Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review: Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub

✰✰✰✰½ Fans of supernatural horror will enjoy this excellent coming-of-age story. A Columbia University graduate student (we never learn his name) arrives in New York City with visions of getting his M.A. in English and enjoying the city's jazz scene. Upon learning that jazz legend Pork Pie Hat is still alive and performing at a nearby club, the narrator slips into the bar for a life changing experience. Hat's music is mesmerizing and the student becomes intent on finding out all he can about the old musician. However, when Hat agrees to a rare interview on Halloween night, the narrator gets more than he bargained for.

Hat shares his horrific tale as he downs a bottle of gin. While the story seems too fantastic to believe, the narrator can't help but to wonder about it for years to come. Indeed, Hat's coming-of-age story about the horrors he and a close friend witnessed as kids on

another Halloween night out in a forbidden area known as The Backs will leave you wondering too. Were the horrors created in Hat's mind or something he experienced at the hands of others?

The Bottom Line:
Peter Straub's Pork Pie Hat took me back to my own grad school days. The story is realistically written; I felt like I was sitting in the bar listening to Hat play as I read this book. It's an excellent weekend read if you are in the mood for a classic, supernatural, horror tale. Jill Bauman's black & white illustrations enhance this eerie tale. Read it around Halloween for best effect. Highly recommended for fans of horror.

Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub. Hardcover published by Cemetery Dance Publications in 2010. 175 p. ISBN: 978-1-58767-232-3 Note: This spooky tale first appeared in the anthology October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween.


Anonymous said...

I love, love, LOVE this story. I first read this in the "October Dreams" story collection, and it was my introduction to Peter Straub outside of his King collaborations. The Horror-Hipster vibe which permeates the entire tale spoke to both sides of my psyche--I'm a fanatic of both the Beat Generation and the horror genre--and hunting out the connections between these two seemingly disparate sides of the spectrum has since become a favorite pastime of mine.

I'm intrigued at the concept of an illustrated edition. I may have to check this out.

Thanks for the review!

N.A.H. said...

Thanks for your insight Jonny! Your description of the "Horror-Hipster vibe" is spot-on.

I plan to look for a copy of "October Dreams." I hope the other stories are as excellent as this one. I see the book is around 650 pages. Wow!

Thank you for stopping by!