What is up, GoH friends! Dustin here again with a new batch of Recent Reads. Both of the books in this edition were a change of pace, to say the least. No One Rides for Free messed me up but I live for it! The Whistler was very much Hitchcockian giallo goodness, and I can’t wait to share my thoughts on them both.

No One Rides for Free by Judith Sonnet

Gosh, where do I begin? I thought I was a tough-*ss reader who’s seen most of it all. This book managed to shock me and go places I haven’t seen a book go. To be honest, I feel like a changed reader. Not because I went through something profound or anything like that but because some of the details I’ve seen in this book make me feel like there’s a whole new world out there for horror. Is what I’m saying even making sense? I hope it does.

Judith Sonnet’s No One Rides for Free is an extreme horror novella published in 2022. First of all, I said “extreme” and you best believe it. After I finished this book, certain imagery flashed to my mind while I was eating, and I– oh my goodness. Take this sign to look up content warnings for this book, if you plan to read it. If you think you can’t handle it, no sweat. It took me a long while and some self-imposed peer pressure after seeing the hype for this particular book in some of the horror book groups that I’m in to even consider purchasing the book. But alas, your gay boy reviewer over here wanted to read more works by LGBTQ+authors, and I wanted to diversify my reading too. So I’ve read queer YA horror with cutesy romances, some dark supernatural s**t with hard-hitting social commentary, but I don’t think I’ve read anything as nasty — and I say “nasty” with love — as this. I thought to myself, “You’re a big kid. You’ve read Richard Laymon and his rump-scapades (if you know, you know!). What’s another gritty horror book going to do?” A lot, apparently. A lot after this book. Apparently.

Okay, so circling back. This book tells the story of a single mom who’s driving her kids back to college after a break. When she stops for gas, this would soon change her life for the worst.

I’ve read that Ms. Sonnet got this book ready in 10 days, which is incredible. I’m talking writing, editing, and releasing, if I have my facts straight. That is impressive. What’s also impressive is how she gets the story going so fast and manages to craft realistic characters I cared for so quickly. I also wanted to give a shout-out to how the story starts out. Like, we’re in the mom’s perspective throughout the book, and she’s in this very positive sexual mental space — you’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve read the book — but then as the story progresses, it takes a turn into some very, very dark sexual spaces that you and the main character come to want to avoid anything sexual at all.

As mentioned, this is an extreme horror novella but I appreciate the author’s craft in how she creates tension even without violence. It’s the vulgarity and the viable threat that the villain imposes on our characters that got my heart pounding so fast. When the disgusting scenes came on, I was rightfully grossed out and by that time, I was cheering on our characters to not only get away but get rid of this dude.

I wouldn’t say this is the most original horror work ever but I do always say execution is everything. The execution of this book makes it unique in that it’s one if the few that made me feel what I felt while reading it, so a whole lot of kudos to Judith Sonnet. She even included a bonus short story at the end for us sickos. It’s not as intense or as serious as the main book but it’s plenty disgusting and was still a shock to read.

The Whistler by Matt Converse

I read one of Matt Converse’s previous works, The Four Corners of Horror, and enjoyed it. It was creepy, campy, fun, and suspenseful. I loved it! When I heard that he had a fresh one coming out called The Whistler, I could not wait to get my paws on it. And you know what, I enjoyed it too! I didn’t find it as scary as the last one I read. I wasn’t really scared at all. However, the sense that I got from this was a cozy horror murder mystery that had a lot of camp. It was also clearly inspired by Hitchcock but the campy nature gave me ’70s giallo vibes too.

The Whistler is about this writer who may or may not have a super fan hot on this trail. This isn’t just any old super fan, this one is willing to kill to make their mark.

So yeah, I dug this one. I liked the self-awareness of having a writer protagonist. The titles mentioned were even the titles of some of Matt Converse’s other novels, which I have to get into sometime! This one, I wasn’t like really scared but it was definitely entertaining for sure. As I said, it is a cozy read. We know how it’s going to turn out when someone gets stalked by the killer. These elements reminded me of Giallo too, and I pictured it as a Giallo film while reading it. The dialogue also made that for me. I’m not saying this is bad at all. It is amazing! But the dialogue for sure, especially in the last half when all is revealed is campy vibes.

While all the murder stuff didn’t really disturb me, the killer’s backstory got a bit unnerving there but it didn’t lose the campy touch.

The only issue I had with the book really is the pacing. I’d read about a murder or an intense scene happening and then we’d flashback to several hours earlier or something. I think it ruins the momentum a bit. Like, maybe we get the build-up, the chase before the reveal. But this wasn’t really, like, a huge detriment for the book. I still had a good time with it.


*Affiliate Link

No One Rides for Free by Judith Sonnet is available to purchase here.*

The Whistler by Matt Converse is available to purchase here.*

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