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Book Review: The Resort by Bentley Little

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Bentley Little creeps me out.

There, I said it. I don’t know if it’s the plethora of depraved sex acts, the slaughterhouse-style killings, the powerlessness of his characters to avoid either, or the twisted mind undoubtedly at work behind it all. Hell, it’s almost as if the guy’s got my spine locked up in his freezer. Whatever the case may be, I can say with confidence that Little has the macabre down cold.

Don’t believe me?

Then try out the author’s 2004 novel, deceitfully titled The Resort. In this chilling excursion, one Lowell Thurman is desperate to escape his impending high school reunion and all his old classmates along with it. So, he decides to take his family on a five-day vacation to the highly luxurious, highly secluded Reata Hotel. At first glance, the place looks like the proverbial slice of heaven. The scenery is to die for. The employees are hospitable. The facilities are second to none, complete with swimming pool, golf course, theater, exercise room, and exclusive five-star restaurant. Yes, Lowell seems to have made the right decision.

But then things start to go wrong. Very wrong.

First, the family’s car fails. No sweat, right? The hotel’s mechanic can fix it in a day or two.

That’s when the employees start wigging out, smiles giving way to sneers and lewd remarks, pleases and thank yous inexplicably met with bellicosity. Even the manager of the Reata seems gripped by dementia, torturing and debasing his subordinates behind closed doors.

Suddenly, the facilities have lost their splendor, as well. Restaurant dishes swim in blood and urine. Something unspeakable lies in the deep end of the pool. Nightmare creatures roam the hallways. Hotel guests start exercising in the nude, and the golf course comes to serve as a killing field.

Even the tranquil Arizona desert transforms almost overnight from a thing of beauty to a vast geographical barrier separating the hotel from the rest of the outside world. Somehow, the Thurmans have been stranded at this freakish resort with no escape from its insanities.

What’s more, they aren’t even sure they want to escape. The hotel is doing something to them, sedating them, placating them. But why and for what? The Thurman family must discover the truth before time expires and the Reata descends into pure madness.

Bentley Little is the author of more than a dozen short stories and twenty-two novels, including The Revelation (1990), The Town (2000), and The Disappearance (2010). He’s a two-time recipient of the Bram Stoker award. Stephen King has even dubbed him “the horror poet laureate,” and this reader could not agree more. Little is a master at contorting the events of daily life into abomination, and you can just tell the man finds glee in doing it. So if you take your horror novels with heaping tablespoons of degeneracy and violence, Bentley Little is here to serve.

The Resort was published in mass-market paperback by Signet and is 400 pages brimming with warped enjoyment.

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About Jon Erbar