Quirk Books, Inc., 2018, 337 pages
In this hard-rocking, spine-tingling supernatural thriller, the washed-up guitarist of a '90s heavy metal band embarks on an epic road trip across America and deep into the web of a sinister conspiracy.
Grady Hendrix, horror writer and author of Paperbacks from Hell and My Best Friend's Exorcism, is back with his most electrifying novel yet. In the 1990s, heavy metal band Durt Wurk was poised for breakout success - but then lead singer Terry Hunt embarked on a solo career and rocketed to stardom as Koffin, leaving his fellow bandmates to rot in obscurity.
Two decades later, former guitarist Kris Pulaski works as the night manager of a Best Western - she's tired, broke, and unhappy. Everything changes when a shocking act of violence turns her life upside down, and she begins to suspect that Terry sabotaged more than just the band.
Kris hits the road, hoping to reunite with the rest of her bandmates and confront the man who ruined her life. It's a journey that will take her from the Pennsylvania rust belt to a celebrity rehab center to a music festival from hell. A furious power ballad about never giving up, even in the face of overwhelming odds, We Sold Our Souls is an epic journey into the heart of a conspiracy-crazed, pill-popping, paranoid country that seems to have lost its very soul...where only a lone girl with a guitar can save us all.
Grady Hendrix's gorgeous coffee table book Paperbacks from Hell is a loving anthology of the best and the worst of the glory days of paperback horror fiction. He's also written several horror novels himself.
We Sold Our Souls is a loving tribute to horror and rock and roll. The premise is straightforward: per the title, a group of misfit metal lovers in the 90s put together a band called Durt Wurk, and were offered a shot at the big time. But their lead singer sold them out — literally. He went on to become a heavy metal superstar, while his former bandmates sank into obscurity.
Now, ex-bassist Kris Pulaski scrapes by managing a Best Western. She's a washed up has-been who never was, and her life sucks. Then she's unexpectedly contacted by one of her former bandmates, and when she goes to see him, a squad of murderous UPS deliverymen show up and kill everyone but her. On the run, Kris tries to track down the remaining survivors of Durt Wurk, and piece together what happened the night they all signed the Contract.
So yes, it's a story about musicians who literally sold their souls. But it's also a love letter to heavy metal. Kris's journey is a power metal ballad, and the musical references are thick and heavy. It's a tale of crushed dreams, the price of stardom, and selling out, and a girl with a guitar. There is also some real horror — creepy and sometimes violent. Several scenes will make the squeamish or the claustrophobic squirm. But like the best horror novels, most of the horror comes from people, not monsters. The supernatural element is always offscreen, making its presence known just enough to drive things. There is some gritty Stephen King in this story, and a little bit of Lovecraft.
Kris follows the Troglodyte in her quest to save the world from Black Iron Mountain. Like a good concept album, the story builds up its lore. And of course the climax features Kris getting on stage and shredding the bass.
Epic, dark, and fun, I really enjoyed this, and you will like it if you like either horror or heavy metal, or better yet both.
Also by Grady Hendrix: My review of Paperbacks from Hell.
My complete list of book reviews.