Thursday, January 14, 2016

Toplin, 1985

Now available from Valancourt Books


BUT COME BACK SOON, the sign said. Obviously it was a lie. The people in the grocery store just wanted to make sure he couldn’t buy the spice he needed to make the recipe he’d selected for that night (recipes must be followed exactly). Obviously they wanted him to eat out ... to meet the waitress, Marta, ... to see her horrible, unspeakable, unbearable ugliness. It was obvious to him: her maimed, twisted face was the living desire to be dead. He had to help Marta be dead.

His teeth are perfectly white. He can’t see colors. He keeps a combination lock on his door and has twelve shelves of cookbooks. His walls bleed blood. His suits each have a number, S-1 through S-6. And life goes on.

Life goes on, if you can stand it. Life goes on, for the brave and the damned.

 Valancourt, 2016

Ed. Gréco, 1989

 Dell / Abyss, 1991


“An ambitious novel of psychological horror.”— Publishers Weekly

“Compelling—a tour-de-force of storytelling and style . . . recalls the anonymous dereliction of David Lynch’s Eraserhead ... McDowell tells Toplin’s story with considerable artistry, marvelous pacing, and a welcome dose of macabre humor. His prose is clear, precise, and tightly controlled ... and his imagery ... startling and vivid ... McDowell has populated his underworld with as bizarre a cast of grotesques as you are likely to find outside a Fellini film ... In its power to transport the reader into a wholly insane mind, Toplin ranks with Stephen Gilbert’s Ratman’s Notebooks and Ramsey Campbell’s The Face That Must Die— distinguished company indeed.” — Fantasy Review

“One of the best writers of horror in this country.” — Peter Straub

“A cause for great rejoicing ... a first-person account of one man’s psychological nightmare ... succeed[s] so well in its atmosphere of profound alienation.” — Fangoria

Visit the Valancourt website for more details and links to order.


  1. What a terrific decision to bring out a fresh edition of TOPLIN. My Dell/Abyss copy split in two—-and the Harry O. Morris art now spills out whenever I go back to read it. Man, I wish McDowell had spoken more about the origins of this book. At least he WROTE it.

    1. I believe he had another book in the works with Harry O. Morris titled Revolt of the Bondage Models. I'm still trying to find out more about it.

  2. That would be quite a find—-to say the least. McDowell and Morris go together like bacon and eggs, coffee and chicory . . . well, you know what I mean. I vow this year to track down all the works I don't have which, at this point, are the action novels. Also, I have yet to read Candles Burning, but Bev Vincent's piece on Onyx Reviews convinces me to pick it up. As ever, Ryan: thank you for the hard work of creating and maintaining this 'site.