By Ray Garton (Cemetery Dance; 1991/2004)
The prolific Ray Garton is an author who can usually always be relied upon to deliver unpretentious chills, a driving narrative and lots of unflinching grue. Unfortunately his best work is difficult to obtain, as it’s published mostly via expensive small press limited editions. THE NEW NEIGHBOR is no different, having been initially printed back in 1990 in an extremely limited Charnel House edition, illustrated by J.K. Potter, that cost a whopping $150.00(!). In 2004 Cemetery Dance published a slightly more affordable $40.00 reprint, but that edition is now out of print and an expensive collector’s item in its own right–a shame, as this is one of Garton’s better novels.
Certainly THE NEW NEIGHBOR showcases nearly all its author’s strengths…and, yes, a few of his weaknesses. It’s a triple X-rated, pulpy and heartfelt treat for readers with strong constitutions. The writing has a somewhat hasty quality that tends to characterize Garton’s work (the man cranks out an average of 2-3 books a year), but it’s nearly impossible not to get drawn into the perverse narrative.
Said narrative pivots on the title character, an alluring young woman named Lorelle, and the suburban neighborhood she moves into. The focus is on the Pritchards, a conservative family of four who have the misfortune to live across the street from Lorelle. In short order she seduces each of the Pritchards, beginning with the hard-working George and moving onto his repressed wife Karen, their randy teenage son Robbie and their step-daughter Jen, who has an eye for Robbie. With Lorelle’s help Jen is allowed to vent her incestuous longings just as Karen’s buried sexual preferences rise to the surface under the tutelage of her new neighbor.
Quite simply, nobody emerges unscathed from Lorelle, who manages to seduce all the townspeople in addition to the Pritchards, before revealing herself to be (surprise!) somewhat more than human. But then a (seemingly) shady character named Ronald Prosky enters the picture; he’s a traumatized survivor of Lorelle’s previous sex rampage, and is looking to alert her latest victims before it’s too late. But will anyone listen?
Nobody will ever confuse this wet and nasty book with a Thomas Pynchon novel, but it does have a depth and sensitivity that place it above most modern scary stuff. This makes for a good, satisfying grown-up horror fest with sex scenes that are plentiful and erotic, at least during the first half of the book. In the second the author’s penchant for extreme violence comes into play, as Lorelle’s neighbors begin acting out their darkest, nastiest impulses.
The final pages are problematic, with a rushed and fragmented resolution that feels cobbled together from the endings of FRANKENSTEIN, CARRIE and Joan Sampson’s 1976 classic THE AUCTIONEER. This doesn’t detract overmuch from the book’s gut-level power, as ultimately the coda works–just not very well.