Hi there, and welcome back to another guest piece for Storytellers. Last week we had Betty Rocksteady talk ‘Arachnophile’ and a special midweek post by Rich Hawkins about ‘The Last Outpost’. This week the focus is on Chris Kelso and his excellent book ‘Unger House Radicals’ which came out earlier this year by the wonderful Crowded Quarantine Publications.
Kelso’s work is often difficult to categorize. ‘Unger House Radicals’ is horror, but not as we know it. In true Kelso fashion, the book twists and turns, never allowing the reader to feel comfortable. It’s brutal, unflinching and brilliantly executed and if you want to read my review of it, then you can do so here.
I have enjoyed the variety of writers that have contributed so far and I hope that you have too. You can find out more about Chris Kelso through the links at the bottom of this post. Thanks, as always, to Chris and everybody else that have contributed to this feature.
Unger House Radicals
Basically, the main reason I wrote Unger House Radicals was to please my girlfriend. There – I said it.
I can still say, proudly, and with honesty, that I have never written for another person before – not a reviewer, not a publisher, not even for my other ex-girlfriends. In many ways, UHR was not such a drastic departure for me (writing about unsavoury characters is how I forged a name for myself in my literary circle), but even I’ll admit that my previous books were often confusing, and inaccessible, usually deliberately so, for anyone who wasn’t already entrenched in the mythos of the Slave State.
I should state that my girlfriend wanted to be supportive of those books, she tried really, really hard to like them – but ultimately they left her frustrated and, like a lot of independent reviewers, a little cold.
I get it.
Not everyone is into depressing, non-linear, stubbornly-Joycian, science fiction stories. Maybe it was time to leave the Slave State behind, at least for a short while. After all, I had literary muscles to flex, had to get off the beaten track and all that – that’s the basic genesis of why I decided to write Unger House. But there were other motivations…
It seems somewhat cliché’ to say that serial killers have always interested me. Don’t they kind of interest everyone? But a story about an art student and a serial killer falling in love hit me as an entirely fresh idea, one I felt I could actually stick to for the length of an entire novel/novella without flitting between outlying characters all the time! This is my ode to the dark crime novel, to the horror and romance hybrid, and a direct love letter to those deranged psychopaths who make lamps out of women’s vulvas. The love story is the theme that really interested me – a book about unrequited romance or, more simple than that, a book about bad relationships. This was my Twilight…but, obviously, much less lame.
Even more important than that though, UHR is a book all about the morbid curiosity of human beings. You see, I am the template for Vincent Bittacker, the young nihilistic city slicker who falls in love with mercurial serial murderer Brandon Swarthy. I can totally envisage myself being swept away by a strong-minded, half-cultured lunatic – hell, look at my current girlfriend!
Bittacker soon becomes obsessed with Swarthy, with his mind and his body. Swarthy is everything Bittacker is not. He’s charming, attractive and, most importantly, he knows who he is. Most teenagers seek out these sorts of role-models, latch onto older, ‘wiser’ people as they attempt to shape their own unique ID. Oftentimes those individuals can be terrible unhealthy for us to be around in the long run. We’ve all had these kinds of bad relationship.
Ultimately, Vincent is left heartbroken and depressed by his association with the killer in question.
For all the mystery and excitement Swarthy alleges to offer a naïve student like Vincent, he is not a man worthy of respect – rather like most serial killers. We do not respect them or pretend to even like them, but they offer us a glimpse into an entirely different way of thinking. We all think we’re so messed up, but serial killers put it all into perspective. If there’s a lesson to be learned from this type of relationship, I’d say beware the Brandon Swarthy’s of the world. They may be interesting and cool to hang out with, but they’re only after one of two things – to fuck you over or kill you.
Buy UNGER HOUSE RADICALS from here.
Amazon page for Chris Kelso.
@ChrisKelso5 on Twitter