching to see what you think.