top of page

Off Season


Jack Ketchum

Off Season
average rating is 5 out of 5

Horror, Extreme, Disturbing

R. Alex Jenkins

This is what it's all about! Off Season is brilliantly gruesome and I totally loved it!

Imagine going to your grave and never reading anything by Jack Ketchum? No The Girl Next Door or Off Season? Like four nuns, mostly clear of conscience and nothing to declare, queueing to confess to St. Peter at the pearly gates:

— I once saw a man's penis, St. Peter.

— Go wash your eyes in the holy water, my girl! Anything else to confess?

— I haven't read any wholesome literature by Jack Ketchum.

— You don't know what you're missing, sister, turn back and only ask for readmittance to heaven once you've been properly initiated!

This is the good stuff right here!

Canonization votes for this horror-writing saint should start immediately. Community-endorsed beatification is no longer enough!

Did I mention that I liked this book? BTW? Holy mother Mary and her nunnery, I did. That's the way to do it! Get me a habit, a bicycle made for two and 50 years of penance - what a majestic read - I don't need no pearly gates.

"Somebody round here is as crazy as a whore in the Vatican".

You know why I like Jack Ketchum so much? Because his universe is a pile is shit, but he's also an amazingly talented writer. He wants everyone to burn and scream and horribly shudder in putrid filth. I like him for that.

The book does take a while to get going, doing that thing of constantly building up character relationships and, therefore, reader dependency on hoping they survive, before things get nasty. You know it's going to get real bad! And there are maybe too many boyfriend-girlfriend interactions, a bit too cute for my liking, and the blokes are annoying jocks with big egos and their basic male desires and, while the girls are slightly better, less vain and more understanding of each other, I still hoped they would all get mauled, mutilated and thoroughly dismembered for their shallowness. In fact, the book could have used even more character development to explain the way some people react, but that might have slowed things down too much.

Fortunately, the action comes quick and fast. It relentlessly spins your comfortable world on its head. Thick action, page after page.

For reference purposes, this book was written in 1980, six years after Stephen King published his first book, Carrie, so I wasn’t expecting wonderful plot lines or narration, but somehow Jack Ketchum pulls it off. Off Season isn’t as cerebral and disturbing as The Girl Next Door - written 10 years later with its improved writing craft and real-life facts to draw on - but it has just as much punch.

Thank God for Jack Ketchum, for being unafraid of what other people think.

The afterword is brilliant too. Thankfully, we live in an age where books are less conservatively censored for mainstream bookshelves, to essentially preserve what authors intend to portray. Ballantine Books ruthlessly censored the original version, nor could I find a digital version, but my restored/unbutchered paperback copy is worth its weight in gold.

bottom of page