This review has me returning to two of my favorite things: zombies and Bad Moon Books. “Johnny Gruesome” by Gregory Lamberson is a terrifying yet sometimes humorous novel about a teenage boy who refuses to die in order to get revenge on those who have done him wrong.
“Johnny Gruesome” is the story of a heavy metal-listening, video game-playing, horror movie-watching, high school bad boy, Johnny Grissom. Johnny’s having a bad day. A fight before school led to a suspension. Then, as he drove around town with his best friend and girlfriend that evening, he is run of the road and then murdered. To make matters worse, his friend and girlfriend help cover up the murder to protect their reputations.
Johnny may be dead but that does not mean he is not mad. Mad enough, in fact, to turn away from the light and stay in his body. He finds that he is a prisoner in his body and rages for control. Finally, after being embalmed and buried, he gains control of his body. Johnny Grissom is dead. Johnny Gruesome is now alive, or at least undead, and it is time for revenge.
As he emerges from the grave, Johnny decides that he is not just going to get revenge against his murderers but that he is going to drag the whole town to Hell with him. He begins a killing spree that puts the town on edge as its pervading sense of safety is shattered by the killer in its midst. But when Johnny’s best friend, Eric, spies him one night, he starts a quest to end Johnny’s reign of terror. He finds an ally in his first period teacher, who was assaulted by Johnny and is the acting sheriff’s wife, and they set off to confront Johnny and kill him again.
In “Johnny Gruesome,” Greg Lamberson creates B-movie world that is fast-paced and entertaining. Lamberson makes no excuses for writing a book that is just a straight forward tale of terror and the reader is rocketed along as Johnny stamps his own brand of vengeance on the small town. The book really is as simple as that: a telling of a teenage zombie’s rampage. Nothing more and nothing less with no apologies made and no punches pulled. Lamberson handles the tale skillfully and ensures that there is never a dull moment. It seems that a lot of the books I read are aimed at making the reader think about deeper issues and there is nothing wrong with that. But there is also something to be said for an all-out horror/thriller that aims for nothing more than entertainment. That is what the reader will find in “Johnny Gruesome.” The only surprise that most readers will find is that Lamberson handles the story and entertains with more skill than most better-known authors.
Movie outlook: This book would make a great movie. Part slasher and part zombie mix, this book is filled with the action and horror that horror fans look for while also having more than its share of comedy and even a little heart. The book was written as a kind of B-movie story and would translate well to a movie. Lamberson has experience in TV and movies and knows how to craft a story that would give it appeal. It also features a younger cast of characters that gives Hollywood the sex appeal factor that it wants. Is there anything better than watching a zombie chow down on a starlet?