Have you read this book about decaying bodies and goth chicks?
September 17, 2018 5:19 PM   Subscribe

I read this book a number of years ago (maybe 15?) and I would like to find another copy so I can make my husband read it. It was weird, possibly 90s, possibly goth, definitely included lots of vivid descriptions of decaying corpses. Fun!

I am finally biting the bullet and asking you guys to help me figure out the title of this book, once and for all, so that I can make my husband very uncomfortable by making him read it. I have been trying to remember the title/author/anything for like 10 years and the internet has not helped me even a little bit.

The only things I remember:
As best I can recall, it was about this broke English dude who rents a room in a house from a skinhead landlord. Possibly in London, possibly in Manchester, very slight chance that I am confused and it is set in New York. After he moves in, weird stuff starts happening (of course). He stops being able to eat; every time he puts food into his mouth, it starts, like, squirming and he has to spit it out. He loses a lot of weight. He rides the subway a lot? He finds a weird book which has these seriously graphic descriptions of what happens to human bodies as they decay. These descriptions are long, very detailed, and gave me the uncomfortable feeling that the author of the book had spent some serious time watching the process. Like in his basement.

Anyway, I think there was some goth chick the main character hung out with. There might have been a different spooky gothy girl haunting him. The ultimate story-behind-the-story is that the skinhead landlord is gaslighting the dude to make him think spooky stuff is happening ... in some weird ritual to make him pure for slaughter? He saw that the tenant was getting skinny like his sister, so he was waiting for ... the murder ritual? and then maybe the skinhead shaves the tenant's head?

And the skinhead landlord's dead sister (who he maybe murdered? and who thought she was pregnant because she lost so much weight that she stopped menstruating) was trying to warn him from beyond the grave. The tenant being unable to eat was actually, like, her trying to get him into the same mindset she was in. I think in the end he kills the skinhead landlord, but maybe he only gets him arrested.

I read it in maybe 2002-3, though it could have been a bit earlier. Probably not before 1998. It could have been written in the late 80s/early 90s/very early 2000s. I know that I got it from the Brown Elephant thrift store in Chicago. It definitely had that 1998 goth vibe, a la Poppy Z Brite, but not PZB.

The parts about the human decay and squirmy food are what really, really stuck with me all this time so my memories of this book are most strongly filled with those bits and how uncomfortable they made me.

It's probably irrelevant, but the book smelled strongly of church incense.

Thanks in advance!
posted by esmerelda_jenkins to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This really really sounds like something by Martin Millar, because that guy is obsessed with people starving themselves and punk druggy shit, but I don't know if I'm right.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:58 PM on September 17, 2018

Thanks for the lead, Squeak Attack, but it is definitely not Martin Millar,
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 6:05 PM on September 17, 2018

Damn. I'm pretty sure I read that too. Given the date range and the general flavor, it sounds like something that might have been part of the Dell Abyss line (which I was pretty crazy about, back then). Do you remember if it was a hardcover, a trade paperback, or a mass market paperback? That could really help narrow it down.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:26 PM on September 17, 2018

might have been part of the Dell Abyss line

Does anything on this list of Abyss books ring a bell?
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:47 PM on September 17, 2018

GOT IT. I think.

Virgins & Martyrs by Simon Maginn.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:54 PM on September 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

YES. palmcorder_yajna is an Internet Champion, HERO, magician. How did you do that?! Thank you, thank you.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 7:14 PM on September 17, 2018

You're very welcome! The magic search terms were "anorexic ghost" and "horror novel." Once I saw the cover, I remembered the whole deal-- this book was part of an abortive attempt by White Wolf to take over the prestige/avant-garde space in horror publishing that the Dell Abyss line had just vacated.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 7:27 PM on September 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Sounds very much like

"King Solomon's Carpet" by Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell.
posted by james33 at 9:07 AM on September 19, 2018

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