Off Season by Jack Ketchum: Narrated by Richard Davidson

I was a teenager when I first read Jack Ketchum’s Off Season in an already used paperback edition I’d found in a second-hand store or at a flea market. At the time, the book seemed truly graphic and bleak in a way most horror novels didn’t approach. Of course, most of my reading up to that point had been Stephen King, Peter Straub, Robert R. McCammon, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Anne Rice, and other more commercially accessible authors. Of those authors, Barker and McCammon were the two who most closely approached what I was reading from Ketchum.
If I enjoyed the bleak and hopeless tone of that edition of the book, I was sure to be in for a treat with the less censored edition released this century.
A good deal of the change to this story only arises in the final stretch of the story, but those relatively minor changes in terms of text produce massive changes in the outcome of the narrative. Listening to this audiobook edition of the novel, I understand why Ketchum was dissatisfied with the edits his publisher demanded. This was a story that pulled no punches and held nothing back, laying bare the callous inhumanity of the world we live in and the indifference of the universe itself.
A tragic hero becomes altogether more tragic in this edition of Off Season, and the story benefits from that transformation.
Those who read the original edition of this book may have wondered just how much worse a vacation to Northern Maine could have gone in the fall of 1981. Ketchum answers that question in this restored iteration of the tale. As the vacationers in the cabin are beset by the wild, raving tribe of barely human cannibals, you might notice some scenes that carry a bit more potency and illustrative violence…but the core of the story remains the same until you reach the end.
Richard Davidson’s narration is great, though there are times when it seems as if the Maine accents are a bit more of a caricature. It makes for an enjoyable listen just the same.


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