The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Book of the Week!

Hardcover Honey's Book of the Week!

Ugly as Sin by James Newman

Author James Newman has a number of published works, including the intriguingly titled “666 Hair-Raising Horror Movie Trivia Questions”, and I was recently lucky enough to receive a review copy of “Ugly as Sin” for my reading pleasure (and it mostly WAS a pleasure, although I did feel like I needed a shower when it was all over). 

The only problem with reading a book titled “Ugly as Sin” is that it has caused me to sing lost 80's classic “Never Say Never” by Romeo Void under my breath for the last 10 days simply because the song features that line “A couple walks by, ugly as sin, but he's got her and she's got him”.  Aside from giving me an unshakable earworm, I really enjoyed this work and I bet you will too.

The story of Nick Bullman, AKA wrestling star The Widow-Maker, the story starts off strong, with Nick being accosted by two brainless wrestling fans (wait, is that a given?) who stop him as he's leaving a local civic center after a match.  These two (who Nick dubs “Rebel Yell” for a Confederate flag t-shirt and One Arm, because he has, you know, one arm) seem to take the wrestling storylines more seriously than most, and although Nick is dismissive of them at first, he quickly learns that they mean business, as they assault him using not just their fists but baseball bats, steel-lined gloves, and eventually, much to Nick's dismay, a knife (“one of those big mean sons-a-bitches with a serrated blade, spiked knuckle guard”).  Hours later, when help finally arrives, Nick is a man who has been scarred for life – literally.

 A quick cut to three years later reveals a man who is broken in many ways.  Although Nick still weighs in at nearly 300 lbs and stands over 6'6”, his strength seems mostly gone as life has beaten him down.  Facial reconstruction has been attempted, but for the most part has been unsuccessful – sure, he can breathe and eat and stuff, but he also attracts stares wherever he goes.  Newman memorably refers to the attempt at facial reconstruction as “washing an old suit and smoothing out all the wrinkles, after that suit had been set on fire then buried for a year”.

When he gets a call from his former boss Lance McDougal, head of The Association (read: WWF), he is excited to take a meeting.  When his boss proposes a new storyline featuring Nick as a grotesque monster named “Revolto”, Nick can't keep himself from laying in a real-life smackdown to the tan and toothy McDougal.  When the related trials for this incident are over, Nick finds himself not just scarred and broken, but broke now too, living in Memphis in a cramped apartment on the bad side of town.

It's here that Act Two of Nick's story gears up, as he receives a call from his estranged daughter Melissa, in a small town called Midnight in North Carolina – and Melissa is calling with serious problems of her own.  It seems her own daughter, preteen Sophie, has gone missing, and Melissa's live-in boyfriend, the skeezy Eddie, was found at home with his head blown off.  The cops are trying to find Sophie, but their prevailing theory seems to be that Sophie have turned on her Eddie after some abuse, shot him dead, and took off for parts unknown.  Melissa readily owns up to all that is bad about Eddie, a small-time drug dealer and pimp (dream date, clearly) but swears he would never have laid a hand on Sophie.  She confides in Nick that she thinks Sophie must have witnessed the murder and that whoever killed Eddie now has Sophie in their possession.  Aside from being missing, Sophie is also epileptic and requires a specific medicine twice every day, so Melissa is frantic.


Nick promises to do his best to help, and that's exactly what he does, hooking up with Eddie's meth-head neighbor Leon and the nicer-than-expected Sheriff Mackey) in the process, and working his way through the seedy underbelly of Midnight (although, frankly, the whole damn town seems like one giant seedy underbelly!) in pursuit of Sophie's captors.  He crosses paths with plenty of unsavory types, stays at what sounds like the dirtiest motel of all time, visits a titty bar and converses with some seen-it-all strippers, all building up to a humdinger of a closing scene in which our hero gets more than he bargained for.  The tagline on the book reads “A Novel of White-Trash Noir”, and I can't imagine a better description.   Any fan of the Horror Honeys is likely to enjoy this book.


“Ugly as Sin” is available in paperback and as an e-book from Shock Totem Publications (www.shocktotempublications.com).  

Hardcover Honey's verdict: Four out of five sweaty wrestlers for this one.