Terror Mannequin by Douglas Hackle
Terror Mannequin by Douglas Hackle is the reason why I read bizarro fiction, a blend of humor and the preposterous assembled in the perfect ratio. It’s one of those stories that makes you ask: “How did he ever come up with that?”
When I began reading, I thought the book seemed predictable. How wrong I was. Hackle launched me into his insane world where each paragraph was a startling revelation. Terror Mannequin lies on the nutso-bananas side of the weirdness spectrum, yet it is immensely readable. His writing style is neither too colloquial nor overblown, hitting a happy medium.
It is the story of Glont Lamont, his two “nephews,” and one crummy Halloween night. These nephews, in fact, are ancient beings, loathed by the town of Selohssa (spell that backwards). Both Tom Two (perpetually two years old) and the Membrane (name self-explanatory) are pariahs and as such must “reverse trick-or-treat” every house on Halloween or face death.
Thirty years before, a number of trick-or-treating deaths closed down Fallingwater Mansion. Now the “No Trespassing” signs have been taken down, obligating Glont and his nephews to visit it, despite the legend of the TERROR MANNEQUIN (all caps) that lurks within. But the story does not stay on this well-worn path; things are about to get crazy—I mean really crazy.
The characters Hackle creates leap off the page. They are vivid, distinct, and—in the case of the protagonists—incredibly likeable (Tom Two being one of my favorite characters in all of bizarro fiction). The author delves deep into their backstories. What would seem tedious by a less skilled writer, Hackle turns into a fascinating tapestry of anecdotes—and ultimately one of my favorite parts of the book.
More than anything, it was the relationship between the narrator and reader that endeared me to this book. Hackle has no problem breaking up his narrative to chat with the reader. He taunts us, teases, jokes, confides, and in a way befriends us.
This book is not for the weak-stomached as it abounds in violence, gore, and body horror, including a scene so gruesome it disturbed even me. As the book progressed and this became more prevalent, it numbed me to the point that it took away from the story. Still, you’ll find Hackle’s unique brand of humor in even the goriest scenes.
Without giving too much away, the last fifteen pages of the book bothered me, tainting—in my opinion—an otherwise stellar book, so much so that I reached out to Hackle about it. He informed that he wrote “honestly” and that is where the story happened to go. I cannot fault him there. I just wish it had gone a different direction.
Terror Mannequin is a book that is hard to put down. Hackle’s wit and absurdity ropes you in. On my part, I read most of it in a single sitting, forgetting to eat. It’s just that enthralling.