Monday, June 15, 2009

Evil Children Whose Wrong is Right

The "Evil Child" genre, ignited long ago by The Bad Seed ('56), then nurtured into popular culture in the 70's by David Seltzer's The Omen ('76) and Frank De Felitta's Audrey Rose ('75), spawned dozens of imitators. The genre never died, but it did slip into a coma.

The cover art for Joanne Fluke's The Stepchild ('80) had a heavy Bad Seed influence with its titular villain appearing to be Patty McCormack's slightly younger sister.

Author Joanne Fluke now specializes in mystery thrillers with culinary themes. Titles include Cherry Cheesecake Murder, Peach Cobbler Murder, and Chocolate Chip Cookie murder. They sound like slightly more adult Enid Blyton titles to me.

She jumped on the bandwagon with The Stepchild, her first book, and certainly demonstrated a strong affinity for the mystery genre. The book is light on real horror, though.

I found James Gordon's The Stone Boy (Charter, '84) in a wooden bin outside a suburban newsagency in Melbourne. It wasn't getting much respect in the hot sun and its fifty cent price tag didn't bode well for its content.

Nonetheless, I was captivated by its stark cover art and cover copy that really grabbed my attention: "The worst has happened. Your son is coming home."

How could I resist that?

The Stone Boy is a solid horror story, written in the first person, about a man facing an uncomfortable past (his son). It has a very effective climax that I didn't see coming.

The book opens with an old children's folk rhyme that I first heard when I was a child. It establishes the tenor of novel:

One afternoon
in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys
got up to fight;
back to back
they faced each other,
sword in hand,
they shot each other;
a deaf policeman
heard the noise
and came and shot
the two dead boys

Definitely worth a read.

The film of the same name, produced in '84 only, is not related to the novel.

Another first novel, The Other Child (Pinnacle Books, '79) was written to capitalize on the burgeoning evil child genre also, even though it was more concerned with an evil adult who coveted another woman's child. Once again, it was more of a mystery than a balls-to-the-wall horror outing.

I've always been partial to the book's striking cover art. There is something so wrong but so right about a pretty little girl with a gun.

Author Margaret Chittenden continues to write mysteries.


  1. THE BAD SEED is one of my favorite films: GIVE ME THOSE SHOES!!!!!

    I recommend another one of favorites, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, for a spot on your list.

  2. I like Bad Seed too; fuckabilly, what's not to like! Did anyone here like the McCormack thing 'Mommy'?

    I always liked the sound of the title 'Dead Kid's', and I know you like it, Phantom, but the demon who won't let me take certain titles home won't let me watch that one.

    It sounds like it should be part of this thread, but is it actually? I guess I should really look before I post.

    And as loathe as I am to bang on about films of these books, can I just say that the movie 'Audrey Rose' for me pretty much exemplifies what usually happens when an idea steps from the pages, to the filmic image?

    It's seldom pretty...