Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Review: The Least of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones

The Least of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones

Trade Paperback, 188 pages

Published by Broken River Books

I really enjoyed this short novel. SGJ is a name I have heard through out the years. I met him in passing at conventions and always meant to read his work.

It is hard at this point to write something bold and innovative in the sub-genre of Serial Killer tale. From Robert Bloch’s Psycho to Thomas Harris and his Lector novels this is a subject really well explored in both novels and film. it is hard to picture these days anyone coming up with a truly original take on the serial killer story. That is what the Least of my Scars is.

I didn’t know this before I started reading, going on the strength of the author I went into this book totally cold. Not knowing anything about what it was about. It is a short but powerful business. It took me twenty-seven pages but when I figured what was going on I laughed out loud.

The main Character William Colton Hughes is shut-in hitman/serial killer. His victims come to him, and the killer is not entirely certain why or how they end up at his door. His victims show up, some times they hang, other times they bring food. One of the most fantastic moments of the novel comes when there is a knock at the door. One knock and the person is gone. That doesn’t happen. Then Hughes starts to question. Where is it that I live? Why do these people keep showing up?

Hughes is a killer and clearly mad, he is our only window into this world, and thus SGJ has created a fantastic unreliable narrator.

The concept is weird, and is often the case with bizarro literature you just have to ride with it. It gets weirder as it goes but SGJ pays off the reader quite nicely. His prose here is lean and deliberate, if you pay attention to things like story construction and wordsmithing then you can’t go wrong. It is a well done piece of work on several levels.

This is a fantastic piece of experimental horror. It is a dark bizarro weird crime novel,and would make great combo with Brian Evenson's Last Days. If weird horror and crime appeal to you I advise you not to miss it.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Book Review: I Wanna be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert

Paperback, 352 pages Published July 8th 2008 by MTV Books

I found this book in a really interesting way. At my school a couple of my students have a volunteer job at the San Diego book project. Down in this sketchy basement there is pallets and dumpsters filled with used books that are destined to for libraries in smaller communities and various non-profits. The people who run the book project are clear they want people to take books and enjoy them if they find ones they like. I have found several cool retro science fiction books, including Ace doubles.

One day I was sifting through the pile and I saw this book. I was never a big Ramones fan so I almost chucked it but I read the back. It was a coming of age punk rock novel set in the midwest. As the author of a published coming of age novel about punk rock in the midwest myself I was intrigued. Granted my novel has skinheads and werewolves but they are both about small town punks moving to Chicago.

I had to read it. I am glad I did. I know now this is a debut novel and I can say it has all the benefits of a first novel in terms of passion and story dedication. It has none of the negatives of a first novel, it is confidently written in fact.

The story is strongly plotted and the characters are vivid. The setting from the small town punk scene to the large scale tours are fully realized worlds. You often hear the term world building being used in large scale fantasy and science fiction novel but the author did a wonderful job building this world.

The story of Emily Black a young small town punk rocker who was raised by her father after her mother left them to chase punk rock dreams. While Emily works to realize those dreams her mother lives a nightmare. The question becomes will they ever find each other.

I enjoyed every page of this book. It was the punk rock coming of age promised on the cover. One of the reasons I started writing punk fiction myself was it is rare to find fiction set in this world that is authentic. This is a case where I closed the book feeling like the author and I went to alot of the same shows, watched the same bands and felt much the same ways about the scene. This is punk fiction done very well.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Book Review: The Last Horror Novel In The History Of The World by Brian Allen Car

The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World

by Brian Allen Carr

Paperback, 125 pages

Published May 2014 by Lazy Fascist Press

I read two Lazy Fascist books in a row. I am pretty excited about that. Cameron Pierce (also a fantastic author besides being a publisher) who started LF press is a smart man with good taste so a press that was once described to me "Stuff Cameron likes" always sounds great.

Now the title might be a little bit of a joke considering that it could hardly be considered more than a novella. Don't get me wrong I am a fan of short novels, lets all for a moment remember that Of Mice and Men is right around 100 pages after all. That said I don't know the word count here, but I think Clive Barker short stories in the Books of Blood might have higher word counts.

I'm not complaining this book is a work of genius that often has "chapters" that are a sentence or a paragraph. This is used to brilliant effect. The blank spaces on the page left me wondering what we were missing. In that sense it stimulated my brain in ways a traditional novel hardly ever does.

I laughed alot reading this novel which is some kinda of supernatural small town siege tale set against the interesting back drop of a small border town in Texas. Given the title I expected a satire, or a bizarro send up of horror novels but that wasn't the case. This is more like experimental horror that based on the strength of the strong prose is a really cool quick read. I read it in two sittings and I am glad I did.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Sammy Terry 10th anniversary special on youtube

Horror nerds from Indiana like me can blame one person.

Book Review: Skullcrack City by Jeremy Robert Johnson

Skullcrack City by Jeremy Robert Johnson

Paperback, 344 pages

Published February 2015 by Lazy Fascist Press

Let me get this out of the way. I am bias as hell about this book. When I first moved to Portland I lived a few blocks away from Jeremy. Even when I moved to a different neighborhood it was along the same Powell ave. and I often saw Jeremy out for run. So I root for the guy. Look we are close to the same age and got into horror and punk rock in similar ways in different small towns in different states. I consider watching Prince of Darkness on the big screen at the Lovecraft fest with him to be a bonding experience.

All that said I think he is an amazing writing with far too few releases to his name. That makes each one from his two short story collections (We Live Inside you & Angel dust Apocalypse) and his amazing Bram Stoker nominated Siren Promised (A novel he co-wrote with the artist Alan Clark) So special. In all the time I have known JRJ he had hinted at the novel in progress Skullcrack city. The plot he explained was so weird and spit out in motor mouth fashion that I asked about every time I saw him from bizarrocon to running into him at super cuts where the hell is it?

It was worth the wait. I am bias sure but I take my role as critic seriously. I have given a one star review to a friend before. So believe me when I say this is a hybrid dark bizarro science fiction horror freak out masterpiece. I do not say this lightly, and I mean it. JRJ has really crafted something special here. It is weird, really weird but not in the Dildo joke way a lot of bizarro stuff tends to do. Jeremy is a great writer with precise prose that doesn’t make for a quick read because you don’t want to miss anything.

This book is like nothing else you have ever read but everyone loves a comparison right? JRJ wears his influences on his sleeve but not to crutch level. If you forced me to I would say it felt like a way weirder take on Carpenter’s They Live if William Burroughs and Clive Barker worked on the script and Cronenberg directed.

The story of SP Doyle a weirdo turn corporate who accidently develops a career working at a bank. He is overseeing loans and getting a behind the scenes look at the corporate world. The corruption is one thing, but Doyle is corrupted himself. He has a habit that involves an expeimental drug called Hex. It makes him feel powerful and at the same time opens another reality. Once there that is when the DNA-doped mutants, drug-addled freak show celebs, experimental surgeons, depraved doomsday cults, and drug freak-outs get going.

Chapter 20 is the best chapter in the novel, and for whatever reason everything from that point was like a spinal tap amp turned to 11. Skullcrack City started to make my ears bleed and I loved it. This book is political but not like leaflet. It is funny, but doesn’t descend into parody of itself. It is well written and well told. I would be super surprised if it was not top of my list of reads for the year when 2015 is over.

Now Jeremy…Skullcrack City is all that and a bag of chocolate chips. I am here-by telling all fans of weird, horror and Science Fiction to read. Don’t make us wait this long for the next one.