It’s been over a year since we last spoke to Charleston’s own novelist Grady Hendrix. The erstwhile Mount Pleasant madman has been busier than Jason Voorhees during summer camp. Two of his books, Horrorstör and My Best Friend’s Exorcism, are being adapted for the screen. He’s just finished co-authoring These Fists Break Bricks: How Kung Fu Movies Swept America. There is his never-ending quest to curse the world with his Bram Stoker Award-winning book Paperbacks from Hell. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s about to debut his newest book, The Final Girl Support Group.
Hendrix’s latest focuses on a support group for six “final girls” — fictional survivors of mass-murderer rampages whose experiences inspired some slasher film franchises in the 1980s and ’90s. After one of its members is murdered, Lynnette Tarkington, the hyper-vigilant survivor of the 1988 Silent Night Slayings, thinks it may be part of a grander scheme to kill them all.
Hendrix’s interest in final girls — a term famously coined by Carol J. Clover in her 1992 book, Men, Women and Chainsaws — dates back to that time in 1981 when he bought his first issue of Fangoria at the Oasis gas station on Coleman Boulevard. “It had a big feature on Friday the 13th, Part 2,” he said. “I remember getting really obsessed with the opening of that movie.”
“Here was Alice Hardy, who survived the first movie, and all of a sudden she gets killed by Jason,” he said. “That just struck me as really cruel.’”
After coming up with the title nearly a decade ago, Hendrix, a fount of movie knowledge, built the story from there.
“I did very little slasher research because I know these movies,” he said.
Hendrix said each of his books stems from the question: “Why have I spent 40 years of my life watching people get murdered for fun? What does that mean?”
“I really wanted to write this to explore that and what these movies meant to me. I wanted to take the final girl concept seriously and treat them not as these campy icons, but treat them with respect,” he said. “I’m not pretending this is some deep think-piece or something, but that’s what got me to my desk every morning.”
While there are moments focused on the visceral thrills of violence, the novel also features moments of sober reality.
“For all the death I saw in horror movies and action movies, none of them are real. Nothing. That’s just not how it is. I’ve sat in a hospital room to know how it is … It’s long, and it’s sad, and it’s painful. There’s no drama to it. There’s no fight.”
“I think death gets really cheap in movies and in books sometimes,” Hendrix said. “I really wanted to remind the reader that it’s a big deal. It’s a really big deal, and it’s OK that it’s a big deal.”
Hendrix’s previous book, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, which is being adapted into a series by AmazonStudios, became a New York Times bestseller upon its release.
“It’s sold better than anything I’ve written to date. The big reason that happened was independent bookstores,” he proudly stated. “They really, really got behind that book, and they had sold it and got it to customers. And so I’m eternally grateful.”
Indie bookstores were especially helpful during COVID-19 lockdowns, Hendrix said.
“During the pandemic, my mom had to stay home and take it really seriously,” he said. “She just gave Buxton Books her credit card and they would just bring her a new stack of books every week, leave them on the porch and they’d wave through the window. Polly (from Buxton Books) would often text to let me know how my mom was doing, and Amazon doesn’t do that. Jonathan (Sanchez) at Blue Bicycle Books was the first person to cut me a break to do an event. These guys have been huge supporters, and there’s no excuse not to be buying (from them). Charleston is really lucky.”
Buxton Books will host a virtual event at 7 p.m., July 13. For more information, visit buxtonbooks.com