Kinko, Kinko, The Kid-Loving Clown
If the kids just love me back I'll never never a frown
-- Sung by Dr. Demento
Music and Lyrics: William Frenzer; 1979
Ruby Jean Jensen's first novel, The House That Samael Built, was published in 1974. Her last, Night Thunder, was published in 1995. She established a unique genre niche with her 30 or so novels.
I confess to not being being there when Ms. Jensen's career began. She was initially published by Warner Books (as was Richard Laymon), moved to Major Books, Manor Books (the home of Pierce Nace's Eat Them Alive), Leisure Books, Tor, then finally Zebra Books, where she resided longest.
If you like the "Living Doll" episode of
Below all that, a deeply subversive current runs, and that is the key to her unique oeuvre.
The back cover blurbs for her stories read like they were being directed at young adult readers. In fact, she may have been one of the very first genre writers to write Young Adult Fiction (as we know it today) without stating it so boldly.
I always found myself hypnotized by descriptions of the content like this:
"The closer they got to the cabin, the less friendly Mr. Walker's smile became."
I love that.
It shares a tone with Dr. Demento's classic Kinko The Clown, a twisted ode to John Wayne Gacy.
Her mouth even had a tiny round hole so she could eat and breathe.
Something about that is discomforting.
If she could have seen her little doll's legs kick, she would have been frightened.
The troubling tone of Ms. Jensen's work has always held great appeal to me, as have the strange, fairy tale-like covers of the publisher.
For mine, Ms. Jensen's work personified Zebra's "house style". Although other authors such as William Johnstone and Stephen Gresham were synonymous with Zebra, none were as distinct.
She is rarely mentioned by industry stalwarts, she doesn't get Stephen King cover raves, and she is sometimes dismissed by "serious" commentators on the genre.
Personally, I find her to be highly underrated and a well kept, "dirty secret" (in a good way).
Unfortunately, the cover artists of these books were never credited, so I'm unable to sling praise at them.
No other horror publisher imitated them. Most were probably off somewhere feeling superior.
The blood-stained pillow in this illustration is a ravishing touch, and an enticing invitation for the unsuspecting reader.
Thankfully, I'm not the only one who has a soft, moist spot for Ms. Jensen (pictured below with a canine accomplice).
A fellow named Aaron K. Thompson has put a small site together to honor her fine work. It's at:
A native of southwest Missouri, she began her career writing Gothic romance novels with a supernatural bent.
Another Apostle of Pulp is in our midst.
If you have a free moment, please add this lovely lady to the National Treasure list.
We have to sit on Kinkos lap there's never any chairs
Kinko likes to tickle us and give us funny stares.