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Matthew J. Barbour Breaks Down Jack Ketchum’s ‘Ladies’ Night’ (Review)


Written by: Matthew J. Barbour

Jack Ketchum is a horror writer who needs no introduction. Along with Richard Laymon, and Edward Lee, the man popularized and defined hardcore horror during the 1980s and made it palatable for mass market consumption. Novels, such as Off Season and The Girl Next Door, are classics within the genre.

However, very few have ever read or even heard of Ladies’ Night. Ladies’ Night was penned by Ketchum in the early 80s as a follow up to Off Season. It was written as to be more violent and offensive than its predecessor. Yet, the book as it was originally envisioned was never printed. Ladies’ Night was determined by publishers to be too extreme. Instead, the manuscript was buried and a few years later, readers were treated with the more subtle horror of Hide and Seek.

Fast forward into the splatterpunk heyday of the late 1990s, what was extreme in the early 80s was now almost the literary staple of the horror genre. Moreover, Ketchum’s success and notoriety for pushing the limits allowed him much more freedom to publish whatever he wanted. What he wanted was to cut, polish, and rewrite Ladies’ Night.

Ladies Night, as published in 1997, was 170 pages in length, down approximately 230 pages from the original 400 page manuscript. It makes for a short no-holds-barred novel. Ladies’ Night takes places over the course of a single night in New York City. An unlicensed chemical truck has spilled its contents on the city streets. Woman breathing in the fumes are struck with severe headaches, followed by a strong desire for sex, and ultimately, the want to kill all men they encounter.

The story follows Tom, a serial cheater, out for a night on the town when things go bad. After dealing with some woman in the bar, Tom comes to the realization that his son, Andy, is at home alone with his possibly deranged wife. As Tom takes the fight against the opposite sex across the streets of New York City to find Andy, Andy is at the apartment warding off the advances of the beast he used to call “mom.”

Ladies’ Night hits upon several societal taboos, most prominent of which is violence towards women. Women are the bad guys here and are dealt with using extreme prejudice. The whole concept plays on the notion of hormonal women not being able to control their urges and as a result, feels entirely too misogynistic… even for a horror novel.

Ketchum is a great writer and the brutality between the sexes is cringe worthy. However, most will not be able to get past the concept. A man, who regularly goes out on his wife, is the hero. His goal is to get his son away from the woman he married and kill her.

In all fairness, Ketchum does deliver what he set out to create. Ladies’ Night is more violent and offensive than Off Season. If the concept does not disturb you, it should. This one is not for the faint of heart.

Order it here.

Rating: 3/5

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About The Overseer (1663 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

4 Comments on Matthew J. Barbour Breaks Down Jack Ketchum’s ‘Ladies’ Night’ (Review)

  1. Matthew this sounds like the violence goes a bit beyond my personal preference. But for those who do enjoy it should be more than pleased. Vitina

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  2. Last week I finally took the time to check Jack Ketchum’s work and I binge read four of his novels while relaxing on a beach in Maine with my family : The Girl Next Door, Off Season, Hide and Seek and Red. I’m about to embark in The Lost and then Joyride.

    In the span of a week, he became one of my favorite horror writers. The last time I was so enthousiastic about reading everything a writer had written was 30 years ago when I discovered Stephen King. I’m having a great summer, reading-wise, thanks also to some suggestions I picked on your website, like John Everson and Tim Lebbon. Keep up the good work guys!

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    • Matt Barbour // August 21, 2015 at 8:59 pm // Reply

      If you like Off Season, I would highly recommend Offspring. It is the direct sequel. There is also The Woman. The books you have read so far are a good measure of the diversity and brutality of Jack Ketchum. I actually enjoy Ketchum over King. Ketchum’s writing is grounded in reality and tends to resonate more with me. I also respect him as an entryway for readers into my favorite horror subgenre: splatterpunk. People start with someone like Barker, Laymon, or Ketchum and then move into the more radical writings of Poppy Z. Brite or Edward Lee.

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      • Frederic Smith // August 21, 2015 at 9:58 pm //

        Thanks for the suggestions! I’m voluntarily waiting a bit before reading Offspring. I’m still a bit spooked by Off Season. I agree with your comment about Ketchum’s grounding in reality. For me, realism makes it way more terrifying than any supernatural setting or evil. I’ll make sure to check into Brite and Lee, although I suspect it might be too hardcore for my taste – based on your comment about them being more radical than Ketchum!

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