Friday, March 25, 2011

Every Shallow Cut Book Review

Title: Every Shallow Cut
Author: Tom Piccirilli
Publisher: ChiZine
Pages: 175
ISBN 9781926851105

Truman Capote once said that: "Every word takes blood." I've only ever read a handful of novels that exemplify this statement, and Every Shallow Cut is one of them.

Every Shallow Cut is the short and realistically gritty story of a nameless unknown published author who has lost everything, including his writing career, his wife to another man, and his house to the troubled economy. He's got nothing to lose, and that can be a dangerous thing.

After getting jumped by a group of thugs on a Denver street, the nameless protagonist takes the few remaining possessions that belonged to his late parents and pawns them for a gun. He takes what's left: his car, and his bulldog, Churchill, and sets out on a road trip across the United States. His destination: New York, and ultimately the doorstep of his estranged brother.

But he and Churchill aren't alone. Ghosts of his past find a backseat and travel with him across the winding roads, bringing up the past as he tries to find the genesis for all the things that have gone wrong in his life. On this journey he will try to find meaning; a new place for himself as he battles with the backseat ghosts.

Considered a "noirella": a hybrid of a novella with a noir twist -- coined by Piccirilli himself -- Every Shallow Cut is so much more than noir. Although subtle, I enjoyed trying to find the hints of little noir nuggets strung throughout; very visible to the reader if one looks hard enough. But this novella doesn't stop at noir; it's so much more. It is at once a horrifying, raw, gritty, poetic, and a realistic memoir that will leave your head spinning once you've finished.

There is no doubt in my mind that Every Shallow Cut was a bloody cathartic release for Piccirilli, and it shows; bleeding emotion through on every page. This is Piccirilli at his best: one hell of a storyteller who knows how to make you laugh, cry, and hurt along with the characters. That's why I'm giving Every Shallow Cut 9.5 out of 10.

If you're looking for something that will make you think harder than your parents old dusty tomes of Melville or Tolstoy, then grab a copy of Every Shallow Cut. And when you're finished, lend it to all of your friends, and nag them until they read it.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Jack's Magic Bean's Book Review

Title: Jack's Magic Beans
Author: Brian Keene
Publisher: Deadite Press
Pages: 104
ISBN: 978193638450

Since Brian Keene's first announcement of the publication of Jack's Magic Beans almost four years ago, I've been eagerly waiting to read it. But unfortunately, the publisher who Keene had written it for, was unable to go forward with the publishing of the novella, and Jack's Magic Beans sat, unpublished, and always in the back of the section of my brain labeled 'Keene'. So, when Brian posted on his blog a month or so ago that Jack's Magic Beans would be one of the first books to come out from Deadite Press, I jumped on the chance to review it.

Jack's Magic Beans is a 104 page collection of the novella Jack's Magic Beans, and four short stories, two of which haven't seen much print: Without You, I Am An Exit, This Is Not An Exit, and 'The King', In: YELLOW. And although the collection is short, there isn't a single page wasted; included at the end of each story is a paragraph explaining the piece in detail. Well worth the money for those interested in the background of stories, or are Brian Keene fan.

Jack's Magic Beans: The longest of the five stories, and the main piece of this collection, Keene proves once again why he's a master of the post-apocalypse genre. With Jack's Magic Beans, Keene seamlessly blends talking vegetables, and the end of the world with vicious grandmas and a grocery store full of crazy people. The pace is perfect and the characters make it well worth the read, leaving the reader at the end of the novella -- in typical Keene fashion -- wanting more and wondering what happens next.

Without You: A look into the life of a man who wants nothing more than an escape from his marriage, but can't seem to find solace, even after blowing his brains out with a shotgun. Raw, real and gritty, Keene delivers true horror in this interesting short story.

I Am An Exit: This is one of my favorite Keene shorts that's been penned to date. I Am An Exit shines as a perfect example of his creativity. The story revolves around two men: one who is slowly dying on the side of the road, and the other, a killer. What makes this short story so spectacular is the dialogue between the two men and the vivid atmosphere that it projects.

This Is Not An Exit: A sequel to I Am An Exit, This Is Not An Exit takes place sometime after the story mentioned above. Because it's so short, there isn't much to say about it, without giving too much away, other than the diologue and atmosphere are dead on.

'The King', In: YELLOW: I remember reading this for the first time in Fear of Gravity, a now out of print short story collection of Keene's. My first time reading 'The King', In: Yellow left me wanting more. The premise of the story involves a couple who -- on hearing of a play from a homeless man on the side of the street -- decide that a play would be a perfect way to spice up their weekend. The spiraling events that unfold after meeting the homeless man build to a truly horrifying climax that will leave you shocked. An excellent short to end the collection of Jack's Magic Beans.

Jack's Magic Beans was everything that I had expected, and then some. Overall it's a solid collection with nothing but Keene treasures. A previously unpublished novella, and two rare short stories, makes Jack's Magic Beans a title that should be added to any fan of Keene's library. That's why I'm giving Jack's Magic Beans 9.0 out of 10 TARDIS'.

It's good stuff that's not to be missed!