"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Worm on a Hook


Well, I finally went and did it – I published my new book Worm on a Hook. I want to be a little vague, but basically it’s a horror story about a group of friends who rent a cabin for Memorial Day weekend and run afoul of a seemingly-invincible killer back from the dead. And then, I promise you, it’s on. The goal was to find overlap in the conventions of traditional slasher movies and the ’80s and ’90s action I love, and meld them into one ass-kicking novel. I’m very proud of the results, and I think you’ll not only enjoy the story but get a kick out of spotting the ways I apply concepts from reviews and Seagalogy to my own storytelling.

I hope to find this one a bigger audience than I’ve managed for Niketown, so forgive me for going into promotions mode for a bit and leaving this as a sticky post above the new reviews. I’m available for podcasts and interviews – email me at outlawvern@hotmail.com for inquiries. And if you read it, let me know what you think!


NOTE: If you’re outside of the U.S. your local version of Amazon should have it too – try searching for “worm on a hook vern” to find it.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 5th, 2020 at 10:21 am and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

115 Responses to “Worm on a Hook”

  1. Aaaaaaaand ordered. I was considering the Kindle version, but went with the physical copy. Should be there by Friday. (Don’t expect an opinion soon. I’m a slow reader when it comes to books.)

  2. I ordered it! Looks like a perfect October read. Hopefully I can actually do that and send in my book report.

  3. And congratulations on novel #2! In 2020! A feat of excellence!

  4. Just ordered my copy!

    When can we expect the Audible version!?

  5. Copped. Fuck yes

  6. Ordered my copy from the widget so as to maximize the kickback. That cover is a thing of beauty.

    Full disclosure: I was lucky enough to read an early draft of this a few years ago. It’s taken all of my willpower not to blab about it until now. It is jam-packed with awesome and I can’t wait to see how the final version came out. If somebody just filmed it as is and managed not to fuck it up, it would probably be my favorite movie ever. This crowd is gonna love it.

  7. Ordered from your link. Can’t wait to read it.

  8. Congrats, Vern! I plan to order it when I get home and cycle it into this year’s Halloween reading list.

  9. Well it’s either this or re-read IT for the 10th October in a row, so I just picked it up on Kindle!

  10. I really liked Niketown (and also Seagology and Yippe Kay Yea), and obviously I enjoy this site quite a bit. So, do you feel like you’ve gotta be into horror much to enjoy this, or will appreciation for your voice carry the day? Because I mostly don’t like horror believe it or not and will be less tuned into the things you’re probably commenting on in the book.

    But then again I don’t particularly like Seagal movies either (or watch very many of them) and I laughed my ass off with Seagology.

  11. heartfelt congrats, Vern! way to show 2020 that you weren’t going to take this shit lying down. was just wondering if there was an alternative sight to purchase from as Amazon won’t ship it to Australia??

  12. Hell yeah! Congratulations!!

  13. Ben: I think you’ll be okay. It’s got as much action/thriller in its DNA as it does horror. Think of it as an action movie with a slasher in it, like SILENT RAGE or COBRA, not a slasher movie with some action in it. Also it’s got Vern’s humor and personality to it. I don’t think you have to be a horror guy to enjoy it.

  14. Cool. I’m definitely reading this.

    Vern, which way can we order it and get the most money to you?

  15. Hey Vern,

    Check your email.

  16. Ordered! Looking forward to reading, congrats Vern

  17. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 5th, 2020 at 11:09 pm

    Congrats!! Just ordered a physical copy as well!

  18. Thanks everybody!

    Ben – I’m not sure what you’ll think, but no, you don’t have to be familiar with the horror genre. I wouldn’t say I’m commenting on it but I’m definitely trying to follow certain traditions, some of them obvious even if you don’t watch much horror (like setting it on a holiday).

    Mixalot – It’s on the Australian Amazon too:


    Now, if anybody’s objection to Amazon is moral unfortunately I don’t have an answer to that yet – they own the service I used for self-publishing. I want to have at least an ebook available elsewhere, but there were unanticipated formatting issues with that.

    Marc – Thanks for asking. The best possible way is to go through my links (like in this post or on Twitter) because then I get royalties + tiny affiliate percentage. But it’s a small difference.

  19. It’s also on German Amazon, god knows how that works. I picked it for reasons of fast delivery over the US one, otherwise I would’ve used your afilliate link, but “In these uncertain times” I always expect that my mail gets lost in the shuffle before it even leaves the States.

  20. thank you kindly!

  21. Congratulations! Can’t wait to read it.

  22. Instant purchase from me. Looking forward to it, Vern.

  23. Ordered. Sounds terrific!

  24. FUCK YES. I’m looking forward to the ebook as there’s no way to get a physical copy now. Is Niketown available on ebook in a way where you get some extra money from the purchase?

  25. Ordered two! One for me, one for the homies. Probably won’t be the last copies I buy either. I’m so excited! Kinda wish you were a full time novelist, you have this Charles Willeford quality that I adore.

  26. Hell yeah! Christmas has come early. Will order a copy soon.
    I look forward to reading this. Absolutely loved your Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer book.

  27. Hearty congratulations Vern! have your Yippee Ki-Yay and SEAGALOGY sitting on my shelves and expect your latest to join them soon as I’ve placed my order on Amazon. Well not that soon, as I’m way over the other end of the world in Malaysia so maybe 2-3 weeks before I get my hooks around this worm.

  28. Wow! Max congrats!!

  29. Congrats, Vern! Easiest decision to order something in a while. Just finished Niketown and really enjoyed it so I am looking forward to this joint.

  30. Bought it through your link so you get the sale AND the affiliate credit. How meta is that?

  31. Sounds great, Vern. Paperback ordered!

  32. Just ordered my copy. This is going to be so rad (do the kids still say that?).

  33. Can’t wait to read this! I bought Niketown earlier this year for one of my pandemic reads (read it right after The Grifters, which made a nice pairing) and enjoyed it, so I get to have 2 great Vern yarns this year!

    Does anybody else hear Michael Wincott in The Crow’s voice when they read the title? Just me?

  34. Oh hey, I got a new book in the mail today! Can’t wait to dig in!

  35. Just bought a copy from your widget link thingy, I’m stoked to inhale it with my eyeballs. Thanks for serving us all this top shelf excellence, Vern!

  36. Congratulations! Ordered the paperback copy. I’ve just finished Brian De Palmas first novel and can now enjoy some autumn evenings with WORM ON A HOOK. The story sounds great, the cover art looks terrific and I’m a huge fan of your writing style and taste. I hope we can expect some genre typical sequels!

  37. One successful order and delivery here in the UK.

  38. Pacman2.0 – how did you do that? I can’t get it through UK Amazon at all!

  39. I like the little aside about him needing “a more professional website”.

  40. Thanks mate! The link worked a treat. I have no idea why I was just getting a ‘this title is not yet available’ banner instead. Anyway, looking forward to reading this next weekend.

  41. You’re welcome, enjoy!

  42. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 10th, 2020 at 8:09 am

    Yay, my copy from German Amazon just dropped on the mat!

  43. About halfway through, so no (serious) comments on the novel yet, but I was really hoping to see a bunch of characters with names like Subtlety, and PacMan, and CJ, and Winchester, and Majestyk, and so on. I am crying real crocodile tears over this.

  44. You have to read between the lines. Clearly, my analog is the Budweiser frog.

  45. I’m still stuck in chapter 1, but it’s 100% my fault. I just don’t find the time to read. At least when NIKETOWN came out, I had to commute daily on a train and had lots of dead air inbetween.

  46. Just finished it not 5 minutes ago. I’ve actually had a weird block about reading long form prose fiction since all the lockdown/Covid business. Non-graphic novels just haven’t been able to pull me in, I’d get 30 pages in and drop them even if they were great.

    Worm on a Hook broke that run so hard.

    I won’t go into why as it’s really one of those things where probably the less you know going in the better, but I flat out adored it and I’m certain I’ll read it again.

    Vern, congratulations on an excellent book and thank you for breaking that very long spell for me. All future Vern novels are now automatic preorders.

  47. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 17th, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    Just wanted to mention I finished the book today as well and it’s a hell of an enjoyable read. Well done, Vern! I’ve got some spoiler-free notes, will just list them below.

    – Stoneback is a fantastic creation, cool name, great backstory, sick kills! If this ever gets turned into a movie I’m thinking Spencer Wilding might be a good candidate (bad guy from GREEN STREET 3). Big dude, knows martial arts and is used to acting under lots of monster make-up.
    – You really excel at writing believable and natural sounding banter between the characters, and making them seem real in general. This is great, because it makes their death scenes hurt extra (especially since they’re all brutal as hell!)
    – Loved the badass main character/hero. I could muse about casting here as well but that might be a spoiler.
    – Also, although he’s probably not old enough, while reading I was seeing Woods in my mind as being portrayed by Richard Brake.
    – I’m sure I missed some, but the many references to movies, action/slasher movie tropes and your own stuff made me chuckle several times.
    – Only minor negative point: I think the pacing could probably have been improved a little by cutting down the number of hero/Stoneback confrontations that happen before the climax, as there was a bit of a repetitive rhythm to them. Hero tries something new, doesn’t work, fight gets interrupted in some way.
    – Also, this may be me, but during the climax the hero yells out something I feel they could not have possibly known about – unless I just missed something. Anyways, it’s really minor stuff, the book was a blast!

    I really hope someone takes you up on that podcast/interview thing, because I’d love to hear more about what went into writing this thing, how the little details came together, what research you put into it (weapons, MMA, location, tons more I imagine) plus how you handled the self-publishing, arranged for the cover etc.

    This book is honestly inspiring me to do something I’ve been trying to push myself to do for the past 14 years: go back to writing. I used to write lots of stuff, then self-published a sci-fi fantasy novel in 2006 and, demotivated by the lack of response, never went back. Worm on a Hook in a lot of ways is similar to what I’d like to be writing myself, and gives me that feeling that I should just stop overthinking shit and start typing some words.

  48. Thank you, Undefeated Gaul! I would love to discuss all that with someone. I really haven’t had a detailed conversation about the book other than with the two people who read it and gave notes before publication. I’ll be excited to do it.

  49. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 18th, 2020 at 2:05 am

    Well I don’t have a podcast or even a website/blog, but I’d happily have an e-mail conversation about this stuff. I’m genuinely interested in how you got it all together. I don’t know if you go into much detail on the Zebras in America podcast, but I’ll be sure to check out that episode as well!

  50. Finished it yesterday, and it was a blast. It was my second time reading it, but the first time I had my editor hat on and that tends to take the fun out of it when you’re sitting there weighing the pros and cons of every adverb. This time I just got to enjoy it. Much like someone above mentioned, I’ve had a hard time getting sucked into a book lately, probably because the ongoing slow motion bus crash that the world has become has completely fucked my attention span. That wasn’t a problem with WOAH. I can’t tell you what a pleasure it was to wake up in the morning and actually be excited to have a book to read. It was fast-paced and always on the go, helped immeasurably by perfectly bite-sized chapters that kept you wanting to read one more and an ingenious story structure that kept introducing new elements right when the hack-slash-repeat format of the main plot might be starting to get monotonous. The characters all delineated themselves well without the author having to tell you what they were like; their motivations and behavior were enough for the reader to form his own opinion. I particularly enjoyed the glimpses we got into Stoneback’s head, which is something we never get from a slasher film unless the slasher is a monologuist which, thank god, Stoneback is not. I thought his gradual transformation into a not-quite-mindless killer was believable and well done. And of course the action and gore was a hoot. I’d watch this movie a hundred times.

    When I recommend it to people, I think I’ll describe it as “If FIRST BLOOD was a slasher movie and the killer and the victim were both Rambo.”

  51. Thanks Majestyk! The short chapters are on account of my own poor reading habits. I always find it easier to get through a book when I can keep saying “Oh, just a couple pages and I’m at the next chapter.” And I’m glad people are noticing the FIRST BLOOD stuff. Maybe it’s obvious, but Stoneback making a poncho out of a tarp was one homage to it. At one point I took detailed notes on Rambo’s journey through the movie and wanted to make Stoneback’s exactly parallel it, but then I decided that was too much.

  52. caruso_stalker217

    October 18th, 2020 at 7:02 pm

    Just finished this and really enjoyed it. Here are some stray thoughts and observations before my lunch break wraps up:
    Never seen a pre-title action sequence in a book before. Awesome!
    I appreciate that the douchebag 20-somethings are actual sympathetic people and not just cannon-fodder. Like a greatest hits of my favorite Friday the 13th characters, except some of these ones get to live!
    (Seriously, why do all the cool people get offed in those movies and we get stuck with some lame-o Laurie Strode clone? Or Tommy Jarvis??)
    Cool protagonist, too. (no spoilers)
    Your sacrifice completes my sanctuary of 1,000 testicles.

    There are a few criticisms too but also other nice things that I’ll save for my Amazon review.


  53. I must ask…have you seen the Bruce Willis commercial for Die Hard batteries? Argyle got old. But the commercial is pretty good.

  54. Ordered your new book and a copy of “Niketown”. Looking forward to reading them

  55. Got it a last week, started to read it with my son yesterday.

    He’s thirteen and dyslexic, so it’s pretty hard to find books that engage him- we typically start three or four novels before we find something that he wants to stick with . I’m happy to say he’s well and truly… hooked. I’m sure no one has made that joke ever.
    When we finished the prologue and got to the title: “Just like in a movie!”

  56. Wow, thanks for telling me that. It did not occur to me that anybody would read it with their kid. That makes me so happy. I needed that.

  57. Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this, particularly the villain’s origin story (origin stories are always the best part). Also, an island beer festival sounds fantastic, as long as a hulked-out, disavowed, genetic-monstrosity, kill-monster doesn’t show up.

  58. This might sound a little counterintuitive, but I just want to take a second here to sincerely appreciate that Vern has pinned this ad for WORM ON A HOOK at the top of the page. First, because I have been meaning to buy this book for weeks but have been really busy with work and if that wasn’t at the top of the page every time I came here I would have forgotten about it. (I bought it yesterday and can’t wait to read it.) Second, because this is visual proof of how proud Vern is of his work, and that makes me really happy to see — not that Vern hasn’t made work he should be proud of in the past, but that he has built the confidence to own this one in a different way. I think it speaks to how Vern has grown over the years and I’m here for it.

  59. Thank you for saying that. I was just worrying about if I should unpin it before people get too sick of it.

  60. Yeah, keep it pinned, Vern! I’ve been looking forward to WOAH for literal years and it still took me a few weeks to get a copy.

    The book, by the way, is an utter joy. From beginning to end. (I described it to a friend as “sort of like early Steven King meets Steven Seagal” and she replied, “My two favorite Stevens!”) You deserve to be so proud. The goal you set out to accomplish is met in spectacular fashion, and then exceeded, and then exceeded again. Effortlessly engaging, sincerely told, and knowingly hilarious. It’s put together with expert craftsmanship and loving detail, and while I’m not half the scholar of badass studies that you are, I’d say it represents, embraces and furthers the traditions of badass storytelling with unmitigated success. And on top of all that, it’s clearly your singular work for how well and how naturally it communicates a profound understanding of human behavior and an abiding respect for the difference that can be made by a person’s attitude. It couldn’t have been written by anyone else.

    *mild spoilers follow*

    One of my favorite things about it was how everyone (aside from Florence) had some aspect of themselves that was unlikeable. I liked seeing how that played out as a part of their arc. It never exactly defined anybody, or outweighed their humanity, but it was still a huge part of who they were. And if they were aware of it on a factual level, they were always unaware, sometimes fatally, of its true obnoxiousness. It’s funny, super relatable for how people tend to be, and it also keeps you guessing in a slasher story.

    Doesn’t look like anyone mentioned Gianni yet. He is worth a few words here, as his speech about grief and pain made me weep openly. It was a show-stopping moment. Funny too– of course it’s funny to have the drunken idiot drop the heavy wisdom before returning to his regularly scheduled idiocy– but am I reaching here when I take not only what he says, but the fact that it’s him saying it and not a more likeable character, as a nod to the ridiculous cosmic joke that is our life? Like: you never know who you’re going to learn something from, or have a moment of connection with, or who’s going to surprise you. It might be a fucking idiot! And yet the past and future idiocy of that same idiot is made no less idiotic for that moment of connection. It rings so incredibly true, and I loved it, both as a moment in and of itself but also (really, especially) as a part of a story about a back-from-the-dead killing machine whose only weakness is maximum firepower. Gianni also earned what was probably my biggest laugh of the book with his throwaway misidentification of Holy Mountain as Taken 2. He is, I believe, what today’s young people refer to as “a real one,” and I was delighted to see him die.

    Obviously the book is cinematic as fuck, in the best way. I’m an obsessively visual reader and there were many moments where I felt like I was reading a loving description of a shot in a movie. Like, the image of Florence zooming up the inclined rock on the motorbike and swiping the machete in midair at Stoneback’s neck while he swings the hook at the bike and makes a shower of sparks when he connects?? Jesus christ! Dynamite! And there were many others. Stoneback’s various damage-incurred transformations had me thinking about old McFarlane Toys designs (but I only just made that connection as I was writing this).

    Too soon to ask if there’s any plans to seek a life for this thing beyond the page? If it was adapted into the first (?) female-lead MMA-star movie that wasn’t just a straight actioner, I’d be telling everyone I know to see it!

  61. Thank you, psychic_hits, that’s so nice of you. I really appreciate what you said about the characters being flawed, especially Gianni, because I knew there was a big risk of falling into that trap of unlikable slasher movie characters. But I felt like he could be the type of guy I sometimes knew when I was younger, who’s an asshole and embarrasses you all the time but you still kind of like him. The entire character was inspired by a drunk guy I saw yelling “Show us your boobs!” at some roller derby skaters leaving a bout. My wife kind of told him off and he gave a condescending apology that had something to do with people in the world needing to relax and love each other. (I just confirmed that she remembers this too and I didn’t imagine it.) But yeah, I thought having a very human and sincere bonding moment with someone like that would be meaningful. I’m so glad you liked it.

    And yes, of course I dream of it becoming a movie, and I know my top choices for director and star. Hopefully my copy of The Secret isn’t on the fritz.

  62. I’ve just finished reading WORM ON A HOOK and can only say that my immediate reaction is a big grin on my face and a warm feeling of deep satisfaction. It was a pure joy to read this book. I loved it so much that I wouldn’t be able to give a clear-headed analysis or point out flaws at the moment. For that I have to read it a second time.

    The characters, the dialogue, the love for the genre, for writing and storytelling in general, the amount of insight to the characters and the distribution of information – everything clicked for me. It was a wonderful rollercoaster with the perfect mix of inventiveness and homage, tragedy and crazyness, heart and fun, real humanity and pure cinema.

    After reading your reviews for many years I am still in awe of what you have to offer as a storyteller. I can’t wait to read your next book.

  63. I got the book for Christmas and just finished reading it. Great stuff, the stuff with the HOLY MOUNTAIN DVD cracked me up twice.

  64. Got my copy and finally finished the library books i had ahead of it. Already 100 pages in and loving it.

    In my head Hardwood is Tom Atkins circa 1985.

    Even though its not the case, I’m gonna go ahead and assume Adam’s surname is an homage to me. (Or Psycho Granny).

  65. Yes, Tom Atkins – exactly the type I had in mind. I pictured a fictional guy in my head but I’m sure he morphed into Atkins on occasion.

    There *is* a reference in Adam’s name, but it’s a completely nonsensical one coming from an ’80s cartoon involving a planet of themed musclemen.

  66. Vern – congrats again on the book. I finally got around to reading it over the holidays and enjoyed it quite a bit. I did hold off on commenting until I re-read Niketown; it’s been a few years but I remembered enjoying that one a lot more and on second read that is definitely the case. I liked WOAH but loved Niketown. A lot of that is probably down to personal preference – I’m not much of a horror/slasher fan and I gravitate toward crime/mystery, especially in books. I am very curious about your process though – like was one of the books harder/longer to write? Do you like either of them better? Did you write them one after the other or were you working on both at the same time? Also, who does the covers of your books because they look fucking awesome. Like if I randomly saw these at a store and didn’t know who”Vern” was I would probably go ahead and buy it just for the cover.

    To me, reading WOAH felt more like a screenplay and was very straight ahead, whereas Niketown went off in lots of different directions, kept me guessing and had a great overarching theme to it. I don’t mean that as a criticism, I enjoyed WOAH and don’t have anything negative to say about it, I just think Niketown is a much more impressive work. So anyone hear that hasn’t read it yet (if that’s somehow possible) definitely needs to check it out.

    One of the things that made me laugh in WOAH is when a guy is rummaging through the recycling for a weapon and stops to think “What are you doing – cork isn’t recyclable”. And then I laughed again because of course cork is recyclable. And then like half an hour later…”Hey Alexa is cork recyclable?” Learn something new everyday. Next you’re going to tell me that a ROAD HOUSE sequel actually exists!

    Oh and maybe a dumb question – in Niketown, there are two detectives named Wood and Harris. Was that deliberate or a happy coincidence? Were you watching THE WIRE when you wrote it?

  67. Mine arrived here to Finland today from German Amazon, very excited to get this going

  68. I admit I still haven’t read it and it’s because I can’t find it anymore. No worries, it’s somewhere in my bedroom, but in one of many huge piles of books, CDs and DVDs. Kinda started housecleaning mid-November but wasn’t able to finish it for several reasons.

  69. CJ, I’m sure it would be fine if you bought another copy!

  70. *fingerguns at The Winchester*

  71. Hey, Vern – I thought of emailing you this question, but then I figured others might benefit from seeing the potential reply too.

    Would you be willing to talk a bit about your path to getting your fictional work published?

    The reason I ask is, I finished a satirico-horror novella at the very beginning of this year, and it’s the first book-length piece of writing I’ve managed to complete after a very long period of time trying. I’m wondering how to proceed in a halfway intelligent way. I gather the length is a liability for most agents (it’s only 40000 words), but I’m not ready to let that discourage me yet.

    Any wisdom or experiences you have to share will be appreciated!

  72. Psychic – unfortunately I have literally no experience with agents or submissions. Both of my novels are self-published, and my books at Titan came through no initiative on my part (a very cool editor there read my self-published version of Seagalogy and got them to buy the rights). I really like having everything under my control, but it’s a pretty stupid approach because I don’t really know how to expand much beyond my readership here. There was a time when I considered shopping Worm on a Hook around, but since I finished it during the pandemic when people were reading more but not going to bookstores as much it seemed like the timing was right for more self-publishing.

    All this is to say I hope someone else responds with some advice for you, because I could probly use it too! I mostly just use The Secret, and I don’t even believe in it.

  73. Oh right on, well thanks for the reply – I was misremembering that you’d mentioned an agent or publisher in the past but I must have been thinking of that editor. Keep venerating your copy of The Secret and I’ll keep pushing the Hollywood types I know to read WOAH!

  74. Just finished WORM ON A HOOK.

    Loved it!

    It resides at that sweet junction where the Slasher and Action genre commingle effortlessly and it reminded me of a little seen action/slasher hybrid called THE HORDE (what if redneck cannibals kidnapped a camping group and the One That Got Away happens to possess the survival instincts and lethal ass-kicking skills of a John Rambo?)

    There are books which read like action movies, but yours effectively captures the JOY of watching action movies, helped enormously of course by the propulsive narrative (it’s really, really, really hard to write action sequences, but you do it so well) topped off with some pretty groovy Easter Eggs.

    A dirt bike speeding up a hill, a poncho made out of tarpaulin…I take it in your list of all time Great Action flicks, FIRST BLOOD would easily crack the Top 5?

    And when you dropped Val Verde into the narrative, no self-respecting action fan WOULDN’T get a warm fuzzy feeling deep down in their stomachs.

    A minor, minor quibble: I found it a tad overlong, especially in the set up of the unusually large cast and I would have traded a few pages of their domestic shenanigans for more on Stoneback and the Hero’s backstories.

    Well done Vern, and I eagerly look forward to your next thriller!

  75. Thank you KayKay! That’s very nice of you. Yes, the poncho was very much a deliberate FIRST BLOOD reference. I think there were other ones I’ve forgotten.

    And I have added THE HORDE to my watchlist.

  76. Finally purchased and read this. Vern, many congrats on bringing this world to life! It’s familiar and fresh and confident. I also purchased NIKETOWN and look forward to reading it soon, too. Keep at it, Vern. May the Vern oeuvrening continue!

  77. Finally bought this – not sure what the hell I’ve been waiting for!
    Can’t wait!

  78. Don’t think I’ve ever actually posted here, but I’ve followed Vern since his AICN days and have often mentioned to those around me (whether they cared or not to ask) that he has long been my undisputed GOAT of the reviewing world. His turn of phrase and sense of humour simply never fail to bring out the smiles and make me laugh out loud whether I am in the mood or not.

    I’m also familiar with (a fan of you might say) all the regular faces in the comments, and thus this is one of the few remaining sites where I bother to actively invest/enjoy the comments section. Kinda shocked it even still exists in such a positive state.

    That said it’s been a solid year or more since I’ve visited this site and only just discovered he even wrote this book. So big ups on keeping this pinned or it would likely have passed me by. Because to say I am EXCITED to read this would be an understatement.

    Only thing is, for the-way-I-live-my-life reasons I completely lack the time to ever “read” a book. Instead I listen to them all the time via Audible etc. Now, this doesn’t appear to have an audio book, so of course I have immediately purchased the ebook and will, for the first time since whenever-it-was I purchased Seagalogy, sit down with my iPad and savour the hell out of this.

    Cheers from a fan-for-life down Sydney way.

  79. Thank you, Pathos! I hope you enjoy it or at least it doesn’t ruin books for you.

  80. Hi Vern,

    This will be too much information but here goes.

    I used to read at a rate of about a book every few weeks. I think I mostly must have done it on my commute though, because I have read nothing since March 2020. This book brought me back to reading, so thank you.

    I loved it, I caught all the references and all the bits of ‘you’ in it. My brother is in hospital dying and I was reading it at his bedside. It made me smile and in the moments he has been lucid I told him some
    of it. He agreed it sounded cool but was confused and thought I was talking about a movie. I hope someday it will be.

    Been reading since the AICN days and you have genuinely helped me grow as a person- that’s good writing! Please keep it up.

  81. Wow, thank you SuperJim, that’s quite a compliment. I’m sorry to hear about your brother. Take care of yourself.

  82. My copy arrives tomorrow

  83. Howdy Vern,

    First of all don’t unpin the post, let it stay up for at least a year. Buy the dang book people!

    Second of all ***don’t read this if you haven’t read WORM ON A HOOK*** as I’ve got da spoilers.

    I enjoyed this quite a bit. I am not a big slasher guy but I am a big action guy and all of this was excellent. I am sorry to say that I am a very stupid person who took around 4 pages to figure out what the hell happened to Florence after she fell into that pit (I thought she was somehow pulled from the pit, drugged, and trained to be a cage fighter, then came to her senses after a match? yes I figured out it was a flashback eventually but boy howdy was I briefly confused!)

    I know you’re probably sick of hearing “I liked Niketown more” but let me at least tell you why Niketown edged this out for me – because Niketown isn’t full of relatively nice people getting murdered in gruesome ways. I mean jeeeeezus I was expecting more of a build-up but Stoneback didn’t waste any time at all and was wasting those poor fools within a few dozen pages of meeting them. You actually probably did too good of a job writing Real Human Beings and so when Stoneback did his “fun” kills on them…they weren’t much fun. When somebody is a cardboard cut-out of a trope, a mountain bike getting driven through their head is amusing. When they are a cowardly dipshit who is trying their best to be a good guy and failing, not so much. And that BJJ scene – I felt terrible for the dude. I was really hoping Stoneback would spare him when he tapped (because the guy had tried to do the right thing by saving the dipshit with the gun, and the book seemed to have at least some moral center in it) but maybe that was the point. Machete don’t Tweet and Stoneback don’t respect taps.

    Speaking of Stoneback I appreciated that he was a freakish combination of Commando, Rambo, The Predator, and Jason. Much like Blade, he had all their strengths and none of their weaknesses. I also liked how, when he really started getting his ass kicked, he started using guns! Finally, a slasher who isn’t too good to try to gat his victims. I have to confess that at the end of the book I was a little bit disconnected from his fate, because he literally had his fuckin’ head chopped off and still kept going (as a STEMlord dipshit I did love that you made him have to get electricity in order to regenerate. The mass and energy didn’t just come from nowhere). That was a bit more than my suspension of disbelief could handle but it ended with the image of his headless corpse trundling up from the ground and firing a machine gun – absolutely worth it, and any reference to a Warren Zevon song redeems a lot.

    Florence was a great hero – I was genuinely surprised when she started up her game plan – and once I realized we were getting a “just how badass is she?” flashback I started chortling. But you did a great job of also keeping her human and not making the novel about two stone-faced rock-minded killers at war with each other, so that was great. She had grit and tenacity, and Stoneback scared the hell out of her but she hated him so much she had to keep going after him! That made me cheer for her, even though I was afraid he was going to get her in the end.

    I know that you were trying to combine these two genres together and my verdict as an Anonymous Internet Doofus is that you succeeded without sliding into pastiche. The prose was very evocative, the plot was very tight, the action scenes were extremely creative, varied, and well-composed, the characters were sketched very tightly with just enough detail to make them real. This was a fun and breezy read and I confess that it took me about 3 months to read the first 12 chapters and then once Stoneback got down to business I flew through it in 2 afternoons. Be proud, Vern! This is staying in my collection for a re-read in 15 years.

  84. Crushinator Jones

    September 9th, 2021 at 3:13 pm

    Also the post by “Crushin” above should be by me, your old pal Crushinator Jones. Don’t know what happened there but I can’t edit it so….

  85. Thank you so much for the detailed comments. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Despite so many years of watching and reading different types of horror I was surprised by the challenge of creating characters who are going to be killed. I wanted you to like them (even if they make a bad first impression) and root for them to get away. But I found that *I* liked them and it made me feel awful when I had to kill them. I definitely planned to have fewer survivors at the end, but it felt like too much of a bummer to kill all or most of them. Still, I really didn’t think it would be preferable to read about a group of dickheads who “deserve” to die in horror terms, and that doesn’t really fit the world view I was trying to convey either. Even the moron who snuck a gun into the beer festival and tried to shoot Stoneback but hit an innocent bystander meant well, in my view. But bad things happen sometimes.

    I know it’s possible to make it work, because I sure don’t want Drew Barrymore or Rose McGowan to die when I watch SCREAM, and I still have fun every time. So if I write something like this again I’ll give it another crack.

  86. Clicked on this pinned post to say I bought this and Niketown last year but seeing it still pinned and referenced in the Friday the 13th review series makes me want to read it again!

  87. I finally read Worm on a Hook and want to add to the praise here. This is a really good pulp novel that deserves to be better known. If anyone reading this hasn’t gotten a copy yet, I strongly encourage you to do so.

    In particular, I’m impressed how Vern managed to create so many believable characters with whom I felt connected. Last year, I read the Romero/Kraus novel The Living Dead. I enjoyed it, but knowing it was going to have a high body count kept me at a bit of a distance from the characters. WoaH was obviously going to kill off a lot of its characters, too, but somehow I managed to connect to them anyway. Great characterization, Vern!

    I thought the burning of the docks was an amazing Oh Shit It’s On moment. Yet another example of how cinematic this book is, in the best possible way.

    Are there any plans for spinoff stories about the further adventures of The Bitch Squad? It would be like a globe-trotting action adventure version of an Andrew Vachss story.

  88. Thank you so much. So far my novels have taken me years to write, so realistically I can’t promise anything. But the Bitch Squad is one of the things I would like to explore more if I came up with the right idea. And of course I would love to find more adventures for Florence.

  89. finished it just now- WOW! truly two great tastes that taste great together- I demand a movie adaptation immediately

  90. Sorry it took me nearly 2 years to do so, but I finally ordered myself a copy of this today. Looking forward to starting a read!

  91. So Vern, my apologies for being a bit late to the party on this one – but I’ve finally read this. And it was terrific!


    Well I love films I am first and foremost a “book reader type individual,” a borrow a quote from your FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE review. So I was very impressed with the novel. For me it had a lot of echoes of fiction from the mid 80s – early 90s ‘splatter punk’ horror sub-genre – and maybe a cousin to some of David Morrell’s thrillers.

    Great villain and worthy heroine.

    I really appreciated the care you put into the supporting cast, Gianni being the highlight. The entire scene beginning with the female mountain biker/Stephanie/Kim/Gianni – the dialogue where the girls open up about themselves was multi-dimensional and quite touching. Kudos. And then the inventive use of a bike fork – slasher movie heaven. lots of grisly/inventive kills – not never pornographically violent. A good mix of gleeful and restrained.

    And I appreciated so many of the ‘Easter eggs.’

    Of course it all began down near Val Verde – of course they were gonna need a lot of body bags – of course somebody makes use of a tarpaulin poncho – of course it involves at one point men on a mission just trying to get to the choppa – of course there was some jibber jabber. Fan f*****’tastic.

    I’m sure there was plenty I missed.

    You had a lot of characters – all nicely economically described and delineated and unique – numerous plot strands that you effectively balanced and carried through the story to satisfying conclusions. You certainly seemed to find a great modern analogue for potential victims – replacing randy teens with hipster craft beer drinkers.

    As a very fast reader the length didn’t bother me – some of that was I think your commitment to following through on so many characters/plots/attention to narrative detail. If anything it felt like the novelistic equivalent of a directors cut.

    I would welcome a sequel.

  92. Thank you Alan, I really appreciate it. It’s especially nice that you mentioned liking that conversation because those are the hardest type of scene for me to write and I’m never sure if I pulled it off or not.

    I’m fond of the mountain bike kill too.

  93. Hi Vern

    I started reading it back when the book came out, and after a few pages I decided to read it with my son. I mentioned this way back when and just realized I’d never followed up until I saw the book this morning.
    My son is dyslexic – it’s not too severe, but it hits him hardest with his attention span. It’s impossible to get him to read (and understand) more than a couple of paragraphs, and it’s hard enough to get him to pay attention to us reading to him for more than ten minutes at a time. As a life-long avid reader, that kills me, and we’re constantly on the lookout for stuff that might engage him. I thought WoaH would be perfect for him since the prose is straightforward and it’s full of likeable characters and cinematic moments.

    And it wend down really well! He loved it and was really into it… right until the old guy (Hardwood, I think? Florence’s hired help/old war buddy) gets killed by Stoneback.
    For whatever reason he latched onto that character hard, even coming up with an ending where the old man helped kill Stoneback (by getting mortally wounded, but biting Stoneback’s foot and not letting go until Florence arrives and finishes the job; He was really excited about that! I tried to get him to write the scene out so I could send it over, but he demurred…)
    With Hardwood(?) dead he kind of lost interest. We made it a ways after that to the setup for the finale but by then he clearly wasn’t invested and his mind was wandering too much, so that was it (I finished it on my own and told him how it ended.)
    Because of his AD, he will start thinking of something else while we’re reading – we need to monitor him constantly to see if he’s paying attention, and often have to backtrack. It also helps to take time-outs and talk about the book and what’s happening at the moment, which was really easy with Hook since we could discuss how it mirrored the type of movies my son enjoys (action mostly – horror, not as much). If he’s engaged he’ll be thinking about the book (that’s how he came up with Hardwood’s scene above – the attack on the police station also generated a lot of discussion), but if not he’ll start asking random questions and changing the subject.

    Still, he stuck with it way more than most books we try and enjoyed it a lot, so thank you for that! And personally, I loved it. Though you have to admit the alternative ending does sound kind of cool.

  94. Ha, thanks for the update. It sounds like the character your son likes is Woods – Hardwood is the ex-cop at the beginning who thinks he’s a demonologist. I named Woods after an old man I knew at my day job who always wore hats for different military units and claimed to be some kind of special ops consultant. When he died his brother came in and he told us that was all bullshit (as I had suspected), but I thought I could make his bullshit real in my book. I’m sure he would enjoy biting Stoneback’s foot.

    Anyway, I gave it a shot, glad your son did too.

  95. Well I just finished “Worm on a Hook” the other night, I had started the book shortly after Christmas, but had to put it up for a minute, due to Life getting in the way of living, and although I liked the first half, I was surprisingly bummed by the time Stoneback came around and started dispatching the characters who I was just getting to like.

    I knew it was a slasher action hybrid before I started reading it, and the scene on the construction site, let me know that Stoneback wasn’t fucking around, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised when the plot starts kicking in.

    Three weeks later I was finally able to pick it up and had planned to finish it over the weekend, but goddamn I just finished it in a single sitting.

    I don’t know what I was expecting but I was pretty surprised how much of an action movie it turned into during the expository flashbacks, at first it was jarring, but then as the main story kept escalating and Vern would be throw us back to even further in the story and bring new shit to light, just put me in such a great fucking mood, by the time you start dedicating chapters to (Redacted)’s perspective, is when I knew that I loved this story.

    Vern – Even though I have been reading your reviews for close to two decades now, so I’m keenly aware how dearly you hold capturing the art and clarity in filmed action scenes, but goddamn dude, the way you WRITE action is insanely good. Worm and Niketown (which was also really good) both contain super memorable action set pieces, my favorites in each being: Florence baiting Stoneback at the cabin, and the Claustrophobic bar ambush.

    I hope that someday, a benevolent force will adapt this into a movie, a $50 million, 150 minute epic, with many heads being thrown, I know it’s probably an unreasonable ask of the universe, but I’d sure appreciate it.

  96. Thank you Windows, that’s what I’m going for! Obviously I wanted it to read like you were watching a movie, but I also felt like the flashbacks were a way to take advantage of the medium to do something they never would (and might not be able to afford) in an actual slasher movie. But now I realize if I ever did get to make it into a movie I would fight to keep that in because it’s what I like best about it.

  97. How are you feeling about the closure of the Niketown shoe store at the corner of Sixth & Pike this month, Vern?

  98. Oh wow, I didn’t know that. I can confirm that seeing people lined up in front of it was one of the inspirations for Niketown (the book), but the only time I ever went inside was to get an idea of the layout for writing about it. Due to childhood brainwashing by Run DMC I’ve always been stuck on Adidas.

    That said, it’s sad to hear in the sense that all of these downtown fixtures that seemed like they’d always be there have closed, and it’s not like they’re going to be replaced by local businesses. Macy’s, Old Navy, Barnes and Noble, most of Westlake (including the Starbucks!). And Cinerama of course. I heard they’re thinking about turning Pacific Place into office space, I will be crushed if that includes the theater.

  99. Hi Vern,

    Long-time reader/lurker, infrequent commenter. I just want to basically echo want everyone else has said in this thread. Read the novel in one sitting recently and you absolutely hit it out of the park! I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know.

    Apologies if this isn’t the place to do this, but I sent you an email about ten days ago and I’m not sure if you received it or if I should try again. Regardless, I’d really like to speak with you about a possible feature film adaptation of “Worm On A Hook”, if you’re interested. Cheers.

  100. Spoilers below!

    Hi Vern,

    Just finished WOAH last night! Loved it and like many others it was the first book to break me out of a reading lull too. I’ll echo a lot of the other sentiments and say that I thought you did a fantastic job with the dialogue and making the individual characters likable and well-rounded. You’re obviously a fan of a good set-up and I think the first section of the book did a great job of establishing the different characters and just building the setting of the island. You captured that long weekend at the cottage by the port town vibe very well.

    Minor thought, but I had assumed the paranormal investigator guy (some names escape me as I read a bit before bed over the course of a couple weeks) was going to be more of a major character. I don’t know if that was a misread on my part or something more intentional, like I thought he was going to have a role more like Florence’s for whatever reason, so his death caught me by surprise. There was also a very short bit with a downed helicopter closer to the end that I found quite confusing, but I think that was due to my reading pace and general forgetfulness. There was a very dreamy quality to that portion that I loved though.

    Something that I greatly enjoyed about it as well was the explanation for Stoneback’s powers. I’m an absolute sucker for that sweet spot where black ops and the supernatural collide. I loved the flashbacks for Florence and Stoneback, and they reminded me of some other modern horror authors like Laird Barron, or what you might find in a SNAFU collection (a series of military horror anthologies). IDK if they’re still making SNAFU books or if you’re into writing short fiction, but I feel like if you wrote something similar to that form you could easily get published in one of those!

    I haven’t picked up Niketown yet but I intend to do so soon, and I can’t wait for whatever you may choose to write next. I love your taste and over-all views on films and storytelling, and that has in turn influenced my own opinions as well. Your perspective really does stand out and it’s kept me as a reader for nearly a decade now. There are very few sites that I check as consistently as yours. Please never stop writing!

  101. Thanks Evan! Yes, it was my intention that the character of Hardwood would seem like he was going to be the hero of the book before you realize what’s really going on. I also tried to use him to establish that this is not a supernatural situation, you’re not going to be able to use a magical dagger or incantation to stop this guy. Although the character evolved into something different, the idea was inspired by that movie DELIVER US FROM EVIL, which was purported to be a true story about an NYPD officer who found out people were possessed by demons. It is both funny and terrifying to me that there apparently was a real cop going around talking that horse shit and allowed to still work that job, so it seemed like a fun thing to riff on.

  102. I enjoyed “Niketown” upon its release and have had “Worm on a hook” laying in my pile of books-to-be-read. Well, I finally got around to it and I was not prepared for how much I enjoyed it. Great job, Vern! This was definitely my most enjoyable reading experience this summer and if there ever is a sequel, like you’ve hinted at2, I’ll be first in line.

  103. Thank you Thomas, I appreciate it!

  104. I finally quit putting it off and read it. Fantastic stuff. The Stoneback POV section in the later part of the book is absolutely terrific. It’s the kind of thing I can’t picture working in a slasher movie the way it does in the written form. Way to take advantage of the medium!

    Bring on the sequel

  105. Thank you! I figured the same thing. If there was ever a movie I’d be fighting not to cut that down to one montage.

  106. Hi Vern, I’m super late to the game but ordered Worm On A Hook a couple months ago and have been waiting until Memorial Day weekend to read it. I basically read the majority of it yesterday and finished it last night. Man I loved it. Your style reminds me of Jack Ketchum (my 2nd favorite horror writer) a bit in the way that you both are so economical and leave no fat on the bone with your prose. Just excellent pacing. Florence Griggs (excellent badass name) was an awesome woman on a path of vengeance character who didn’t become a final girl necessarily as you thankfully spared a couple characters. I also appreciated like The Guest you didn’t over explain the super soldier experimentation on the SO team. Left just enough mystery there. And and example of haw well you wrote your characters. Darren was a character that ai was not invested in until the beach and his fight with the homeowner and then Stoneback. You took this very peripheral character and for me made it the maybe the most emotionally wrecking death in the book. The moment he tapped out really effected me and I wanted Stoneback to just let him go. I do have a question though if you don’t mind to respond. Did Stoneback have past training in training military dogs and found this stray that he trained as his pet/guard or did the German Shepherd just kind of adopt Stoneback and hang around his lair? Maybe a dumb question about their relationship but I was wondering if the dog’s death would have effected Stoneback at all?

    Anyway, loved it Vern. I ordered Niketown from your site link to read next and then will pick up your other two after that. Appreciate all you do and I can’t wait for your next book. If you ever write a WOAH sequel I’m picturing a Florence getting the team (Bitch Squad) back together montage to fight Stoneback. Or maybe even another ex member of Stoneback’s squad who also has the same poses to either help Florence or be an additional villain.

  107. Thank you Kyle, that’s very nice of you. I love that you waited until Memorial Day to read it, just like I watch certain horror movies around the holidays they depict. Who’s the horror writer you have above Ketchum?

    I’m glad you like the name Florence Griggs – because I (so far) take many years to write novels I had a ridiculously long time settling on the names. I think that one has the right balance of badass and feminine that I was looking for.

    My goal with some of the characters, including Darren, was to make them seem kind of like jerks at first and then make you change your mind about them. That made it harder for me to kill them off, though, and it gave me a different appreciation for horror movies. If you’re trying to keep it fun you have to make the audience/reader not want them to die but then not be too upset when they do.

    I have to admit it didn’t occur to me that he might’ve had experience with dogs in the military, but I like that explanation.

    Thanks again, I really appreciate you reading it and letting me know what you thought.

  108. Thanks for the response! I meant to add on top of Florence’s name her badass juxtaposition being a painter was a great touch.

    I’ve been an avid Stephen King fan since I was a kid so he’s my # 1 guy.

    And you’re very welcome. There is a locally owned horror themed bookstore north of me in Louisville called Butcher Cabin Books. I rock climb and one of the two owners is an author/rock climber. She wrote a rock climbing horror novel set in my state that I’m going to pick up from there soon. I would like to recommend your book to the owners to purchase/sell if that’s cool?

  109. Yeah, of course! I hope she doesn’t hate my rock climbing bits. One of many things I did more research on then you’d think but still could’ve easily gotten wrong.

    King would’ve been my guess. An obvious choice, but undeniable.

  110. Well not that it means anything but based off my experience climbing as a hobby, I think you covered the vernacular and described the movements/action really well. Free soloing would be terrifying enough, I would imagine, but to also have a supernatural killer dropping down small boulders at you while also climbing with or without a rope would be beyond nightmare fuel. I could definitely tell you had done your research. Movies I’ve watched especially can get it wrong and I was really glad to read a scene like that in your book.

    If you ever have any horror writer recommendations you post I’d love to hear them! Already putting together my 2024 Halloween season movie/book lists.

  111. @Kyle: Not to completely hijack the Worm on a Hook thread to talk about other authors, but since you asked, are you familiar with Adam L. G. Neville? I’ve read a few of his books since absolutely loving the film adaptation of The Ritual. His writing really puts you into the heads of his characters as they experience whatever horrors the novel has in store for them.

    Also, Vern’s books are great, and everyone reading this should buy copies for themselves and others. Thank you.

  112. @Mike V- thanks! Man I have not heard of him/read The Ritual although I watched the movie a few years ago and really enjoyed it as well. Solid folk horror. For the first couple of minutes I like “Is that the guy from Downton Abbey??”

    Would you recommend starting with The Ritual first or another of his?

    And yes very much agree on getting the word out/buying Vern’s book. I got two copies of WOAH originally (gotta have an extra for in case I can ever get an autograph) and I’ve got a buddy I just recommended it to who’s going to order as well. Niketown should be arriving today so got that start over the weekend. Thanks again!

  113. Niketown is great! I read it years ago and still think about certain concepts Vern put into that book to this day.

    As for Neville’s books, I decided to be a dork and read them in chronological order. I don’t dedicate enough time to reading novels, so thus far I’ve only read Banquet for the Damned, Apartment 16, and The Ritual (which is fairly different from the movie version). I’d say pick whichever story sounds the most interesting to you and start there.

  114. Awesome and will do. Thanks Mike V!

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