Review Tuesday: Header 3 by Edward Lee and Ryan Harding

Header 3
by Edward Lee & Ryan Harding
illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne
Camelot Books, 2016
Reviewed by Ben Newell


No, that’s not the sound of your sweetheart tenderizing a thick porterhouse for tonight’s main course. Far from it. It is, however, the sound of somebody getting fucked in the head, literally fucked in the head.

The practice is called a “header” and it’s used as an act of revenge in this collaboration between Edward Lee and Ryan Harding. The third installment of the series delivers a generous helping of the gross-out goods readers have come to expect from these two purveyors of pulp pulchritude.

The more prolific of the two, Lee is primarily known as a horror writer. And rightfully so. Much of his work features supernatural elements, often in the form of sexually aberrant Lovecraftian creatures. But he’s also penned his fair share of realistic horrors of the decidedly human variety. Header 3 fits into this latter category, straddling that blurry line between horror and dark crime, a hybrid with an effective streak of black comedy.

The scene is Luntville, West Virginia, an impoverished backwoods town with a seedy motel, strip club, neighborhood bar, and little else. For the most part, the locals are harmless hayseeds who keep to themselves. That is, unless they feel wronged or disrespected. Then it’s payback time.

Meth dealers are especially hated as the narrative opens with a pusher and his tweaker prostitute of a girlfriend being abducted by the Larkins brothers, a “boisterous tetrad” of header-loving freaks. The dope slinger is skinned alive and doused with “200-proof grain alcohol” while his main squeeze gets a hole bored in her skull via a “power drill fitted with a 3-inch hole saw.” Once the disc-shaped piece of bone has been removed, a knife is used to fashion a suitable slit in her brain.

Then it’s party time of the train runnin’/head humpin’ variety.

This scene serves as a preamble to the arrival of our doomed players, a trio of Harvard-educated yuppies who have traveled all the way from NYC to partake of Luntville’s “natural beauty” while partying in “America’s third world.”

We have brothers Brice and Augie, a high-powered attorney and stockbroker, respectively; as well as their physician friend Clark. Augie and Clark are depicted as elitist assholes, entitled and totally amoral. Conversely, Brice is the sensitive one, a reluctant participant whose moral compass has not yet been destroyed by a life of boundless privilege. Still wounded by a recent breakup, he spends the majority of the story sulking and criticizing his friends for their deplorable behavior.

The pivotal action takes place in a single night of debauchery as the three “Manhattanites” disregard warnings from locals by venturing into “Backtown”—Luntville’s version of a red light district—where they meet “Babba,” a retarded virgin with a hideously deformed face and the body of a porn starlet.
Repelled by the repulsive festivities—including a “Hock Party” in which two women square off to see who can swallow the greatest number of freshly expectorated “chest oysters”—Brice flees the scene and walks back to the town proper, leaving Augie and Clark to probe the depths of depravity.
And probe they do.

After taking turns raping Babba in the backseat of Brice’s BMW, they dump her body in the woods where she dies of blood loss.

Of course, the local yokels aren’t as dumb as they seem. Not by a long shot. Babba’s corpse is promptly discovered and it doesn’t take Detective Harry Bosch to figure out who’s responsible.

Enter the big payoff, the have-nots getting even with the haves, the header blowout we’ve all been waiting for as the Larkins brothers and even Luntville’s mayor—who just so happens to be Babba’s father!—enact some serious hillbilly revenge.

Clark gets it first. Then it’s Augie’s turn. But there’s a catch. Since Brice didn’t participate in the assault, he’s offered a chance at freedom. All he has to do is . . .

Yep, you guessed it.

Fuck Augie in the noggin.

Does he do it?

Does Brice violate his brother in order to save his own ass? Pick up a copy of Header 3 to find out. You’ll be disgusted, but you won’t be sorry.