Cellars by John Shirley
Like many people I believed that the psychosexual extreme horror that Clive Barker introduced the mainstream with the books of blood came out of nowhere. The discovering of the works of John Shirley (shamefully I have to admit my first Shirley book was his nano-tech monster novel Crawlers) taught me that there was at least one novel that beaten Barker to the punch.
Released in 1981 John Shirley’s novel Cellars is his most traditional extreme horror novel. Reading the new revised edition that was released in 2006 from Infrapress has shown me what an influence this work had. Perhaps not directly on Barker but the splatterpunks like Laymon, Skipp, Spector and of course Edward Lee who wrote the introduction for this new edition.
Set in New York the city is character - a trick Shirley is known for having done more literarily in his Cyberpunk classic City Come-a-Walkin. Something is under the city trading the lives of persons found slashed and marked with occult symbols for power. Long before American Psycho Shirley explores the limits that the yuppies and power elite of New York will go to expand their power and influence.
Along the way you get satanic cults, romance, gore, suspense and one of the most bizarre horror novels of the early 80’s. A must read for fans of extreme horror that still has it’s bite after 27 years!