|A Selection Of Ruby Jean Jensen Books I Have Been Reading Since Last Summer|
In the midst of all these hardcore horror authors was one who stands out in My memory fondly, despite the fact that a majority of her works were barely movie of the week worthy, she still had a way of presenting the disturbing, the uncomfortable and sometimes even the gross to the page with a home grown flair all her own. That author is Ruby Jean Jensen, one of the unsung heroines of 80's horror, a cornerstone of the old Zebra Horror line from the Kensington Publishing Corporation, and pretty much all but forgotten today. Her stories almost always centered around young children to pre-teens, and she was putting them in some of the most horrible situations you could imagine long before J.K. Rowling picked up her pen and her first napkin to begin writing of Harry Potter's magic and fantasy adventure life. Sometimes her books were cookie cutter, and the characters were so unlikeable you couldn't wait for them to meet horrible deaths, and her writing from novel to novel and sometimes chapter to chapter was uneven. but yet it was all that delicious 1980's garbage you just couldn't put down once you started reading it. Half her books always seemed to revolve around cursed dolls, and the other half seemed to revolve around cursed artifacts, so I have given her the affectionate title of The Mistress of Dolls.
|Ruby Jean Jensen, Mistress Of Dolls & Friend|
Well I hate to say it but it seems nobody knows, or even cares. She does not have a single decent fan site that I can find, nor does she have a Wikipedia page. My favorite radio personality (M.J.) Todd Shcnitt, says that once you've made it to Wikipedia you're somebody, and unfortunately that makes the Mistress of Dolls an apparent nobody in the information age of the 21st Century. I only found one biography on her, posted to multiple websites, and that was apparently copied verbatim from one of her later books. What I do know of her personal life is that she spent most of it in southeastern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Her much pasted bio states that she was a pet lover (dogs one assumes from the only picture I have ever seen from her, posted above). She was born in 1930, but as yet I have seen not date of death (though one assumes it was in the later mid to late 1990's as that is the time her books ceased to be published.). She began having her novels published in the mid to late 1970's, Gothic novels which I have yet to have ever obtained or read any copies of. Then in the 80's she switched to more Horror oriented stories.
I think the first Ruby Jean Jensen book I ever bought was one of her longest, Baby Dolly, which I bought at the old used book store in downtown Winter Haven I used to frequent at least every other week when I was in high school and until around the time that I Myself moved to Missouri, in the opposite corner from where she lived. Like many books I, and later on My first wife, bought it joined a continually growing "To Read" selection on an overstuffed bookshelf. It was in My junior or senior year of high school before I got around to actually reading any of the Jensen books I had bought. I ended up reading Chain Letter and then Smoke back-to-back. And from there I was a hooked, though perhaps not a diligent reader. Over the years from bookstores and book traders I amassed quite a collection, probably a majority, of Jensen's horror novels. My ex read them while we were together, and somehow I ended up getting them all after the divorce, and for years after that they were shifted around in 15 to 20 year old banana boxes from one storage area to another, for the past five years sitting in the corner of the storage shed attached to the house I now share with the lady vyle.
|Bad Girls Don't Die, The First Novel From Katie Alender (Pretender To The Throne?)|
Needless to say I bought the book and it was horrible. It was so horrible in fact that I decided to make mention of it in It Beacons, with one of the main characters trashing the book and basically saying that ..."Katie Alender ain't no Ruby Jean"... before putting the book away and then digging a worn copy of Chain Letter to read instead.
So once we returned from vacation, and before I became bogged down with stories I wanted to get done for posting during Halloween season, I went to the shed and dug out the stored books, pulling out most of My Jensen collection and bringing them into the house. Unfortunately I found that the two I loved from the beginning, Chain Letter and Smoke were not there. I ended up finding them online, along with a couple of others I did not have anymore, and one, Jump Rope, that I had never heard of. From September on I rotated Ruby Jean into My reading, partly for research for It Beacons and partly out of nostalgia.
The story revolves a young boy named Barry and his imaginary friends Reid and Juno (the cat monster). In the beginning it seems that Barry is the victim of day care center sexual abuse, but later we learn that the nature of the abuse was Satanic in origin, and in the process two evil creatures were created it seems alternately do his bidding and to take on a life of their own as they gain more power. Barry and his two older siblings go to stay at a summer house in the care of a recently hired nanny while their father works in the city, their mother has passed away sometime prior to the beginning of the story. (Yes, you see a common theme already).
In the end it seems that Barry and his family escape from his demonic "friends", until his brother realizes they are in the car with them as they are driving back home.
Notable in this story is the subtext of puppy love and adolescent lust and thoughts of incest between two underage characters, Barry's sister, Becky, and their cousin. (Told you some of these tales wouldn't fly on a "respectable" erotic site).
|Home Sweet Home|
There's so much subtext in this one. The early going is uncomfortable and the reader feels they're getting into pedophile territory. However it turns out that Uncle Dan has no sexual interest in the children. He just wants to make them into the perfect family, along with the corpse of his wife that he calls Little Mother and keeps in the bedroom a'la Normon Bates, If you don't fit in to the family? Well there are always unwanted orphans, and any ingrates must die.
|House Of Illusions|
One unique thing about House Of Illusions is it had a 3/4 3-D hologram cover, which I now understand was an attempt to disguise the novel's shitty contents.
Perhaps the thing this novel does suffer from are barely explored and contrived subplots. When it comes to movie of the week material Pendulum is definitely it. It has at least one unique death, bitten by hundreds of rattlesnakes, and one character is inexplicably turned into a werewolf so he can stalk several other characters. Plus the demonic ghost of an aborted fetus out to kill its mother is perhaps one of the most unique, if not gross out and 80's timely, plot devices ever.
As with House Of Illusions the parents in the story are so unlikeable and selfish you're just hoping that they're going to die, and unlike House Of Illusions you get the reward of seeing them get theirs by the conclusion of the novel.
Of course I am far from done as I still have a stack of Ruby Jean Jensen books waiting to be read in the spare bedroom, and this time I am determined to get through them instead of letting them sit for 15 or 20 years. I do hope to hear back from at least someone else who has heard of Ruby Jean, because I get "huhs" when I mention her to people I know and zero response on forums about writing and inquiring tweets. So if you're some die hard Jensen fan wanting to share the love please comment or send Me an e-mail.