Title: Dirty Heads
Author: Aaron Dries
Genre: Horror Novella
Number of Pages: 142
Trigger Warning(s): Homophobia, Homelessness, Violence, Bullying, Body Horror
First of all, it’s probably no surprise that I was drawn to this book’s gruesomely beautiful cover art. Stunning! I downloaded it to my Kindle and mostly forgot what it was about, only to open it up months later and be pleasantly surprised.
Dirty Heads is ‘cosmic horror’ about a boy who is stalked by a mysterious entity. Goodreads describes it as ‘Lovecraftian’ (I dislike H.P. Lovecraft, not only because of his racism, but also because of his portentous prose that makes you forget what the beginning of a sentence entailed once you’re halfway through the ridiculously wordy sentence-page.)
Heath is a young teen boy growing up in the 90’s. He’s a budding artist who recreates horror movie cover art during his habitual trips to the local video rental. Heath is also starting to realize he has feelings for other guys, a terrifying prospect in his small community where he attends Catholic school and is warned about ‘poofs’ cruising in public restrooms.
His family seems fairly typical but his dad has a messed-up secret, and Heath’s own darker impulses brings the monster into existence. The monster absorbs the qualities of the people it eats, and Heath eventually becomes homeless as moves from place to place, doing he can to outrun it.
I liked all the 1990’s references in this novella and found Heath’s character both engaging and sympathetic. The book was set in Australia, a country I haven’t read much about. The small-town setting is evocative as is the claustrophobia of growing up gay in such a place.
I did feel the ending was a little bit abrupt, and the violent scenes feel over-the-top gross at some points (did the monster really need to have a gigantic erection while it was stalking Heath and his family?) However, the book overall is entertaining, and the main entity is suitably freaky ,with seemingly unstoppable speed and strength. You will root for Heath to defeat his monster and his twisted and decidedly unusual ‘coming-of-age’ experiences are brought vividly to life by the author.