Bentley Little is not a household name. Bentley Little is not a…great writer. But Bentley Little writes what he wants, and he doesn’t have time for your shit.
After getting his first book published, his publisher asked for his second novel to be a police procedural. So Bentley Little told them to fuck right off with that mess and broke his contract. He is, and always has been, a horror writer. And proud of it. He refuses to label his books as any of the cute euphemisms that publishers like to use in place of horror—dark fantasy, thriller, etc.—because he doesn’t see the point.
I love Bentley Little.
My first introduction to his work was with his (at the time) most recent work, The Disappearance. (That’s another thing I like about him: all of his book titles are generally two words and very simple.) I read The Disappearance in about three days and was really blown away by the first two-thirds of it and really disappointed by the last third. This, too, is pretty common with his books. His endings are almost always very contrived and anti-climactic.
And yet…I keep reading his stuff! So he’s obviously doing something right.
His most famous work is likely a short story called “The Washingtonians,” a story about a teacher who stumbles upon secret documents that reveal that George Washington was actually a murderous cannibal, and there is a cult dedicated to keeping this a secret. The cult is called “The Washingtonians,” and they come after the main character dressed in powdered wigs and colonial garb. He’s saved by ANOTHER cult that dress like British soldiers and are dedicated to exposing Washington’s secret. It’s ridiculous and strange and exactly what I like about Bentley Little’s work. It was adapted into an episode of “Masters of Horror” that really didn’t do the story’s strangeness any justice.
His books almost always have a very thinly (read: not-at-all) veiled critique of something that pisses him off. For instance, in The Store, a small town has its government taken over by a big-box retail store that sells anything and everything for ridiculously low prices and treats their employees like animals before indoctrinating them into a cult. Spoiler alert: it’s Wal-Mart. In The Policy, demonic insurance agents trap people in an endless cycle of needing and buying more and more insurance until they have no more money and can only pay with their souls.
The man has opinions, and he wants you to know them.
Bentley Little writes about a book a year, and about half of what he’s written has been really good. The other half hasn’t. Deal with it! There’s not much more for me to say about Mr. Little other than if you like horror—particularly monster-based horror—you should check him out. He’s less well known than a lot of other horror authors, and he doesn’t generally deal with very heady themes. He just wants to freak ya out, and he does a pretty good job of it. So, I thought I would give a very very brief review of some of my favorite books of his. Deal with it!
- The Revelation: As with many Little books, this takes place in Arizona. A church is defaced, people start having visions of deformed babies, and a priest starts preaching about the end times. The final boss is a bunch of stillborn babies possessed by the devil. S’weird shit. 07/10.
- The Store: Wal-Mart comes to a small town in Arizona and fucks everything up. The climax involves accidental incest. S’weird shit. S’not very scary. The message of the book is very on-the-nose. 06/10.
- The Collection: It’s a bunch of short stories. Most of them are reeeeeally weird. Like David Lynch-on-peyote weird. 09/10.
- The Policy: Supernatural insurance agents run a protection racket on a small town in Arizona. The ending is reeeeeeally weak, but the rest is really good. 06/10.
- The Return: Some kind of ancient boogen wakes up and wrecks shit. I don’t like this one. Boo/10.
- The Disappearance: I already talked about this one! 07/10.
And those are only the seven that I’ve read.
Give Bentley Little a shot, dangit! He deserves your attention. Stephen King likes him, so who the hell are you to say no?