The Horror/Thriller Books I Read in 2021

My New Year’s Resolution for 2022 was the same one I had for 2021 – Read more books! You see, despite having a small library in my apartment, I’d been neglecting them in favor of zoning out in front of the TV. On the rare occasions I cracked one open, I’d find myself dozing after just a few pages. Clearly, my frenetic job coupled with social media had zapped my attention span and it was high time I did something about it. So, this time last year, I signed on on Goodreads and challenged myself to read twenty-five books in 2021. Spoiler alert: I didn’t succeed. The official number of books I completed was eighteen garnering me 72% on Goodreads. But hey, that’s still passing, right? Not surprisingly, most of them were horror or thriller stories and the ones I’ll be focusing on today.

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Svengoolie and the Slashers at Flashback Weekend!

(Continued) With so many contestants at the Flashback Weekend costume contest, there wasn’t as much time for Svengoolie to get celebrity guest interviews for his show. Feeling the pressure, the crew quickly headed for the main convention hall to see who was available. I know there had been some discussion earlier of him possibly interviewing the singer, Meatloaf. Thankfully, this did not happen as it likely would’ve been his ONLY interview (see my first Flashback post). As we made our way through the crowd, numerous fans approached Sven for a selfie and he obliged whenever he could despite the rush. Fortunately, Jim was able to keep many of them at bay. 

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Svengoolie Meets Stone Cold E.T. in one Crazy Costume Contest!

(Continued) As soon as Svengoolie completed his interview with the cast of The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre (2021) the room quickly filled up with contestants and onlookers for Flashback Weekend’s annual costume contest. It was soon evident that a lot of creative fans used their time in last year’s lockdown to make costumes as this was the largest number of contestants I’d ever seen. The line of hopefuls wrapped around the room and beyond – with no end in sight. This would be “Mayor” Don Johnston‘s turn to shine as he had the dubious task of directing everyone on and off the stage – something a bit more challenging when dealing with kids or those visually impaired by their own costumes.

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Svengoolie at Flashback Weekend 2021!

I hadn’t seen Svengoolie in person since December 2019 when he was dressed as his holiday alter ego, Sventa Claus, at the Mystic Market in Lyons. It was a fun occasion and, in the spirit of giving, I brought him an animatronic Creature from the Black Lagoon figure I’d purchased from Days of the Dead. I recall it ending with my friends and I toasting another successful year of Sven-chasing since, for us, attending his appearances was not unlike following a favorite band on tour. In this regard, the Mystic Market was something of a finale’ – though we could never have known at the time just how final that would be. We took for granted the tradition would continue on into the coming year not knowing a Pandemic was lurking just around the corner. So, with 2020 a wash, we looked at the summer of 2021 as a bastion of hope.

By July, Chicago had lifted its indoor mask mandate and, further cementing a feeling of normalcy, Svengoolie signed on for his first public appearance in over a year. Unfortunately, the closer Flashback Weekend loomed, the more news of the virus’ Delta variant started making headlines. Suddenly, what should have been a joyous occasion had a giant black cloud hanging over it. I was excited to join the Svengoolie crew and see my favorite horror host again but with a fair share of trepidation.

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Finally Looking Back at Flashback Weekend

For all intents and purposes, this past Flashback Weekend should have been an amazing experience. Like most annual events, the convention was canceled last year due to Covid leaving horror fans even more anxious to commune in 2021. I’d reserved my room at the Hyatt Regency in Rosemont, Illinois months in advance and even took the whole week after off for vacation. I’d saved plenty of cash and had a detailed list of all the guests I wanted to meet and items I wanted to have signed. Unfortunately, not an hour after the doors opened I got word that a family member using my car for the weekend crashed it. This situation resulted in my spending the bulk of my Friday night in my room and on the phone. Saturday was my day to work with the Svengoolie crew and, with my car out of commission, I had to arrange for someone else to pick me up from the hotel on Sunday. They could only get me at 10 am a.k.a. an hour before the convention opened that day. I had little time to accomplish my goals and the singer, Meatloaf, would end up stealing half of it. In the end, After failing to reach the majority of my Flashback Weekend objectives, it’s no wonder I’ve spent the last four months trying to forget it. In fact, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when Svengoolie’s producer, Jim Roche, reached out about sharing my pictures with them that I realized they were still unloaded on my camera.

The Exorcist: Book vs Movie!

This past Halloween season, many of us physical media devotees proudly assembled our favorite horror films to watch during the month of October. Under normal circumstances, my watch list would consist of such obvious choices as Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980), and The Exorcist (1973). This year, however, I challenged myself to watch horror films I’d never seen before and were available via streaming services. Although I saw some interesting flicks (God bless Shudder) I was never more grateful for my DVD/Blu-ray/4K collection come November 1st!

Despite skipping over William Freidkin’s masterpiece, I did indulge in its source material. William Peter Blatty’s 1971 book, “The Exorcist,” not only spawned the cult classic film but also helped usher in the golden age of “Paperbacks from Hell.” Its success (along with “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Other”) sparked the horror paperback craze by inspiring more publishers to also try cashing in on the demonic craze.

I honestly can’t say how many times I’ve seen the movie but I can say I’d never picked up the book; something I decided to rectify after coming across a copy of Blatty’s 2010 “40th Anniversary” updated version at Goodwill this past summer. This slight revision featured minor adjustments in dialogue and the addition of a hardly mentioned side character named Father Lucas (more on him later). In other words, it was an obvious cash grab but still had plenty of other insights and differences between the book and film worth noting. BTW it should go without saying that there will be spoilers for both, so proceed with caution…