Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
Edward Lee is known as the premiere author of hardcore and extreme horror literature. It is books -like Header– which have to come to define the movement.
So what is a header you might ask? Invented by Lee, it is an act of revenge in which the perpetrator drills a hole into the victim’s skull and then inserts his penis into the opening for the purpose of having sexual intercourse with the victim’s cerebral tissue. Unsurprisingly, this results in the victim’s death. The body is then discarded in a field or along a mountain road where it will be found to serve as a dire warning to the rest of the victim’s family.
As a novella, Header follows ATF Agent Stewart Cummings in his investigation of The Russell County Head-Humping Murders. Cummings is not a bad guy, but he is certainly not a good cop either. His wife is extremely ill and to pay for her medication he has taken to a life of crime. Solving the head-humping case is not only a much needed distraction, but the only way for him to make a meaningful contribution to his law enforcement career.
The story reads as a crime drama. Agent Cummings grapples with the evidence as the body count continues to rise. Fair warning: the act of a header is described in significant detail, but unlike several of Lee’s other novels it is not depicted in an erotic manner. Moreover, while there is an element shock and disgust with the act, the true horror derives from the unexpected twist ending.
Header is without a doubt one of Edward Lee’s finest works. Cummings, while not pleasant, is completely relatable as both victim and villain. Revenge is cyclical and Header examines this on several different levels well beyond the act of simply performing a header. A header is not even the most atrocious thing Lee has ever conjured up.
There is also a movie and comic book, but neither captures the subject matter as perfectly as the original novella written in 1995. Twenty years later, it has stood the test of time. Even today, most extreme horror literature still pales in comparison.