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Scrape, Texas
The Last Horror Novel in The History of the World
Brian Allen Carr
Lazy Fascist Press
128 Pages; Print, $9.95

inline graphicThe Last Horror Novel in the History of the World is a novella set in the tiny border town of Scrape, Texas, where “We sing these old songs in the sweater-heavy nighttime air. The glow of streetlights soft in the salt stench.”

The story is told in vignettes that rarely fill a single page. Each event or fact passes fast, like a car blowing through your one-light town.

And who hasn’t wanted to blow out of their own town? Or better yet, see it blown to bits?

The Last Horror Novel does just that after a quick and poetic first section that inverts the one-dimensional character/detailed action horror trope. The people of Scrape are introduced through a telling detail, often the type of thing that would earn you a reputation in a small town (“Rob Cooder breaks a banjo string, clears his throat, smokes cloves. Mindy Stewart has herpes.”). Brian Allen Carr has written these characters with dimensions. It’s Scrape that has made them flat.

Though we can conjure the place and feel like we have met these people before—the denial-drunk couple who screw their way through danger, the white racist stuck with a black neighbor— they’re written in fresh ways that that give their lives unprecedented gravity. Take Mindy, who:

crawls in and out of apartments that smell of new carpet and microwaved soup. She knows the boys of high school intimately. They are shark-skin smooth and firecracker quick. They whip in and out of her like snake tongues tasting air. She examines their tightness, the curls in their hair. Gives them more than they want of her. Makes them say her name.

Once we’re ready for Winesburg, Ohio retold as Cheapbeersville, Texas, the idyllic stagnation is broken by a series of ancient, mythical beasts arriving in Scrape to inflict their age-old horror.

The narrative speeds up as the town is besieged, ramping up the Troma-esque gross-out humor as a gaggle of locals wack-a-mole a horde of zombie children, who do battle with a swarm of hands (I shuddered while typing that) and, eventually, encounter Satan. This invasion can be read as a send-up of the conservative concern about immigration destroying small-town American traditions. Anxieties over displacement and invasion are projected into the book’s monsters. You think the Mexican family who moved in down the block is a problem? Try and deal with the perpetually screaming La Llorona.

The Last Horror Novel is quick and strange, its pleasures diverse—from the poetic prose at the beginning, to its riffs on small town life and the horror genre, to the creep out of a swarm of hands. Unlike life in Scrape, it’s always exciting. And unlike the citizens of Scrape, it never stays in the same place for too long.

In his introduction to the book, Tom Williams, whose novel Don’t Start Me Talkin’ (2014) lives in its own bluesy cultural gray area, riffs on the dualities that drive Carr’s work—between pulp and poetics, Mexico and the United States. Brian Allen Carr is a professor and author of three other works of fiction, who lives in the borderland where The Last Horror Novel is set, and recently found a fitting literary home at Lazy Fascist Press, an indie that professes to merge Bruce Willis and Jorge Luis Borges. Make no mistake; The Last Horror Novel is not the work of a literary author condescending to write a “guilty pleasure” novel in the genre of his choice. It’s a hybrid that proves something we have all understood ever since we enjoyed Robocop (1987) in grade school: smart people like big explosions, too. What else would you expect from an author whose previous novella was called Motherfucking Sharks? (2013)

Chris L. Terry

Chris L. Terry’s debut novel Zero Fade (2013) was on Best of 2013 lists by, Kirkus...