Limited Edition Hardback

Standard Edition

First published back in October of 2021, pulp legend Guy N Smith and fellow horror author J R Park’s co-written novel ‘Beheaded’ formed Smith’s final offering following his sad passing in December 2020.

The novel was released as both a mass market pulp-sized paperback, and as a limited edition hardback (of which there only twenty copies). The hardback version included an exclusive ‘The Making Of Beheaded’ write-up, as well as the exclusive, never before published original short story ‘Beheaded!’ which formed the basis for the novel.

DLS Synopsis:
According to legend, an old man had lived in the cottage over a century ago. A strange man, with a squashed face and a huge black moustache. A monstrous looking man who terrified the local villagers. Ugly Edgar.

The local kids used to flee when they saw him out in the street. No one trusted the strange creep who lurked around their quaint little village. Which was why, when a local kid went missing, all eyes turned to Ugly Edgar. A week later, the police find the beheaded corpse of Ugly Edgar upstairs in his cottage. The killer, a Mister Whitely, was sentenced to be hanged. A sentence he enacted himself, whilst alone in a police cell. And despite Whitely admission of guilt for the crime, they never found Ugly Edgar’s decapitated head.

Now, over a century since those horrific crimes, the very same 15th century black and white timbered cottage still stands. A beautiful cottage in a picturesque spot. However, things had gone swiftly downhill for Angela and Mike Cotton since they moved into the cottage. It was shortly after they moved in that Mike changed, that his temper had flared, erupting into physical violence.

Mike’s aggression came to a peak one night after he’d been out boozing. A fit of blind rage which saw him rampaging through Angela’s pottery workshop, wrecking her work. A raging temper that was suddenly cut short by something or someone unknown. One minute Mike was flying off the handle, the next, the cottage was silent. All that remained of Mike Cotton, was his decapitated head, spinning on Angela
s potting wheel.

Two beheadings undertaken in the very same room, only with a century between the two sadistic murders.

Sometimes the thirst for revenge lives on in a place…in a room.

Anger only breeds more anger.

It’s time for one last story…

DLS Review:
I have to admit, I’m writing this review with somewhat of a heavy heart. It’s not anything against the novel itself, as the following review will clearly show, but instead the deep-down knowledge that this is Smith’s final offering. He’d co-written this final tale with Justin Park, another close friend of mine. In a way, this co-authoring of the final novel seems incredibly fitting. A sort of passing of the flame. Although damn does Park have some big shoes to fill if that’s the case!

Anyway, onto the review itself. Essentially, what we have with ‘Beheaded’ is one of Smith’s lengthier offerings, and possibly one of his most well-rounded tales. The whole thing is constructed within a tightly orchestrated framework of a repeating, echoing, brutal horror. It’s a story of revenge at its very core. One which tells the tale of a hatred that’s so deeply ingrained, that it lingers on in a small room of an old cottage.

The foundations of this tale have then been fully fleshed out written into a story which feels expertly bookended. A story that reverberates through time, through whispers and stories designed to chill the blood of children. There’s more than just a passing resemblance to Barker’s ‘Candyman’ (1992) with this plot device. In essence Ugly Edgar taking Tony Todd’s place, and Angela that of Virginia Madsen’s.

Now then, woven into the fabric of this carefully constructed plot structure we have a grisly pulp horror story that’s on a mission to push the pulpy bloodshed and gore to new levels. In fact, as you read the book, you can’t help but imagine Smith and Park eagerly attempting to outdo each other with how horrific they can make the murders.

There’s absolute classic Smith throughout the novel. A true return to his pulp horror roots, drawing easy to spot parallels with so many of his titles from the 80’s and 90’s. It’s like Smith was cast back to those glorious days for this final book, and he’s penning another slab of unbridled pulp horror to sit shoulder to shoulder with ‘The Festering’ (1989), ‘Pluto Pact’ (1982) or indeed ‘Nightspawn’ (2010).

We have the setting of another classic quaint rural village that Smith works so well within. Another abusive and downright toxic marriage forming the catalyst for the horrors to come. The story of a local loner, who’s snubbed by the whole community. A mob of vigilantes baying for blood. Yes, it’s got it all in there, absolute textbook Smith through and through.

Then throw in the influence of Park, the mad professor of horror, who shovels in his own hefty of shovelful of splatter. Who wrote the scene involving the “genital beheading”? My money’s on Park. And I can just imagine his wry smile as he delivered that grim little treat for the readers.

Another key ingredient to the absolute success of ‘Beheaded’ is the wonderful way in which the two authors have clearly set out to pen a crowd pleaser of a novel. You can see that in the aforementioned Smithisms. You can see it in the monstrous levels of pulpy splatter. But most of all, you can see it in the inclusion of characters that have been taken from both authors’ previous novels.

I can’t deny cracking a smile when I saw Oliver Coleborn, the lawyer from Park’s superb novel ‘Mad Dog’ (2017) appearing as one of the principal characters, and having his backstory summarised and slotted into this new tale. And then we have his father Gavin Coleborn – a character who took a giant crab claw back from Barmouth after the epic crustacean battle we saw enacted in Smith’s absolute cult classic ‘Night Of The Crabs’ (1976).

However, despite the heroic past which is frequently hinted upon, Gavin is still very much a secondary character in the tale, the father of Oliver Coleman who forms the love-interest for Angela. However, what’s perhaps even more of a fan favourite to see, is that Smith has now quite unsubtly, painted the character as himself.

“The room was lined with shelves filled with books, on the walls were old tin signs advertising tobacco and a beaten box of Subbuteo lay open on a desk near a window overlooking the back garden.”

For those that had the pleasure to visit Smith at his home, that sentence alone with muster up more than a faint air of recognition. And with the giant crab claw ornately hung on the wall, and a thick fog of pipe smoke in the air, the character of Gavin Coleman almost brought a tear to my eye.

Ultimately, what we have with ‘Beheaded’ is an incredible achievement. Park has injected a buzz of adrenaline into Smith’s writing. Fully reawakened the pulp horror beast that resided in Smith’s belly for one final offering. In ‘Beheaded’ we have nothing short of an absolute return to form. A veritable masterclass in pulp horror excellence.

Yes, the Scooby Doo style twist ending is as wacky as it utterly ludicrous. But who the hell cares? That’s half the joy in these things. The outlandish. The unpredictable. The wildly over-the-top.

This my gore-loving friends, is how 80’s pulp horror is done. This one’s undoubtedly there for the legacy. A final cheeky smile from the Godfather of Pulp Horror, as he bows out one last time.

Thank you for all the years of grisly entertainment.

The novel runs for a total of 262 pages.

Limited Edition Hardback Bonus Material:

The Making of Beheaded – 6 Pages
In this short “Making of” section, Park provides us with a wonderfully penned insight into how the story came to be, the collaboration process, the inspiration, and a peak at Park’s heart-warmingly close relationship with Smith. Park talks of how the book was first supposed to be a short story, ideally for publication as a chapbook, and how this later, quite naturally expanded into a full-length novel.

Park provides an insight into how this was all put together; how Ugly Edgar was inspired by a clay model that Guy’s daughter’s – Tara – made in school when she was fourteen. And finally, the short write-up ends with an incredibly touching accolade to Smith and his incredibly impressive output from a lifetime of writing.

Beheaded! [The Original Short Story] – 6 Pages
It hadn’t been long since Angela and Mike had moved into the old cottage. Soon after moving in, Angela had setup her pottery workshop in the upstairs bedroom. The very same room which their neighbour, old Mister Rose, had spoken of. Rumours of converse that dated back over a century. A story of cruelty and revenge. A beheading that occurred that very room.

The story seemed just that…a grisly story designed to scare. That was, until a strange and ghastly head seemed to form itself from Angela’s clay. And suddenly a centuries old horror has returned. An entity which seeks out the very same horrific punishment that befell it all those years ago…

This is the original short story that was penned by Guy N Smith, that formed the basis of the ‘Beheaded’ novel. Indeed, a good bulk of the short story appears pretty much word for word within an early chapter of the finished novel. However, with this original short story, it ends almost immediately after Mike’s beheading. A horror left lingering, with the taunting uncertainty that it might one day return again.

To be honest, the short itself doesn’t feel like a complete story. Indeed, it feels markedly stunted. Perhaps that’s just because we now know all the grisly horror that followed. It’s probably this that makes this original short story feel like it’s then been cut short. Nevertheless, it’s still very interesting to see the roots of the tale – the initial building blocks from which the more complete story was built upon.

© DLS Reviews



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