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Book Review: The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp


When good horror and fantastic comedy collides, something really awesome happens.

One minute you have them screaming at a warewolf gouging some poor soul's eyes out of their sockets. Gruesome claws going to work at what's left of some jock douchebags skin with blood going everywhere. Only then for the victim to kick his stereo in the struggle, causing this horrendous murder to be played out by the 80's hit "I'm Not in Love" by 10cc, suddenly, the audience changes. Having just been tipped over the edges of Horrorsville, face to face with that god awful emotion we call fear, they are now blasting the roof off the multiplexes with over 100,000 decibels of nervous belly laughter!

The evil Dead film series' success is certainty testament to this unlikely union. The arrogant male lead, insecure and misogynistic, all the qualities most men over the age of 25 can relate to. Throw in a dumb but loyal best friend and a buxom love interest that's purely superficial and BOOM! Horror comedy achievement unlocked! A writer is even expected to make it crap and cheesy, in fact the more cheese the better!

But can the same union work as well in literature as it does celluloid?

In his new novel, Jason Arnopp introduces us to this guy called Jack Sparks, he's a journalist that has a mild obsession with the Occult and as the title would suggest, we're joining him on his final days. Much like when watching an Evil Dead film you have all of the classic setups in place for this to work out fun.

With this book though, I couldn't help but notice that I'd forget it was a horror. Arnopp is clearly very good at building drama between the moments of extreme conflict and it's certainly evident that Jason himself is also a journalist. This gives the subtext some really good weight and intelligence. As you get lost in the drama, its as if you're being taken with Jason and his mate Jack, into some kind of false sense of security. Then suddenly, out of nowhere.. Wham! You've shat yourself.. Or in my case, have dropped the book in the bath and screamed t**t at the top of your lungs (it's ok I own two copies).

The story does indeed try it's hardest to be dark and twisted. I'd give it 5 stars for effort in that account and yes to some of you it will be "dark", say as dark as a late night BBC drama. It's not Bret Easton Ellis dark, or Thomas Harris dark, but dark enough for a freak like me to get his horror kick once every 30 or so pages. The writing is full of wit and charm could definitely do with more intelligence and the story's structure does tend to get unravelled in places. Perhaps the main element for me is that the language wasn't a load of middle class waffle, nor were their a load of rubbish and irrelevant characters or the annoying ones that Stephen King enjoys plucking from his f**ked up freaky mind. The book is great fun and well worth adding to any horror geeks collection or someone who fancies a fright during these supposed summer months.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is published by Orbit and is available at all good book shops.

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