American Ghoul is a horror novel in the tradition of Shelley and Stoker, and yet brings a sense of freshness and humor to the genre, as author Morton tells the story of a high school outsider in the late 1970s. It’s fascinating to read Morton’s account of 17-year-old Howard Pickman, and realize you feel a profound empathy for his protagonist despite the rather gruesome secret he must strive to protect. What’s also fascinating is how Morton recreates the high school experience of the late 1970s, complete with jocks, freaks, and the dark artists who came of age in the heyday of punk rock. This is a book rich in spirit, and transcends the usual exploitation of the horror genre to offer a redemptive tale of Howard and his friends Sebastian, Gerald, and Dwayne, who form a bond, and a band, while trying to stay alive in a world that doesn’t take kindly to strangers, individuals, or ghouls. But maybe it should.
Their eponymously titled debut (and finish, as The Corpsemen did not last past these 4 songs and one video), is a punk rock summary of what it was like to be a high school outsider in the late 70s. I get the feeling these guys listened to the Ramones and the Runaways by way of the Delfonics.
But the real question is, how did this band, the knowledge of which has been zero and zilch until the discovery of a cassette tape stuck between the seat cushions of a 1978 Chevy Nova, wind up being portrayed in the novel “American Ghoul” by Walt Morton? I mean, “novel” last I checked, means “fiction”, which means the band “The Corpsemen” and the members of aforementioned band — Sebastian Jones (singer/guitarist), Howard Pickman (bass), Dwayne Garcia (drums) and Gerald Spaznek (not sure what Gerald plays, thinks its some of the strange noises so I guess synthesizer) — are not flesh and blood creatures who actually walked the earth but are characters of the imagination dreamt up by author Morton.
To go one step farther, what if Walt Morton is a fictional character as well? Or this “novel” is actually an account of what really happened in 1978? What if there’s a ghoul sitting right next to you on the subway, right now? How could you tell? You couldn’t! So long as this cassette is still (barely) operable, I’m going to transfer its contents to the obligatory 1’s and 0’s and get The Corpsemen music out there anyway. Maybe you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Or think I did. If I exist. You get the picture…