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Off Season

(Dead River Series #1)

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  10,462 ratings  ·  983 reviews
September. A beautiful New York editor retreats to a lonely cabin on a hill in the quiet Maine beach town of Dead River—off season—awaiting her sister and friends. Nearby, a savage human family with a taste for flesh lurks in the darkening woods, watching, waiting for the moon to rise and night to fall...

And before too many hours pass, five civilized, sophisticated people
Mass Market Paperback, 308 pages
Published June 2006 by Dorchester (first published 1980)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,462 ratings  ·  983 reviews

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May 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
*sighs* this seems like the time to quit reading cannibal stories and just rewatch tcm instead, until i die.
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it

While I really liked this book, I feel compelled to make a few introductory remarks before I discuss the specific merits of the story. I will give Mr. Ketchum the benefit of the doubt and say that I do not believe it was his intention in writing this book to come across as a snobby, elitist, “anti” cannibal bigot. However, the fact remains that this novel is yet another example of popular media perpetrating the negative stereotype of cannibalism. I fee
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Well, not the worst I’ve read. Guessed the plot within the first 40 pages, which I’m never able to do. I need to make better choices...
Dan Schwent
Feb 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
An editor goes to a remote cabin in Maine to get away from things and work on editing her latest assignment. When her boyfriend and a group of friends arrive, they think they're going to have a relaxing week. Instead, they get a night of hell!

As part of my continuing education in horror, I decided to give Jack Ketchum a chance. Off Season was one of the works suggested to me by the crew.

Off Season is a tale of feral cannibals setting upon a cabin full of city folk in the Maine woods. That's pret
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
For the last 25 years, I have told anybody who would listen that IT by Stephen King is the best horror novel ever written. Right now, I’m not so sure anymore. This book simply blew my mind.

I was fortunate enough to read the author’s uncut, uncensored version. Even though this book was first published in 1980 – that’s right, 38 years ago – I’ve never had the opportunity to read that version. After reading the Afterword, it might have been a blessing. I don’t know if that particular ending would h
Paul Bryant
Sep 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: verysleazyfun, novels
Ten ways to review Off Season, a book about cannibals!!

1. Let's go to the movies with Jack Ketchum

Some Like them Hot
Stir the Right One In
The Incr Edibles
Bringing Up Baby
The Best Ears of Our Lives
The Green Bile
No Recipe for Old Men

(this could go on)

2. Off Season, the Musical

He Will Tear us Apart (sung by Laura)
Everybody Spurts (sung by the chief cannibal)
Stir it Up (sung by his female companion)
Oops! I Did it Again! (sung by the chief cannibal)
All I have to Eat is Spleen (an
Johann (jobis89)
Aug 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. It was fucked up and disturbing and disgusting and I couldn’t get enough. My only complaint? I wish it was LONGER.
Blake Crouch
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Originally published in ITW's THRILLERS: 100 Must-Reads

Jack Ketchum, a pseudonym for Dallas Mayr (1946 - ), owns some of the blackest real estate in the world of thriller fiction. A former literary agent and actor, Ketchum published his first novel, Off Season, to the dismay of the mainstream literary establishment and the delight of what would grow into a cult following. Over the last quarter of a century, he has published numerous novels, novellas, and works of short fiction. However, only in
Sadie Hartmann
Aug 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
In Jack Ketchum’s universe, a primitive, human family lives in a cave by the ocean. The men, women, and children of this clan hunt and kill other humans for food. Our story opens with a heart-pounding prologue that gives a little taste of the unflinching brutality and violence to come.
There is a surprising amount of set-up and character development. It is not at all an exaggeration to say that this book is the gold standard by which all other extreme horror novels should be measured. A professi
Jul 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Well, that was brutal!
Quite the page-turner. Finished it in three days, which is pretty fast for me. I'm not sure reading a book like this that fast is great for the psyche, but it was about time I got around to one of my favorite author's first book.
Apr 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
For me, this is the horror book to end all horror books. It is the apex of terror tales. No book has come close to topping Off Season, and I doubt that any ever will.

In a rural area off the coast of Maine live a tribe of cannibals. Over the decades travellers and townspeople have disappeared here, but these have been chalked up to the nature of an increasingly mobile, exploding population. People disappear every minute all over the world, don't they?

The tension begins immediately and never lets
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
Oh my god what a disturbing book. There were moments when I dreaded to continue reading it because I just knew that things would go horribly fucked up with a lot of gore. And it did. This is not the kind of books I usually read and I honestly don’t know if I want to read more of its kind. Not that the book was bad, it was good, just a bit too disgusting for my taste I must admit. I prefer paranormal horror that makes you wonder if you should check under the bed and the closet before you sleep no ...more
Edward Lorn
May 13, 2012 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
This may be one of the most disturbing novels I have ever read. Enough said. (Although, I cannot agree with the previous establishment of rating this novel as "violent pornography". In my estimation, if more horror writers took half the amount of chances in thier work as Ketchum does in his, this genre might be more respected.)


(This recommendation must be clarified: I do not condone cannibalism in any form.)
Off Season: A Dash of Fear

From ghoulies and ghosties and long legged beasties, Good Lord, deliver us--Old Scottish Prayer

Some time ago a woman with an angelic face asked me if I had ever read anything by Jack Ketchum. Well, I hadn't. Until now. Off Season is my first venture into the novels of Jack Ketchum. Let's say it's a book for the reader with a taste for the different.

After a little research into the author, I was intrigued. Ketchum is a four time Bram Stoker Award winner and was named
Mar 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: horror, read-in-2012
The biggest flaw of Off Season is its publishing date - 1980. As it was a debut novel, the publishing house had quite a lot of power over the author, and made him cut and edit the book the way they wanted. Upon publication the book raised extreme controversy, due to its violent and graphic nature. It got so bad that Ballantine, who initially published the novel, decided to stop supporting it and withtdrew it from circulation after the first printings.

In 1999 a small publishing house specialisin
Tracy Robinson
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Review tomorrow! I’ll read the Included short, WINTERS CHILD, after I read SHE WAKES.

Ha! Apparently I need to work on my definition of “tomorrow”.

So. This book is absolutely brutal and gory. Content warnings for rape, graphic abuse. Just wanted to give a heads up for any reader friends this might be triggering for.

Off Season covers a family of cannibal killers and their “interactions” with a group of friends who are just looking for a relaxing cabin getaway. Yeah - not happening.

Ketchum’s wri
Wayne Barrett
Oct 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, horror, series


There is some extreme grotesqueness in this story but somehow it lost its punch as it neared the end. The condition and character of the children in the opening scene grabbed my attention and I knew I was in for a macabre ride.


I wouldn't say the book necessarily ended badly so much as I think my senses had just become numb and grew tired of the chase. This was a story of survival against the cruelest, cannibalistic scenario possible, made even more terrible because most of the
Oct 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult, fiction, horror
2.5 stars.

Described as gory, sensationalist, extreme horror with cannibals I thought I'd throw myself in at the deep end this spooky season and pick up Off Season. I have to say I found myself equally disturbed and disappointed.

This follows two groups. The feral, deadly cannibal family and our group of city upstarts who are also fabulously beautiful and vapid. To be honest, at times I fell on the side of the cannibals. None of the supposed protagonists feel particularly well developed, and main
Michael Hicks
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, bought
Jack Ketchum is an author whose works have been in my digital to-read pile for ages. I'm loathe to admit it, but he's one of those writers synonymous with the horror genre whose work, for whatever reason, I just hadn't read yet. I decided to correct that in 2018. Last week, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, Jack Ketchum lost his battle with cancer. His passing ignited an urgent need in me to finally discover exactly what I had been missing. I wanted to get to know a bit the man who so many fellow author ...more
Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: horror
2.5 Stars
This was an incredibly gruesome horror book involving cannibals. Unfortunately, I was not very invested in the characters or storyline so I did not actually find it very disturbing. I am realizing that hillbilly cannibals is just not a subgenre I tend to enjoy. Also, the oversexualization of women really annoyed me. 

I got to read the uncut version and it was interesting to read the author's note that outlined what was cut in the original publication.
JaHy☝Hold the Fairy Dust
My thanksgiving feast will now consist of pepto shots, saltine crackers and fruit flavored tums. Uncle Stevie wasn't kidding.

Job well done Mr. Ketchum.. .

Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-reads
Definitely the most disturbing book I’ve ever read. It’s going to stick with me, this one.
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, horror
I can see why this book was a bit of a game changer in 1980. I'm glad I got to read it in the format intended by the author (albeit still not the original manuscript, which no longer exists) instead of the cleaned-up version. Warning: It is graphic and even this seasoned reader of horror novels winced several times! Some "gross" books have zero story line and bore me to tears. This one had a simple plot, but it was still engaging because the characters...even the CRAZY cannibals...were skillfull ...more
Rayne Havok
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
After everyone kept saying that this book is great, I finally read it... well listened to it. It was good, lots of yuck. Gets my recommendation.
There was a small part where a lady threw a balled up paper bag into a creek or lake, just littered like a maniac! Now, that's horror.
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was my first Ketchum book and I cannot wait to read the follow up to Off Season, chillingly called Offspring. This tale is pretty simple as it deals with civilized humans and with some barbarians who speak and think but who choose to stalk and watch their prey before they make their surprise attack. This is not savagery fueled by regular hunger, this is deep and evil lust for causing pain and cruelty to the innocent in the most excruciating manners possible, this is the tale of the Off Seas ...more
Cody | CodysBookshelf
I didn’t go into this novel for something of emotional depth; I was not looking for a story with well-done subtext or fully fleshed characters. Having read a string of literary novels, I wanted something grisly and fast and raunchy. Jack Ketchum is that guy. And I got what I was looking for.

Having read and been horrified by The Girl Next Door last October, this book had been on my radar for some time. Sadly, it didn’t quite live up to TGND. That one hooked me from page one and my heart ached for
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Off Season was akin to reading "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". I love that movie and I had a blast with this book. My first Ketchum novel was better than I expected. Highly enjoyable for fans of over the top gore. 4 stars! ...more
Jul 07, 2017 added it
This review contains spoilers because there's absolutely no way I can talk about this book without them. Stop reading now if you plan on reading Off Season.

Again, I have a really hard time rating Ketchum, because I cannot say in any way that I "enjoyed" this book. I can appreciate what Ketchum is trying to accomplish, which is probably verbatim what I said in my review for The Girl Next Door, but I don't really think that this type of novel is my thing. It's like asking to get punched in the fac
Aug 10, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, horror
I don't know what to say about this. It was the unexpurgated edition. I suppose for it's time it was shocking, but it seems a little dated now. It is the lost cannibal tribe slasher cabin in the woods formula. I saw all the explicit grue, rape, sex, and pedophilia as just filler. A little less would have still gotten the message of how inhumanely we treat each other, and if you look at it it only drives the plot early on, after the initial attack; then it's thrill filler, ho hum. It seems that o ...more
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Horror Aficionados : Off Season by Jack Ketchum *Spoilers* 34 80 Nov 23, 2013 09:04PM  

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Dallas William Mayr, better known by his pen name Jack Ketchum, was an American horror fiction author. He was the recipient of four Bram Stoker Awards and three further nominations. His novels included Off Season, Offspring, and Red, which were adapted to film. In 2011, Ketchum received the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award for outstanding contribution to the horror genre.

A onetime actor,

Other books in the series

Dead River Series (4 books)
  • Off Season: The Unexpurgated Edition
  • Offspring (Dead River, #2)
  • The Woman

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