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The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror

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From its profoundly unsettling first pages, The Happy Man, Eric C. Higg's' riveting vision of the nightmare underside of the American dream, brilliantly echoes the grand Gothic horror tradition of Edgar Allan Poe and Roald Dahl. From its profoundly unsettling first pages, The Happy Man, Eric C. Higg's' riveting vision of the nightmare underside of the American dream, brilliantly echoes the grand Gothic horror tradition of Edgar Allan Poe and Roald Dahl.


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From its profoundly unsettling first pages, The Happy Man, Eric C. Higg's' riveting vision of the nightmare underside of the American dream, brilliantly echoes the grand Gothic horror tradition of Edgar Allan Poe and Roald Dahl. From its profoundly unsettling first pages, The Happy Man, Eric C. Higg's' riveting vision of the nightmare underside of the American dream, brilliantly echoes the grand Gothic horror tradition of Edgar Allan Poe and Roald Dahl.

30 review for The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror

  1. 5 out of 5

    Char

    THE HAPPY MAN: A TALE OF HORROR is one bizarre piece of work from the 80's, brought back by Valancourt Books. I finished this book on Saturday and I still am not sure what to make of it! A couple moves in to a new housing development in a suburb of San Diego. Charles Ripley and his wife are mostly on an even keel, despite a tragedy that occurred shortly after the move. Then, the Marsh's move in next door and even though they don't know it, the lives of the Ripley's are soon about to change. First THE HAPPY MAN: A TALE OF HORROR is one bizarre piece of work from the 80's, brought back by Valancourt Books. I finished this book on Saturday and I still am not sure what to make of it! A couple moves in to a new housing development in a suburb of San Diego. Charles Ripley and his wife are mostly on an even keel, despite a tragedy that occurred shortly after the move. Then, the Marsh's move in next door and even though they don't know it, the lives of the Ripley's are soon about to change. First-the good. It is very difficult to put this book down. The chapters are short, (heck, the BOOK is short), and fast paced. Once things start happening, they don't stop happening until the very end. Second-the baffling. I'm not sure what the point of THE HAPPY MAN is supposed to be? I'm pretty sure there's some commentary going on here about housing developments, suburbia, immigration, sex, monogamy, corporate America, family dynamics, the decline of morals in society and so on, but was that the point? I don't know! Perhaps it's this simple: A man thought he was happy and then was shown that he wasn't? Or that it didn't take all that much to turn a happy, regular guy into something else altogether? Maybe everything is just as much a facade as was Charles Ripley's demeanor? Charles wasn't that good of a guy in the first place and it only took a small nudge to send him down the road of....well, you'll have to read this to find out. I'm going with a 4/5 star rating because I'm still thinking about this short novel days later and also because it was VERY difficult to put down once started. I'm also going with RECOMMENDED, if only so that you and I could talk about it and I could see what you think, when you're done! You can get a copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Happy-Man-Tale... *I received an e-book free from Valancourt Books in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

  2. 4 out of 5

    Angus McKeogh

    I’ll give this one the full complement of stars because it just kind of blew me away. What a hidden gem. It was mentioned in Hendrix’s Paperbacks from Hell. Come to find out it was nearly impossible to locate. It’s been out of print for quite a while and any extant copies listed on the usual websites were insanely expensive. Finally stumbled upon a former library copy which was being discarded on a more unconventional website and snatched it up. It was actually in pretty amazing condition for a I’ll give this one the full complement of stars because it just kind of blew me away. What a hidden gem. It was mentioned in Hendrix’s Paperbacks from Hell. Come to find out it was nearly impossible to locate. It’s been out of print for quite a while and any extant copies listed on the usual websites were insanely expensive. Finally stumbled upon a former library copy which was being discarded on a more unconventional website and snatched it up. It was actually in pretty amazing condition for a book printed 30+ years ago. I’d never heard of the author and he fell into that 1980s class that included their middle initial or name which seems sort of pretentious and stupid. The novel is short at 166 pages and the cover art is kind of hokey with a corny subtitle at the bottom, “A Tale of Horror”. But the story tore out of the gates and just didn’t stop. It was extremely well written (although the editing in 1985 was evidently garbage because there were numerous typos), but Higgs’s style was highly readable. Was engaged throughout and somehow he maintained this ominous tone of foreboding the entire length of the novel. Loved it. Great read and I’d recommend it to the next reader. Although, again, good luck finding a copy. It’s amazing to me that such an entertaining novel is no longer in print and I’ve read a trove of boring dreck that’s still chugging along and found on every bookstore shelf. Suppose that’s the industry.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Grady Hendrix

    Suburban Fight Club with less self-loathing, think of it as Less Than Zero with added machine guns.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jaksen

    Yep, it's horrible, as in horror-ble. The story of what happens when a new couple move in next door - to disastrous results. It's a short read, can be done in an hour or two. I skimmed some sections as I had a 'I knew what was coming feeling,' and then I was right! Set in the mid-1980's, it doesn't read 'dated.' (And I hate that word because all books written in the 'now' quickly become dated. I saw a review for a book published and set in 2014 that said, 'too bad it's so dated.') However, themes Yep, it's horrible, as in horror-ble. The story of what happens when a new couple move in next door - to disastrous results. It's a short read, can be done in an hour or two. I skimmed some sections as I had a 'I knew what was coming feeling,' and then I was right! Set in the mid-1980's, it doesn't read 'dated.' (And I hate that word because all books written in the 'now' quickly become dated. I saw a review for a book published and set in 2014 that said, 'too bad it's so dated.') However, themes of Mexican 'illegals' sneaking across the border, and worries about downsizing and job security, mention of popular (in the US) brands, etc., all made the book feel quite modern. At any rate, it's horrifying what happens to Charles and Shelby Ripley when the seemingly all-too-perfect and extremely happy Marshes move into their little neighborhood. Some surprises here, too, but an all too-familiar take on the trope, 'neighbors from hell.'

  5. 5 out of 5

    Layton

    Very, VERY mixed opinion on this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rob Twinem

    What a great pleasure to read this re published story some 30 years after the initial print run . In some ways I had become weary with the horror genre and was hoping that something fresh could grab my attention and rekindle my enthusiasm. The Happy Man is a classic edgy horror story that follows the fortunes of one suburban San Diego resident Charles Ripley. His everyday life is about to change when newcomer Ruskin Marsh and alluring wife Sybil move into the recently sold property next door. Ch What a great pleasure to read this re published story some 30 years after the initial print run . In some ways I had become weary with the horror genre and was hoping that something fresh could grab my attention and rekindle my enthusiasm. The Happy Man is a classic edgy horror story that follows the fortunes of one suburban San Diego resident Charles Ripley. His everyday life is about to change when newcomer Ruskin Marsh and alluring wife Sybil move into the recently sold property next door. Charles is drawn unexpectedly to the charismatic lawyer Marsh a happy gregarious character not only an expert on art but also insatiable in his pursuit of young delectable females. The writings of the Marquis de Sade feature predominately in the world of Marsh and Charles offers himself as an eager scholar keen to understand and indeed partake in violent sexual acts depicted by De Sade. What I particularly loved about this story was the build-up from a seemingly sedate middle class development to a world with no barriers where murder and sexual deviation are accepted as the norm. Was Charles Ripley prepared to sacrifice his home, job and wife in pursuit of excitement to feed his ever increasing need for gratification under the auspices of Ruskin Marsh? This is a great example of how horror can be used to structure the every ordinary day into a place of evil and pleasure with no responsibility nor limit. Many thanks to the good people at Valancourt Books for providing me with a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review. This small independent company specialize in rare neglected and out of print fiction promoting authors and works that might otherwise remain unknown. Recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    What a fantastic, savage and creepy little book this was. Through the measured platonic seduction of Charles Ripley, Higgs throws us headlong into the dark heart of the human spirit, where cruelty and depravity lead to an ultimate happiness, but at the cost of the soul. A tense atmosphere of unease tightens its hold on the reader, with endless blackly comic scenes of yuppie parties, middle class snobbery, discussions of art and philosophy, always with a sneaky, violent edge waiting to be unleash What a fantastic, savage and creepy little book this was. Through the measured platonic seduction of Charles Ripley, Higgs throws us headlong into the dark heart of the human spirit, where cruelty and depravity lead to an ultimate happiness, but at the cost of the soul. A tense atmosphere of unease tightens its hold on the reader, with endless blackly comic scenes of yuppie parties, middle class snobbery, discussions of art and philosophy, always with a sneaky, violent edge waiting to be unleashed. I can't say much about this book without giving everything away, suffice to say that Higgs weaves a story with more skill and nuance in 166 pages than many authors do in 500 or more, with characters that feel terribly, horrifyingly real. If you can find this rare book for a decent price, snatch it up and be prepared to discover the true secret to a happy life.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Warren Fournier

    "The Happy Man" has one of the best opening lines ever, and a great first chapter that sends you spinning and disoriented into the rest of the tale. Then it starts to feel more like a slow suspense thriller with a touch of Bentley Little. However, there really isn't much "thrill" to be found here. Most of the book takes place in a few homes in a San Diego subdivision, with people working in their garages and drinking beer, or snorting cocaine and skinny dipping, or lusting after someone's buxom "The Happy Man" has one of the best opening lines ever, and a great first chapter that sends you spinning and disoriented into the rest of the tale. Then it starts to feel more like a slow suspense thriller with a touch of Bentley Little. However, there really isn't much "thrill" to be found here. Most of the book takes place in a few homes in a San Diego subdivision, with people working in their garages and drinking beer, or snorting cocaine and skinny dipping, or lusting after someone's buxom flirt of a wife at a cocktail party, or hanging out in the backyard jacuzzi smoking reefer. But Eric Higgs does a great job of capturing the feel of middle class struggles for contentment and a sense of belonging, and the madness that may lie beneath the attempts to reach those virtues. Behind every manicured lawn and freshly polished sport coup in the driveway may also be a borderline teenage daughter with daddy issues who gets hooked on drugs and becomes a prostitute, or a husband unable to look at his wife because he is hooked on porn, or an alcoholic wife who has decided to live a sham marriage because she has not the courage to come out of the closet. As such, Higgs also captures the progression of addiction quite well, and in this case, the need for greater thrills leads to a horrific conclusion. This book was unsettling but not as disturbing as many have claimed it to be. That being said, the bleak and nihilistic content can be a bit of a downer, as there are no sympathetic characters with any redeeming qualities. Similarly, I would not recommend this for someone sensitive to triggers regarding addiction or depression. "The Happy Man" is not happy reading. But I felt this was one of the more thoughtful horrors I've encountered in quite a while, and so if that's what you are looking for, give this a try.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael Hicks

    My original THE HAPPY MAN: A TALE OF HORROR audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer. In the opening moments of Eric C. Higgs’s The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror, we learn of a murder – the Marsh family has been shot dead next door. We’re told this by Charles Ripley, whose first-person account gives us insight into the San Diego neighborhood he inhabits. The victims next door are not the only murders this neighborhood has seen recently, and Ripley recounts the events lead My original THE HAPPY MAN: A TALE OF HORROR audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer. In the opening moments of Eric C. Higgs’s The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror, we learn of a murder – the Marsh family has been shot dead next door. We’re told this by Charles Ripley, whose first-person account gives us insight into the San Diego neighborhood he inhabits. The victims next door are not the only murders this neighborhood has seen recently, and Ripley recounts the events leading up to this penultimate act of violence. In fact, strange things have been brewing ever since the Marshes moved in… Outside of his marriage, Ripley doesn’t have a lot of friends and few men he can connect with. He quickly bonds with the newly arrived Ruskin Marsh, and their wives form a fast friendship. As Ripley and Marsh become better acquainted with each other, Charles is introduced to a very rare work of writing from the sexual libertine Marquis de Sade. Entranced by Marsh’s own sexual exploits and lack of inhibitions, Ripley soon finds his own constraints diminishing and begins straying into extramarital affairs and, soon enough, darker exploits encouraged in de Sade’s writings. Narrated by Matt Godfrey, The Happy Man is a slow-burn work of suburban horror that finely balances placidity with hair-raising, horrifying drama. This is a well-crafted work of psychosexual drama, and Godfrey’s reading of the material captures the feel of a neighborhood friend telling you a crazy story. At only a bit over 5 hours long, Godfrey keeps the narrative moving along nicely. Higgs, meanwhile, keeps the work grounded, and the moments of horror are never implausible or outlandish. Higgs earns each of his twists and turns by giving us believable characters and a pot-boiler narrative that slowly builds toward the inevitable. Written in 1985, and recently reissued by Valancourt Books, The Happy Man taps into the anxiety of The Other with its themes of sexual promiscuity, casual drug use, fear of immigrants, and the rise of the Christian Right and their idea of what constitutes family values. While this latter is never overtly mentioned, given the period Higgs was writing in I can’t help but feel like much of this book is a response to the political climate surrounding it. Marsh is very much a hedonistic figure, the kind of guy Nancy Reagan would encourage you to Just Say No! to, and his arrival to this suburban neighborhood threatens to destroy everything his fellow yuppies hold dear, upsetting the balance of their perfectly coiffed all-American lifestyles. With its themes of racism and the sexual objectification of women, The Happy Man is very much a product of the 1980s, yet much of horrors its reacting to, and certainly expounding upon, still feel topical today. Higgs takes all the fears of 80s Evangelicalism and runs with them toward their worst-case finale – the destruction of families at the hands of an outsider. It’s telling, though, that while Mexican immigrants are often blamed for some of the seedier aspects of this white collar, upper-crust San Diego subdivision, the root cause of their problems lie much, much closer to home. Perhaps, in between the moments of eroticism and shocking violence, Higgs was trying to tell us something after all.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    The Ripleys have new neighbours - the Marshes - and with their arrival, the small cosy town of Mesa Vista will never be the same. At first, the two couples become fast friends and the Ripleys are attracted to the charismatic and powerful Ruskin Marsh but soon their relationship grows darker with each passing day. A simple barbecue turns into an orgy. Violence erupts. Gruesome murders are reported nearby. People begin to disappear. Finally Ruskin invites Charles Ripley to join his family in acts The Ripleys have new neighbours - the Marshes - and with their arrival, the small cosy town of Mesa Vista will never be the same. At first, the two couples become fast friends and the Ripleys are attracted to the charismatic and powerful Ruskin Marsh but soon their relationship grows darker with each passing day. A simple barbecue turns into an orgy. Violence erupts. Gruesome murders are reported nearby. People begin to disappear. Finally Ruskin invites Charles Ripley to join his family in acts of murder and mutilation. Starting with a terrific opening line - ‘The Marshes rotted in their house two full days before they were discovered by a delivery man from Sparkletts’ - this short-novel (only 166 pages) doesn’t disappoint or let up at all. It’s told in first person by Charles Ripley, who’s a wonderfully realised character and very easy to side with, especially when the book later takes several odd turns and he struggles to figure out what’s going on and how he fits into things. The characterisation is good across the board - from Shelly Ripley, trying to recover from a miscarriage and Sybil Marsh, a vamp in every sense of the word to the minor characters, neighbours in the development who are given enough heft that you care and empathise with them - and none more so than Ruskin Marsh himself. He’s a superb character, a high-flying lawyer by day and voracious sexual adventurer all the time (his wife, others wives, random women he picks up, ladies he takes off other characters hands), an aesthete, purveyor of high quality drugs and a lover of guns. Ruskin belongs to an exclusive club he calls the ‘Society of Friends’ who appear to take their life philiosophy from De Sade’s Juliette or the Fortunes of Vice and when he hands a copy to Ripley (notably a translated version, which apparently doesn’t exist), Charles’ life begins to turn, with his attitude towards a woman at work who fancies him becomes much darker until she too is in mortal peril. With some terrific set-pieces - the two women from the bar who drive off the road, meeting Angela in a funky restaurant, the skinny-dipping, the illegal alien being tortured to death in the valley that we only hear, rather than see - and a great sense of location - both the Mesa Vista estate and San Diego in general - this is assured and accomplished and a real page turner. Told with good pace from the beginning, once the whole story starts to emerge - it’s alluded to in the blurb, but is much bigger - the book takes several shifts in tone until Ripley is forced into a position where he has nothing to lose and it ends as intense and bleak as it began. A great little novel, told with style and wit and an eye for gruesome detail, this is well worth a read and I’d highly recommend it. I’ve had this on my bookshelf since 1987 or so (the Paperjacks edition published in 1986) where it’s survived house moves, book culls and everything else, but having now read it (some 27 years after buying it), I wish I’d done so ages ago. It’s also nice to read a book from the late 80s, a period of time I remember vividly, where characters are excited about home computers, large screen TVs and Atari systems.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    This is probably more a 3.5-star book, but I can't see it being just 3, so I can't round it down. Four it is. The Happy Man is a story of excess, of hedonism taken to its most extreme. It follows Charles Ripley, our narrator, as he strives to determine what it is that makes his new neighbor, Ruskin Marsh, so happy, so content. The novel is subtitled "A Tale of Horror", so I don't need to explain that what he discovers is not what he expects. The book leads the reader to its inevitable conclusion, This is probably more a 3.5-star book, but I can't see it being just 3, so I can't round it down. Four it is. The Happy Man is a story of excess, of hedonism taken to its most extreme. It follows Charles Ripley, our narrator, as he strives to determine what it is that makes his new neighbor, Ruskin Marsh, so happy, so content. The novel is subtitled "A Tale of Horror", so I don't need to explain that what he discovers is not what he expects. The book leads the reader to its inevitable conclusion, dragging them along unwillingly through its compelling prose. It's the kind of book that you have to keep reading, even if you're afraid of what you might find. This is a dark work, probably best suited for readers of Chuck Palahniuk, Jack Ketchum, or Katherine Dunn, who can stomach a nihilistic outlook on the world. Casual readers should probably avoid it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I requested a free copy of this book in return for an honest review. This is quite an interesting story. The characters are very misogynistic, which is fitting with the nasty little story. I wouldn’t say this was scary but it was certainly a good listen. I’m just not sure I liked the twist at the end... it kind of came out of nowhere.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    3.5 stars....this was a fast-paced, absorbing read that unfortunately lost steam by the end. Our protagonist, Charles, develops a bit of a man crush on Ruskin, his new neighbor. Why? Ruskin seems to be genuinely happy and to have mastered the art of not giving a f***. Charles is ultimately led astray as the bromance with Ruskin takes on more of a student/mentor relationship. What’s the point of the story? Did the story even have a point? I have no clue! Minus the ending, it was a fun and quick r 3.5 stars....this was a fast-paced, absorbing read that unfortunately lost steam by the end. Our protagonist, Charles, develops a bit of a man crush on Ruskin, his new neighbor. Why? Ruskin seems to be genuinely happy and to have mastered the art of not giving a f***. Charles is ultimately led astray as the bromance with Ruskin takes on more of a student/mentor relationship. What’s the point of the story? Did the story even have a point? I have no clue! Minus the ending, it was a fun and quick read, so I’m just going to appreciate it for what it was as I move onto the next book!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Signor Mambrino

    Finished this in a few hours. Couldn't stop once I started. Such a deadly, deadly book. Finished this in a few hours. Couldn't stop once I started. Such a deadly, deadly book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Neil Wright

    A macabre, insidious story of damnation by a thousand cuts; “The Happy Man” is a seductive surprise.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Beware the new neighbor with a smile in his eye and a love of lending out de Sade. (Not to mention the MAC-10 nestled in his desk.)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tenebrous Kate

    Have you ever wished that "American Psycho" was less... you know... Bret Easton Ellis-ey and more like the "Twilight Zone?" I didn't know that was an active wish of mine until reading "The Happy Man," a gleefully macabre little novel that explores the dark underbelly of upper middle class life. Morbidly spectacular from its opening lines to the very last syllable. To reveal too much would risk ruining the book's twists and turns, but suffice to say Valancourt Books has unearthed yet another unde Have you ever wished that "American Psycho" was less... you know... Bret Easton Ellis-ey and more like the "Twilight Zone?" I didn't know that was an active wish of mine until reading "The Happy Man," a gleefully macabre little novel that explores the dark underbelly of upper middle class life. Morbidly spectacular from its opening lines to the very last syllable. To reveal too much would risk ruining the book's twists and turns, but suffice to say Valancourt Books has unearthed yet another under-appreciated 80s horror gem.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Wicked, gruesome, and enthralling. Somewhere between Apt Pupil and American Psycho, this was a delightful journey into suburban depravity.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bill Young

    Great little unsettling read;

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Jones

    80s Horror That Still Resonates Today! This was a macabre journey into the dark heart of suburbia and, on a more macro level, the soul of America itself. All it takes to blow the lid off the manicured veneer of a well-ordered neighborhood is the arrival of a hedonistic lawyer and his family. The horrors escalate to a punishing, fever pitch of grotesque scenes to drive home the idea of moral bankruptcy at the heart of the American Dream. Many scenes in the book went far beyond the boundaries of c 80s Horror That Still Resonates Today! This was a macabre journey into the dark heart of suburbia and, on a more macro level, the soul of America itself. All it takes to blow the lid off the manicured veneer of a well-ordered neighborhood is the arrival of a hedonistic lawyer and his family. The horrors escalate to a punishing, fever pitch of grotesque scenes to drive home the idea of moral bankruptcy at the heart of the American Dream. Many scenes in the book went far beyond the boundaries of comfort or deacency in making this point. This was a dizzying, uncomfortable read that I commend for being a true piece of horror.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    I purchased this book based solely on the high praise given to it (“an undisputed classic of 80’s horror”) by Valancourt’s editors in their 3rd anthology of short horror stories. And then I read Higgs’ story in that volume, “Blood of the Kapu Tiki”. Good God, what a steaming heap of garbage. It’s hard to pull off a decent voodoo horror story AND somehow avoid being utterly derivative and painfully retro even if you’re a talented writer. If you’re a mediocre writer, just don’t even try. Please, w I purchased this book based solely on the high praise given to it (“an undisputed classic of 80’s horror”) by Valancourt’s editors in their 3rd anthology of short horror stories. And then I read Higgs’ story in that volume, “Blood of the Kapu Tiki”. Good God, what a steaming heap of garbage. It’s hard to pull off a decent voodoo horror story AND somehow avoid being utterly derivative and painfully retro even if you’re a talented writer. If you’re a mediocre writer, just don’t even try. Please, write about anything else. Anything. If you’re a bad writer...well, I hope I never stumble across your work. Higgs is not a talented writer. He is not even mediocre. He is simply an awful, idiotic writer with zero sense of style and a pubescent grasp of adult dialogue. Just read the following passage from the story I mentioned. I think it speaks for itself: “Poor Melina, Kevin thought. Her heart was in the right place, but she just didn’t have what it took to be the wife of an important man. He was too stupid to understand this when he was twenty-two, but now that ten years had passed he could see how the right wife was crucial to an ambitious man’s career. Bill Allingsway, the senior partner, had that sort of wife. Beautiful, smart, able to throw parties that attracted famous politicians and famous artists. And as for the other side of the coin, one only had to consider poor old Sam Kovacks. He’d really blown it with his new wife. Young enough to be his granddaughter, dumb as a hammer, and saddled with a set of enormous fake breasts. It had everyone laughing behind Kovacks’ back. And despite all his years at the firm, suddenly the juicy cases weren’t coming Kovacks’ way anymore. But there would be no such problem with Alicia. She had it all –in spades. No telling how far he’d go with a woman of such beauty and intelligence at his side.” This guy makes James Patterson look like George Eliot. But if you see nothing wrong with the above paragraph, ignore me and read away. Maybe you don’t give a damn about little things like stylistic grace, or in place of that, simply a lack of stylistic awkwardness and general “cringiness”. Maybe plot is all that matters in your book. I actually envy you for that if this is the case. I understand why his work went out of print–it’s because he flat out sucked. I understand that genuinely bad writers do slip through the cracks now and then and manage to get their books published. However, I truly don’t understand what prompted Valancourt to bring this supreme hack’s work back to life. It’s mystifying. I thought these guys had standards and above average taste. That’s what sets them apart, since, let’s face it, the horror genre is overflowing with trash. Kinda comes with the territory. But then again, I’m halfway through their third Valancourt anthology and it’s nowhere near as good as the first two. So I guess I shouldn’t be so mystified. Change of editors, perhaps? Or something else? Who knows? Either way, Higgs is awful and this book is TRULY awful and you should not waste any time reading it. Yes, though I said nothing specific about this novel until now, I did actually read enough of it to verify that the “Tiki” story I read was not a fluke. The guy can’t write. End of story.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Charles Dee Mitchell

    Ah…the eighties. Skinny-dipping suburbanites…Thai sticks…The Phil Donahue Show. Charles Ripley, the protagonist of HIgg’s novel, shares a king-sized waterbed with his lovely wife Shelly. They are living the good life in a newly developed upscale neighborhood outside San Diego. Charles has a promising career in the aerospace industry, the exciting new sector of the economy that supports most of their friends. When Ruskin and Sybil Marsh move into the house next door, the couple with their teenage s Ah…the eighties. Skinny-dipping suburbanites…Thai sticks…The Phil Donahue Show. Charles Ripley, the protagonist of HIgg’s novel, shares a king-sized waterbed with his lovely wife Shelly. They are living the good life in a newly developed upscale neighborhood outside San Diego. Charles has a promising career in the aerospace industry, the exciting new sector of the economy that supports most of their friends. When Ruskin and Sybil Marsh move into the house next door, the couple with their teenage son seem like the perfect new additions to the community. They are affluent, attractive, generous with their good liquor and drugs -- liberated to a degree that Charles finds seductive and a bit disorienting. The Happy Man opens with Charles sitting alone in his living room watching the Marsh’s decomposed bodies carried from their home. A mailman had noticed a smell he knew from his time in Viet Nam. The next day, when a man comes to follow-up on the investigation, Charles recognizes that he is neither the law nor the press. Charles kills him, puts him the trunk of his Plymouth Valiant, and drives away. This is the knockout opening of a book that works better as eighties nostalgia than a horror novel. Of course the Marshes are not what they appear to be. What they are, and as disgusting as that is, turns out to be a bit disappointing, unconvincing and almost mundane. All that self-assured happiness that Ripley feels so drawn to centers around the Marsh’s membership in a secret society that takes the Marquis de Sade as their guiding spirit. (Really?) As the plot escalates, Higg’s dialog remains clunky and pedantic. Perhaps we have come to expect more over the last thirty years, but the shocker moments could really use some more shock elements. This is maybe the only book I’ve ever read that I felt needed to be grosser. But there is also much to be said for Higg’s ability to bring the book in at under two hundred pages. And I loved such details as Ripley’s effort to calm his nerves by drinking “supermarket vodka” and watching early HBO.

  23. 4 out of 5

    VICKI HERBERT

    It's important to know oneself...who you really are... No spoilers: Charles Ripley and his wife Shelley live in a small community in Chula Vista, CA. They consider themselves an upwardly mobile couple living an average California yuppie lifestyle... One day they see a new family moving into the house next door...The Marsh family... Charles introduces himself and meets Ruskin, a lawyer, and his wife Sybil...Charles finds them friendly and acts as the Welcome Wagon inviting them over for drinks and hor It's important to know oneself...who you really are... No spoilers: Charles Ripley and his wife Shelley live in a small community in Chula Vista, CA. They consider themselves an upwardly mobile couple living an average California yuppie lifestyle... One day they see a new family moving into the house next door...The Marsh family... Charles introduces himself and meets Ruskin, a lawyer, and his wife Sybil...Charles finds them friendly and acts as the Welcome Wagon inviting them over for drinks and hor d'oeuvres ... Everyone becomes fast friends and begin doing things together. One evening Ruskin invites Charles to go to dinner with him. The wives are shopping together and the boys have some spare time to themselves... After dinner and several drinks, Ruskin connects with a couple of bar bimbos and suggests to Charles that they follow the girls home for some after dinner sex... Charles, full of liquor, agrees to the plan and they follow the girls up into deserted hills. Ruskin becomes impatient after a while and hurries the girls along with his car causing them to go over the side of the hill and their car catches on fire...killing both women... Charles is shaken and wants to call police and paramedic but Ruskin has an "oh well" attitude toward the whole event...he suggests they forget about it and go home... Ruskin tells Charles it's important to know oneself...who you really are... Charles comes to see that Ruskin does anything he wants without consequences. Charles becomes suspicious when several people in and around the community come up missing or dead... One day Ruskin loans Charles a valuable book by the Marquis de Sade and tells Charles that he and Sybil belong to a secret club... This is an excellent story all the way to the end. I would not classify this as horror but a very good thriller. I rated this story 4-1/2 stars. I removed 1/2 star for some, not many, typos.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jason Bradley Thompson

    Charles Ripley, a 30something San Diego professional in a childless marriage, becomes seduced (view spoiler)[(not literally) (hide spoiler)] by the lifestyle of new neighbor Ruskin Marsh, a more successful, handsome family man whose confident facade conceals horrible secrets. Essentially an exposure of upper-class WASP cruelty as if “American Psycho” were narrated by Bateman’s friend, “The Happy Man” suffers from merely competent writing, and from a clueless first-person male protagonist whose b Charles Ripley, a 30something San Diego professional in a childless marriage, becomes seduced (view spoiler)[(not literally) (hide spoiler)] by the lifestyle of new neighbor Ruskin Marsh, a more successful, handsome family man whose confident facade conceals horrible secrets. Essentially an exposure of upper-class WASP cruelty as if “American Psycho” were narrated by Bateman’s friend, “The Happy Man” suffers from merely competent writing, and from a clueless first-person male protagonist whose breast-ogling adulation of Marsh’s sexual conquests makes him perhaps more unsympathetic than the author realizes, even before the happy man starts loaning him Marquis DeSade books like they were the NecronomiCon in an HP Lovecraft pastiche. At its best, the book shows the casual brutality of bro-y white (-collar) male culture, though the individual reader may question whether marijuana is a gateway drug to cocaine, or whether (view spoiler)[a little mild S&M (hide spoiler)] is a gateway drug to (view spoiler)[being sexually turned on by killing people (hide spoiler)] ; it’s also a shame that the book’s cover spoils (view spoiler)[a 3rd-act reveal of cannibalism (hide spoiler)] and creates the impression that the book will be gorier than it is. At times cringey and creepy, at other times sleazy/prudish and obvious, it probably deserves 2.5 stars.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    This is really solid entertainment throughout. Its one of those novels for which it really pays not to read and summaries, or detailed reviews of. I read an eBook, but I believe even reading the jacket notes is something of a spoiler. In the first few pages we know that the narrator, Charles Ripley, is a murdered, but the interest is in why, and how he got to this stage. As I rushed upon [the old man] I told myself there could be no pity, not for his kind, not ever. And when I knocked him over a This is really solid entertainment throughout. Its one of those novels for which it really pays not to read and summaries, or detailed reviews of. I read an eBook, but I believe even reading the jacket notes is something of a spoiler. In the first few pages we know that the narrator, Charles Ripley, is a murdered, but the interest is in why, and how he got to this stage. As I rushed upon [the old man] I told myself there could be no pity, not for his kind, not ever. And when I knocked him over and got on top of him, I brought the hammer down so hard and so often I was entirely unaware that I was making it end too quickly. Its tremendous, my sort of book. First published in 1985, it was out of print for many years, but reissued by those wonderful people at Valancourt. By now, I hope to have made it clear as to whether this is for you, or like the majority I expect, not for you.. but if you need any more guidance, be aware that it nods an acknowledgement of tribute to Justine: Marquis De Sade (Classics, Literature, History, Criticism) Annotated .

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    If Reagan was reading horror back in the 1980s, this would make his reading list. A luxurious San Diegan suburb that reeks of corporate filth and festering greed. Partygoers snorting piles of cocaine by the poolside. Hypersexual yuppies erupting into mass orgies. Two timing spouses who set hookers on fire. These are just some of the findings readers will find in Eric C. Higgs’s ‘The Happy Man.’ The chaos ensues when Ripley, a company man, meets his new neighbors, the Marsh family. He immediately b If Reagan was reading horror back in the 1980s, this would make his reading list. A luxurious San Diegan suburb that reeks of corporate filth and festering greed. Partygoers snorting piles of cocaine by the poolside. Hypersexual yuppies erupting into mass orgies. Two timing spouses who set hookers on fire. These are just some of the findings readers will find in Eric C. Higgs’s ‘The Happy Man.’ The chaos ensues when Ripley, a company man, meets his new neighbors, the Marsh family. He immediately bonds with Ruskin, who brings out the wild side in Ripley. The dynamics of this relationship are humorous at first, but subsequent events (see previous paragraph) left me feeling unnerved and appalled at times. The sunny and cheerful setting is crafted perfectly, frequented with dark commentary: xenophobia, violence, and misogyny run rampant in this one. The juxtaposition serves as a constant reminder to Americans that the 1980s weren’t always glamor and gold. ‘The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror’ is a book that can be placed on the same shelf with ‘Less than Zero’ and ‘American Psycho,’ though it’s not as memorable or shocking.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bikram

    I received audiobook version of this book for free from the narrator in exchange for an unbiased review. This book was a roller-coaster ride for me. It starts with a bang, from the very first line in the book. But then my interest in the story keeps going up n down for most of the book. There are some really gruesome scenes in this book that grab you by the throat. And at other sections, the story kinda drags on without anything much interesting happening. But overall, it was 5 hours well spent. I received audiobook version of this book for free from the narrator in exchange for an unbiased review. This book was a roller-coaster ride for me. It starts with a bang, from the very first line in the book. But then my interest in the story keeps going up n down for most of the book. There are some really gruesome scenes in this book that grab you by the throat. And at other sections, the story kinda drags on without anything much interesting happening. But overall, it was 5 hours well spent. I loved the '80s setting and a few elements that weirdly sounded relevant to our current world. The characters are very well written and the story stays with you days after you've finished it. Word of caution though - if you are put off by sexual content, this book isn't for you. There's large amount of that in here. The narration by Matt Godfrey is top notch. Every character voice is done brilliantly and voice infliction is well done.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    For most of this book I expected a very specific outcome. I was totally sold in my mind how everything would play out. I love that I was wrong about the journey to the conclusion and I am very happy to have been wrong about the outcome. This was a really fun journey into madness. I cannot go into details because it would give the little nuances of the book away and that is no fun for anyone. I will say that the confession of the wife should NOT have been a surprise, and yet it was. I was so enth For most of this book I expected a very specific outcome. I was totally sold in my mind how everything would play out. I love that I was wrong about the journey to the conclusion and I am very happy to have been wrong about the outcome. This was a really fun journey into madness. I cannot go into details because it would give the little nuances of the book away and that is no fun for anyone. I will say that the confession of the wife should NOT have been a surprise, and yet it was. I was so enthralled in "knowing" what was going to happen I missed my cues. To me, that is a really good thing. As always, Matt Godfrey killed it with his narrative. He has quickly become one of my favorite raconteurs... yeah, that sounds correct. If I used that wrong then I claim creative freedom. This book was given to me for free at my request for my voluntary and unbiased review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    I like to have at least one book loaded on my iPhone for those times I am forced to sit and wait for an appointment or if I’m a passenger on a long ride. Usually I choose short stories or memoirs. This looked like an interesting and short book so I thought I’d give it a try. And I’m very glad I did. A married couple finds their lives changed when neighbors who have just moved in become close and friendly with them. The wives spend lots of time at the gym. The guys hit some bars, smoke some dope, I like to have at least one book loaded on my iPhone for those times I am forced to sit and wait for an appointment or if I’m a passenger on a long ride. Usually I choose short stories or memoirs. This looked like an interesting and short book so I thought I’d give it a try. And I’m very glad I did. A married couple finds their lives changed when neighbors who have just moved in become close and friendly with them. The wives spend lots of time at the gym. The guys hit some bars, smoke some dope, do some coke and pick up strange women. Then some of the women they picked up go missing. Then the new neighbor reveals a part of his life that is shocking and beyond belief. Things go wrong in a big way. As the book comes to an end, the reader isn’t sure what will happen. I will say that I found myself reading this when I should have been doing something else just because I felt I needed to know what happened next. Good book!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Roland

    Had it ended with chapter fifteen, it would have been a two thumbs up, 'help-me-find-my-jaw' five star read. Being a really dark literary satire, about the bored, burnt out everydays of an upper middle class American wasp in the late 80's, trying to spice life up by every means available, no step too far, no substance too rough, engines blasting at full capacity, wheels elevated from the blacktop. In a style so polished one could assume a multi-bestseller author behind a pen name. (It could easi Had it ended with chapter fifteen, it would have been a two thumbs up, 'help-me-find-my-jaw' five star read. Being a really dark literary satire, about the bored, burnt out everydays of an upper middle class American wasp in the late 80's, trying to spice life up by every means available, no step too far, no substance too rough, engines blasting at full capacity, wheels elevated from the blacktop. In a style so polished one could assume a multi-bestseller author behind a pen name. (It could easily pass as one of Bret Easton Ellis or Chuck Palahniuk.) Had it ended with chapter fifteen. (view spoiler)[In the last two chapters the story takes a U-turn, feeling as an awfully forced editorial decision, shying out of the path the whole book treaded down until then. (hide spoiler)]

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