Nick and Christine Marino move their young son, Joey, and the family dog to a remote Long Island community called Mill Harbor. Their new domicile is within driving distance of Nick’s job at his father’s Italian restaurant while offering a private beach and stables shared with their privileged neighbors. The moving crew barely leaves their driveway before a mysterious man on horseback, who can’t stop ogling Christine, invites them all over to meet the rest of their neighbors. These include a strange but handsome Professor of Anthropology (who also can’t stop staring at Christine) along with a burly, Norse-looking man named Karl Anderson. Not only can’t he stop looking at Christine, but proceeds to grab her crotch after she extends her hand in a greeting – the result of which earns him a much-deserved drink in his face. Things get even worse when the family returns home and finds their dog with its head completely “twisted” off. After just one chapter, it becomes painfully obvious that Robert C. Sloane’s “A Nice Place to Live” (published 1982) is anything but!
Things start going from bad to worse when Nick starts acting strangely; ignoring his son and getting crass with his wife. Eventually, his own father is ready to fire him when he starts squeezing the customer’s butts (including kids) and picking fights with his co-workers. The trouble all began when Nick met Karl Anderson’s attractive and musically inclined daughter, Karla. Pretty soon he starts spending all his free time getting guitar lessons from her which raises his wife’s suspicions for many reasons, not the least of which is because he doesn’t own a guitar! Christine is understandably miserable as their once romantic relationship has gone, shall we say, Cro-Magnon. When Nick disappears for days and Christine asks where he’s been, he replies, “I’ve sucked on icicles sweeter than your breasts!”
Fortunately, Christine’s anthropologist neighbor has ALL the answers and even wrote a college thesis on the problem. He explains that the giants depicted in the Bible as well as in other cultures’ mythology are actually REAL. In fact, did you know Adam and Eve were actually over one hundred feet tall? Also, those huge statues portraying the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt were apparently 1:1 scale.
As the centuries rolled on, folks started getting much smaller. Consequently, Noah was only twenty-feet tall while poor Moses barely reached thirteen. But that’s not the worst part. The Professor explains that another group of giants, Trolls, also exists. No, not the cute animated ones that go on tour, but the ferocious kind that tears off heads and wants to bang any woman it can get its slimy hands on. And there lies the problem. These oversexed creatures started breeding with human females; eventually bringing their species down to size while allowing them to hide in plain sight amongst us. He claims the problem is their sleazy neighbor, Karl Anderson, who is obviously a troll due to his thick neck and “cretinous” facial features.
Christine wishes she could simply dismiss all these nutty theories but – after watching her husband recite Nordic poetry, drink from a goblet made from a steer’s horn, and toss a few toads on the grill for dinner – decides to go ahead and take that leap of faith.
Of course, the local police lieutenant isn’t quite so trusting. After listening to the anthropologist’s theory far longer than any other professional law enforcement individual would, he tells the Professor that if he ever gets tired of teaching he can always join their special “giant and elf division.” Unphased by the Lieutenant’s sarcasm, the Professor double downs with, “You want proof!? A poem read by a beautiful woman (Karla) on a beach is undeniable metaphysical proof of the terror that lies in my neighbor’s heart!”
Shockingly, this didn’t lead to any arrests.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that “A Nice Place to Live” is not a bad read. Aside from the preposterous plot and unintentional humor, there are also plenty of deliberate laughs courtesy of their visiting Aunt Henrietta. Aunt Henrietta likes her liquor and is always good for sharing her hilarious, boozy insights. In fact, entire chapters are dedicated to her diary entries and they’re so entertaining you’ll wish the entire story was told from her perspective.
Maybe it’s not a nice place to live, but still, a fun book to read. So let’s break it all down…
Number of pages: 208 pages (Fast and Fun)
The Message: Good (barbed wire) fences make good neighbors.
Shelf or Scrap it? A fun addition to mine and anyone’s vintage horror paperback collection.