Thursday, November 20, 2008

Book Review: Curse of the Tarantula by Mike Segretto

It’s the swinging sixties in Hollywood, but Burton Lazlow is a washed up old actor, best known for his portrayal as “The Tarantula” in the 1940’s horror films. His star has faded over the years, but his drinking has increased. He spends most of his days lamenting his lost career and cursing fellow British actor Arthur Hollingshead for becoming successful. His wife Kandice, sick of his whining, leaves him and all the acting work his agent can get him involves Lazlow donning the black cape and fangs of his Tarantula character for burger commercials. With his life seemingly spiraling down the drain, Lazlow snaps and begins having wild hallucinations. When he kills someone during one of his episodes, Lazlow flees Hollywood and goes back to his home country of England, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.

Lazlow ends up in London and takes up with a group of mods, who revere him for his newly found infamous status as celebrity murderer. Lazlow ends up taking on the persona of The Tarantula and with the help of the mods, plans to kill his arch-nemesis, Sir Arthur Hollingshead and anyone else he thinks is out to get him.

Curse of the Tarantula is a swinging good time full of memorable characters and zippy dialogue. Author Mike Segretto really captures the feel of the 60’s, whether the setting is glam Hollywood or mod London.

I love how the characters come to life, whether they are in Lazlow’s head or not! I love the characters of the mods, with their Vespa scooters and polished looks, as well as the arrogant character of Arthur Hollingshead that is always pestering Lazlow. As for the character of Lazlow, he’s a very interesting fellow and you just want to keep reading to see what happens to him. Although in the beginning of the book he’s a self-pitying alcoholic obsessed with his past and he commits a few murders, you can’t help but feel sorry for the old chap. It is downright sad to see a character like him, a revered horror actor that has fallen so far. Lazlow brings to mind horror greats like Vincent Price that also spent their golden years in obscurity. The character also progresses from pitiful to powerful as he takes on the persona of the Tarantula. His sinister transformation into monster is quite believable as well, thanks to Segretto’s masterful prose.

Author Mike Segretto manages to weave glamorous Hollywood with the gritty streets of London, overrun at the time by young ‘uns calling themselves mods or rockers. The slang that Segretto uses for the mods is spot-on and really brings you into their world of music and fashion. The lingo adds a lot of color to the book, and while some may have taken it overboard, Segretto wisely uses just the right amount to give us a feel for the characters.

I was also struck by how the book doesn’t read like a typical horror book. There are several bloody deaths, but the gore isn’t the main focus of the book. Instead, the characters are at the forefront of the novel. The quirky characters, as briefly discussed above, are what really carry the story. I kept reading just to see what Burton Lazlow would do next and see how the mods would react to his plans.

The pace also moves at a quick clip, propelling the reader further and further into the madly deteriorating mind of Lazlow as he transforms into the Tarantula. The book is a short one, clocking it at in or around 200 or so pages, but it helps that it is so well-written and paced.

Curse of the Tarantula is a breath of fresh air in the cluttered bookshelves of horror literature. Instead of skewing for an over-abundance of gore, Tarantula creeps under your skin and shows that the madness that inside our own minds is far worse than any cloaked monster.

Available from Amazon!

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