Junkyard (US: Zebra Books, 1989)
Tagline: "It fed on terror...and blood!"
For a 1980's Zebra, this one doesn't have such a bad
cover. The scary beasts look a little bit too much like
wolves, but we can forgive that. The artist was trying to
pimp things up a bit and he or she did a pretty good job of
it. Like Killer Flies, this one doesn't seem to have a UK
version so this is as good as we're going to get. Barry
Porter. Apparently, he wrote another horror novel
for Zebra called Dark Souls. The only info on this guy I could find is that he is a
producer or screenwriter these days. No matter. All we're really concerned with
here is a novel called Junkyard which, judging by the cover, must be about some
good voracious beasts .That's all we humbly ask for. But do we get it? Let's visit
the Junkyard and find out.
The book opens with promise as a bum wanders drunkenly into the local
junkyard for a cozy place to spend the night. His mind fogged with hooch, he
stumbles about through the labyrinth of heaped tires, scrap metal, and you name
it. He sights a derelict car and then hears the sound of stealthy motion about him.
He sees slinking shadows just moments before he is seized by a monstrous rat
and dragged into the shadows.
Our horror has been introduced.
Now onto our story. The car the bum was trying to bunk down for the night in
is actually part of a hideout built by teenagers, Ray, Larry, and Nick. Ray is the
nice quiet one. Larry is the pervert. Nick is the studmuffin that drives the girls
wild. The old car has an immense pyramid of tires pushed up against it, some
sheet metal walls, odds and ends, and scrap wood flooring. The space within is
the hideout. Larry and his fellow pervo friend Mark like to hang out there, drink
beer, and watch porno VHS tapes (remember: this is the '80s). All and fine, but
now onto our love triangle. Ray is in love with Pauline who has a thing for Nick.
Nick, the born romantic, wants to use the hideout on Friday night so he can jump
her bones. Ray is more than a little miffed. Larry and Mark don't care for the
idea--that's their special time for brewskies and porn. They finally give in, though,
and only because Larry, cunning deviant that he is, comes up with a master plan:
he and Mark will get on top of the hideout and watch Nick and Pauline get naked
through a peep hole. They'll have their own live sex show. Ray, of course, being
the nice guy he is wants no part of it.
That's the basic set-up of Junkyard, the scenario that gives the rats free reign
to feast. But wait...there's more. Deputy Kevin Gavel, who has tried more than
once to give Larry a ride home, has an unpleasant little secret: he likes to pick up
runaways (boys mostly) and take them back to his house for sex and murder. He
has a soundproof room in the basement where he tortures and rapes them, then
kills them. Nice touch. He also knows about the mutant rats that inhabit the
junkyard because after he chops up his lovers, he dumps their remains amongst
the junk and the rats greedily devour his offerings. But things are getting a little
complicated for old Kevin. His boss, Sheriff Peltzer, is more than aware of the rash
of missing runways. And he's suspicious of his deputy. In fact, he nearly catches
him in the act of fileting his latest victim.
We backtrack. Ed, the junkyard owner remembers that awful night six months
ago when his faithful "children"--three vicious Dobermans named Death (oooo),
Terror (eyah), and Beau (huh?)--were ripped apart by the monster rats while trying
to protect him:
"Ed heard the dog's spine snap with teeth-jarring clarity. There wasn't even
enough time for a painful cry to escape Terror's mouth. "
"A heartbeat later its teeth were in Death's throat, tearing chunks away until
there was nothing but thin red strings covering the bone."
Pretty bland writing. Anyway, it has been six long months since that night, six
long months of despair, self-pity, and booze. But now Ed has a plan. It's time for
Meanwhile, Larry has had a run-in with the monster rats. He's terrified. He
wants to tell the police but his white trash mother tells him they'll lock him up.
Terrified or not, he still plans on going to the junkyard on Friday night with Mark
for the Nick/Pauline free bang-a-thon. We also learn from Ed that the mutant rats
were caused because of a secret program the Department of Agriculture was
toying with. They were illegally dousing crops with an experimental steroid that
was supposed to yield super vegetables. Apparently, the drug seeped into the soil
and contaminated the rats. The program was cancelled and covered up. Anyway,
Ed is going after the rats because they killed his dogs. Luckily, one of his pals
from Vietnam is now an illegal arms dealer. Ed gets a flamethrower from him and
finds the entrance to the rats lair. It's payback time. Mark and Larry also enter the
lair. But after encountering the rats, they flee in terror...just in time to catch Nick
and Pauline in the hideout preparing to get naked. Ray, needing to prove his
bravado and manliness to Pauline, also goes into the lair He encounters the rats
right away. But not only are Ray and Ed down there now, but Deputy Gavel who
has come to dispose of some human remains (it's getting awfully busy down
there). He is followed by the sheriff and discovered with his bag of goodies. They
fight and Gavel escapes. The mother rat appears, very pissed that her children
are being killed by the intruders, and makes a snack of Ed:
"Ray heard the man's ribs snap apart...the beast grabbed hold of something
between those crooked teeth, and pulled back with effort. The organ came away,
and the mother rat faced Ray again with Ed Kelton's heart swinging from her
As the showdown between monster rat and intruders commence, Nick and
Pauline's screwfest is interrupted, Mark and Larry's peepshow is interrupted, and
all hell breaks loose. Will Deputy Freako get his just desserts? Will Ray survive?
The sheriff? Will Nick get his rocks off? Will Larry and Mark get their jollies? Well,
you better read Junkyard to find out. There's no reason why I should be the only
one who suffered through this.
Pros: Not much. The rats are pretty pedestrian even by giant rat standards.
The psycho deputy is a nice touch.
Cons: What can I say? They abound. Cardboard characters, highly
predictable storyline, ho-hum delivery. Nothing remotely stands out here. A lot of
these books were written for a quick buck, but this one really feels like it was
written for a quick buck.
Overall: The idea of mutant rats infesting a junkyard is a fine idea for a pulp
horror novel...but this one never gets off the ground. The characters--save the
deputy--are uninteresting, the story is dreadfully flat, and the rats are remarkably
lame. The author didn't give a shit about his subject and neither do we. This is
definitely no contender to James Herbert's rats' trilogy.
One bloody skull out of five (and I'm being generous).
For our next Guilty Pleasure, we take a good whiff of:
"The haunting smell of fear..."