The Maddening by Carver Pike

The story begins with tightropes and titties, as Perry and his best friend, Devin, enjoy a vacation in a small Mexican town alongside college students from all over America–and the rest of the world. Their enjoyment doesn’t last long, as Diablo Snuff has plans for the revelers, at least the ones they find attractive enough to press-gang into the same sort of service Kong and Nick “Lucky” Luciano were providing in Passion & Pain. If you haven’t read Passion & Pain, hopefully, you’ve read A Foreign Evil, The Grind House, and Slaughter Box. You should still have some idea what I’m talking about if you’ve at least read those three. Personally, I recommend going back and reading both Passion & Pain and Grad Night as well, because they all come together in the pages of The Maddening.
It’s wrong to say this story begins with tightropes and titties. It all begins in the pages of A Foreign Evil when Michael drunkenly follows a beautiful woman to a push-button hotel for a night of carnal pleasures that swiftly devolves into a nightmare of unearthly evil and sinister conspiracies. You’ve come all this way, though, so you know all about that. The journey here left its mark on you, I imagine.
The Maddening is Carver Pike’s conclusion to the Diablo Snuff series, and this man knows how to end things with a bang. The best way I can think of to describe the events taking place in this novel is to suggest that it’s John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness meets The Purge while managing to be both more horrific and graphic than either of those movies. If that doesn’t sell you on diving into this book, I honestly don’t know why you’d be reading my reviews in the first place. You might not be my target audience, in which case you’re almost definitely not the target audience for Pike’s Diablo Snuff books.
The movies were bad enough, allowing incarnations of evil creatures on the screen to infiltrate our world, stalking and murdering the viewers unfortunate enough to witness even small portions of each film. The release of the novels written by the authors who disappeared from The Grand Georgina signals the next stage of the Diablo Snuff master plan as the madness spreads throughout society, irrespective of nation or culture. This plague of lawlessness and insanity is amplified with the release of The Maddening, the book Tobias desperately hoped he could keep from distribution.
None of these things are fast or dramatic enough in dismantling society and sewing chaos, and that’s where the app comes into play. Across the world, psychopaths and damaged people compete with one another to commit the most creative and devastating horrors, racking up more money with each rape and murder.
Against this horrific backdrop, the members of Psalm 71 must make their way to the heart of the evil that is Diablo Snuff, saving as many innocent lives as they can along the way. Knowing this is the final volume in the Diablo Snuff series, it should come as no surprise that the tale culminates in a battle between the forces of good and evil that crosses the border separating our world from unearthly planes of existence. This is a spiritual clash that would make Frank Peretti envious. If you’re unfamiliar with Frank Peretti’s Christian horror novels, you might be missing out because some of them are surprisingly good; but they’re nowhere near as good as what Pike has laid out for us in the pages of The Maddening.
This book is punctuated with set pieces of such depravity and cruel imagination that the reader can’t help but wonder at the apparent limitless creativity brought to the table by Carver Pike where horror is concerned. At its core, this is a story of hope, though. The Maddening–as with the Diablo Snuff series as a whole–is about facing a terrifying evil and refusing to flinch. It’s about standing ground and fighting, even when the easiest solution would be to turn away or to give in. Knowing that you may not survive, that those you love and who stand by your side may fall as well, but persisting in doing what you know must be done; that is the core of it all. In that respect, as in all others, Carver Pike has succeeded in crafting a masterpiece with this book.

Slaughter Box by Carver Pike

Readers of Carver Pike’s Diablo Snuff books will have first met Kong in Passion & Pain, after his first encounter with the sinister organization. His torture at their hands drove him to seek any information he could find, only to discover they were like ghosts. Our next meeting with Kong is near the end of The Grindhouse, where he appears as a member of Psalm 71. A lot had clearly taken place between those points in time, and Slaughter Box provides us with a glimpse of that missing period of Kong’s life.
Still traumatized and emotionally damaged from his first experience with Diablo Snuff, Kong returns to his hometown where he finds a flier for the grand reopening of a local movie theater. Violating the trust of his childhood best friend, Kong invites that friend’s younger sister, Sammy, on a date. With the flier fresh in his mind, their venue is obvious.
Unfortunately, as the reader suspects, this is a trap.
William Castle, had he been a homicidal monster or a psychopath, would have fallen in love with the painstakingly engineered and hideously cruel alterations to the theater. Bringing the film to life in the most awful ways, Diablo Snuff intends to punish Kong for his persistent search.
I won’t spoil anything, but we know Kong makes it through the events of this book, but will anyone else survive the malicious and inhumane machinations of Diablo Snuff? You’ll have to read it for yourself if you want to find out.
Carver Pike does an excellent job of balancing high stakes, tense horror with more human elements of the story. We learn a great deal about Kong, his life before we first discovered him in that hellish warehouse, and the miserable life he’d been leading subsequent to his escape from the organization’s clutches. We get to know Sammy, and the deep affection between she and Kong is so well-crafted on the page as to feel as palpable and sincere as a relationship between two real people.
As one might expect, Pike manages to fill the pages with a fair amount of sex and smut, in addition to the violence. If you’ve read The Grindhouse–as you certainly should have–you’ll be well aware of what Diablo Snuff is capable of when they’ve got a movie projector available.
This is the penultimate Diablo Snuff book, leading the way into the (sure to be) intense conclusion, The Maddening. It’s been a long ride, getting here…but one cannot claim it hasn’t been enjoyable.

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The Grind House by Carver Pike

The Grind House continues the descent into madness that is Pike’s Diablo Snuff series of books. If you’ve read A Foreign Evil and Passion & Pain, you’ll have some idea what to expect while still finding yourself surprised around every twist and turn captured by the author’s impressive imagination.
While the previous two installments focused heavily on monstrous cruelty and torture inflicted by agents of the malevolent organization known as Diablo Snuff, this book leans heavily on things that can’t be perceived as anything other than the supernatural. The visions of demonic entities–post-climax–in A Foreign Evil could easily be dismissed as little more than the feverish hallucinations of a man who went through hell. It’s far more challenging to similarly write off shared visions of inhuman horrors and other aspects of the tale unfolding within The Grind House. Of course, we all knew these things were real–in the context of the story–but it hits home much harder in this book than the previous immersions into the world of Diablo Snuff.
Fans of the previous two stories in the Diablo Snuff series will be happy to encounter some familiar characters at different points in this novel. I know I certainly was.
In this book, as in the previous two, Pike’s history as a writer of dark romance and erotica comes to the forefront in a big way, weaving together heavily eroticized encounters with sheer, unrelenting lunacy. It takes a certain undefined skill to seamlessly blend graphic, sensual intimacy with a bewildering, undercurrent of horror, but it’s a skill Pike has in spades.
It’s The Shining on MDMA. If Shirley Jackson had channeled Marquis de Sade when writing The Haunting, we might be coming close to what you’ll find within these pages. This isn’t necessarily to suggest The Grind House is a haunted house tale, but in a sense, it most certainly is. If a place can absorb the evil of those within its walls–or beneath its foundations, The Grand Georgina most certainly has.
Tobias (T.K. Tantrum) is in for far more than he or his assistant anticipated when he was signed up to attend the writers retreat at The Grand Georgina. He hoped to write the masterpiece that had eluded him so far in his modestly successful career, but he finds himself drawn into real-life peril that rivals anything he could have written. As the abominations of both past and present are revealed, the insidious trap Tobias finds himself within may be something from which even madness provides no escape. As prurience gives way to panic, it may already be too late for any to escape the clutches of Diablo Snuff.