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Publisher's Summary

Charles Ripley has a good job as an engineer, a pretty wife, and an expensive house in a fashionable San Diego suburb. But it isn't until Ruskin Marsh moves in next door that Ripley realizes how passionless his life really is. Marsh, a connoisseur of the arts, high-powered lawyer, model husband and father, and effortless seducer of women, is so supremely alive that Ripley finds himself irresistibly drawn to him.

But after Marsh's arrival, local girls begin to vanish, marriages end violently, nights are split with endless, desperate screams, and horribly mutilated corpses are found. Soon, Ripley becomes caught up in an accelerating maelstrom of sex, drugs, violence, and ghastly, unimaginable rites...and begins to see the beauty of life.

From its profoundly unsettling first pages, Eric C. Higgs's The Happy Man (1985) reveals the nightmare underside of the American dream and brilliantly echoes the Gothic horror tradition of Edgar Allan Poe and Roald Dahl.

"The Happy Man is an essential '80s horror read: smart, sharp, unforgiving, unlike anything else in the genre." - Too Much Horror Fiction

"[A] grisly shocker, understated for the most part but carrying the impact of a fist to the stomach...a most promising debut." - San Diego Union

"A thoroughly engrossing Gothic horror story." - South Bend Tribune

©1985, 2018 Eric C. Higgs (P)2018 Valancourt Books LLC

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

a neighborhood friend telling you a crazy story

In the opening moments of Eric C. Higgs's The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror, we learn of a murder - the Marsh family has been shot dead next door. We're told this by Charles Ripley, whose first-person account gives us insight into the San Diego neighborhood he inhabits. The victims next door are not the only murders this neighborhood has seen recently, and Ripley recounts the events leading up to this penultimate act of violence. In fact, strange things have been brewing ever since the Marshes moved in...

Outside of his marriage, Ripley doesn't have a lot of friends and few men he can connect with. He quickly bonds with the newly arrived Ruskin Marsh, and their wives form a fast friendship. As Ripley and Marsh become better acquainted with each other, Charles is introduced to a very rare work of writing from the sexual libertine Marquis de Sade. Entranced by Marsh's own sexual exploits and lack of inhibitions, Ripley soon finds his own constraints diminishing and begins straying into extramarital affairs and, soon enough, darker exploits encouraged in de Sade's writings.

Narrated by Matt Godfrey, The Happy Man is a slow-burn work of suburban horror that finely balances placidity with hair-raising, horrifying drama. This is a well-crafted work of psychosexual drama, and Godfrey's reading of the material captures the feel of a neighborhood friend telling you a crazy story. At only a bit over 5 hours long, Godfrey keeps the narrative moving along nicely. Higgs, meanwhile, keeps the work grounded, and the moments of horror are never implausible or outlandish. Higgs earns each of his twists and turns by giving us believable characters and a pot-boiler narrative that slowly builds toward the inevitable.

Written in 1985, and recently reissued by Valancourt Books, The Happy Man taps into the anxiety of The Other with its themes of sexual promiscuity, casual drug use, fear of immigrants, and the rise of the Christian Right and their idea of what constitutes family values. While this latter is never overtly mentioned, given the period Higgs was writing in I can't help but feel like much of this book is a response to the political climate surrounding it. Marsh is very much a hedonistic figure, the kind of guy Nancy Reagan would encourage you to Just Say No! to, and his arrival to this suburban neighborhood threatens to destroy everything his fellow yuppies hold dear, upsetting the balance of their perfectly coiffed all-American lifestyles. With its themes of racism and the sexual objectification of women, The Happy Man is very much a product of the 1980s, yet much of horrors its reacting to, and certainly expounding upon, still feel topical today. Higgs takes all the fears of 80s Evangelicalism and runs with them toward their worst-case finale - the destruction of families at the hands of an outsider. It's telling, though, that while Mexican immigrants are often blamed for some of the seedier aspects of this white collar, upper-crust San Diego subdivision, the root cause of their problems lie much, much closer to home. Perhaps, in between the moments of eroticism and shocking violence, Higgs was trying to tell us something after all.

Audiobook was provided for review by the narrator.

Please find this complete review and many others at my review blog.

[If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Moderately Good

I wanted to like this book so badly. From the description to the narrator to the cover, it sounded right up my alley. I had the hardest time getting into this one. It seemed to get interesting in bursts to me but never really grabbed me. Perhaps it just wasn't for me! Matt Godfrey literally always does fantastic work, so it may be worth the listen just for him. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone only because it didn't strike a chord with me.

I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audiobook by the author, narrator, or publisher.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A NICE HAPPY TALE OF HORROR

This story has a great narrator, which really made the story enjoyable. It's an interesting tale and not at all what I expected. It had a couple of twists that really surprised me and that does not happen often for me. The book is relatively short yet I felt satisfied. I recommend this novel to anyone that enjoys horror, and a good story with great narration.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • TU
  • 04-13-18

Great but not for the prudish

I was given this free review copy audio book at my request and have voluntarily
left this review.

I'm not sure how to quantify my feelings on this book. I love the 80's setting, as I'm a child of the 80's. I also love the old pre-2000's horror movies. That being said, this has a definite sexual overtones and content, which kind of surprised me. Mostly because I didn't expect the amount of sexual depravity in the book. It's just not my cup of tea. That being said, the book has a great building of tension as the book progresses. The narrator does a great job on the book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

1980s Horror That Still Resonates Today

In the opening moments of Eric C. Higgs’s The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror, we learn of a murder – the Marsh family has been shot dead next door. We’re told this by Charles Ripley, whose first-person account gives us insight into the San Diego neighborhood he inhabits. The victims next door are not the only murders this neighborhood has seen recently, and Ripley recounts the events leading up to this penultimate act of violence. In fact, strange things have been brewing ever since the Marshes moved in…

Outside of his marriage, Ripley doesn’t have a lot of friends and few men he can connect with. He quickly bonds with the newly arrived Ruskin Marsh, and their wives form a fast friendship. As Ripley and Marsh become better acquainted with each other, Charles is introduced to a very rare work of writing from the sexual libertine Marquis de Sade. Entranced by Marsh’s own sexual exploits and lack of inhibitions, Ripley soon finds his own constraints diminishing and begins straying into extramarital affairs and, soon enough, darker exploits encouraged in de Sade’s writings.

Narrated by Matt Godfrey, The Happy Man is a slow-burn work of suburban horror that finely balances placidity with hair-raising, horrifying drama. This is a well-crafted work of psychosexual drama, and Godfrey’s reading of the material captures the feel of a neighborhood friend telling you a crazy story. At only a bit over 5 hours long, Godfrey keeps the narrative moving along nicely. Higgs, meanwhile, keeps the work grounded, and the moments of horror are never implausible or outlandish. Higgs earns each of his twists and turns by giving us believable characters and a pot-boiler narrative that slowly builds toward the inevitable.

Written in 1985, and recently reissued by Valancourt Books, The Happy Man taps into the anxiety of The Other with its themes of sexual promiscuity, casual drug use, fear of immigrants, and the rise of the Christian Right and their idea of what constitutes family values. While this latter is never overtly mentioned, given the period Higgs was writing in I can’t help but feel like much of this book is a response to the political climate surrounding it. Marsh is very much a hedonistic figure, the kind of guy Nancy Reagan would encourage you to Just Say No! to, and his arrival to this suburban neighborhood threatens to destroy everything his fellow yuppies hold dear, upsetting the balance of their perfectly coiffed all-American lifestyles. With its themes of racism and the sexual objectification of women, The Happy Man is very much a product of the 1980s, yet much of horrors its reacting to, and certainly expounding upon, still feel topical today. Higgs takes all the fears of 80s Evangelicalism and runs with them toward their worst-case finale – the destruction of families at the hands of an outsider. It’s telling, though, that while Mexican immigrants are often blamed for some of the seedier aspects of this white collar, upper-crust San Diego subdivision, the root cause of their problems lie much, much closer to home. Perhaps, in between the moments of eroticism and shocking violence, Higgs was trying to tell us something after all.

[Note: the review was originally published at audiobookreviewer dot com]

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

The Happy Man

For most of this book I expected a very specific outcome. I was totally sold in my mind how everything would play out. I love that I was wrong about the journey to the conclusion and I am very happy to have been wrong about the outcome. This was a really fun journey into madness. I cannot go into details because it would give the little nuances of the book away and that is no fun for anyone. I will say that the confession of the wife should NOT have been a surprise, and yet it was. I was so enthralled in "knowing" what was going to happen I missed my cues. To me, that is a really good thing. As always, Matt Godfrey killed it with his narrative. He has quickly become one of my favorite raconteurs... yeah, that sounds correct. If I used that wrong then I claim creative freedom.

This book was given to me for free at my request for my voluntary and unbiased review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Well written little horror story...

If you could sum up The Happy Man in three words, what would they be?

Interesting. Thoughtful. Shocking.

What did you like best about this story?

The detail that the main characters were fleshed out.

Which scene was your favorite?

The last. Wrapped it all up nicely.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No, but it kept me interested which is often no small feat.

Any additional comments?

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

De Sade meets '80s yuppie culture

This is a quick listen, so as you can imagine it doesn't waste any time. Within the first few minutes, we find out that an entire family has been killed, and our narrator murders another person within minutes of this happening. The rest of the book explains how we got there.

Charles is living a perfectly normal southern Californian suburban life, in a town that is only a few miles away from the Mexican border (this is important later in the book). He has a successful career and a well-paying job, and lives around people who are similarly successful. His wife lost a baby a few years prior, but they have moved on and live a seemingly happy life. Enter Ruskin Marsh and his family, a new neighbor that seems to be the same type of person as everyone else in this neighborhood, but it quickly becomes apparent that he has a wild side that is very contagious. At first he may remind you of that one crazy friend we all have, where the simple act of going out to dinner with them results in a million crazy adventures.

Pretty soon he's dragging Charles out to bars to pick up women, who they see die in a flaming car crash during an intoxicated drive to their place, and it doesn't even seem weird the next morning. Within weeks of the Marshes moving to the neighborhood, we're seeing crazy swinging parties where everyone gets wasted and naked, and some people have nervous breakdowns after Ruskin has a conversation with them about their failing company. He gives Charles a rare private press copy of the Marquis de Sade's Juliette, and then we really start to see the sinister side to Ruskin's free spirited life. You can probably guess where this goes by looking at the cover.

Charles is a great example of a normal guy whose life gets completely turned upside down, until it gets so crazy that there just isn't any going back. His usage of terms like "marijuana cigarette" to emphasize his squareness was a stroke of genius on the part of Higgs, a writer who I know very little about. This one works both as a satire of the 1980s yuppie lifestyle, and also as an enthralling horror tale of the "sinister suburban life" genre (is that a thing?). I see that one of the only other things Higgs has published was a screenplay for a proposed film version of this, and I must say that this would make a pretty sweet indie horror film. In case you can't tell by the rating, this audiobook is fantastic and gets a huge recommendation from me.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Not sue what that was

First off the narration was excellent but the story was disturbingly not what I was expecting. It was as deluded dark psychological tale of one mans trip into disturbing sexual fantasy led by a sadistic friend. A very weird tale of internal monologue. Again the narrator was fabulous though. I received a free review copy of this book at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • James
  • Powderly, KY, United States
  • 05-01-18

Happy - not happy

Very strange and twisted neighbors destroy the nice couple next door and the neighborhood. The plot started out really strong, but fizzled just toward the end, however, this was a really good listen.

“I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audiobook by the author, narrator, or publisher.”