Book review: Bloody Sheets by Andy Rausch

Bloody Sheets by Andy Rausch

When a young black man is lynched in a small Alabama town, his estranged father — a crime world enforcer — sets out for revenge, embarking on a blood – soaked journey that will leave the ravaged bodies of dead Klansmen in his wake.

“Rausch unleashes a flurry of gut-punches both painful and thrilling, his prose brimming with righteous anger and stark, no-bullshit wit. This racially charged and crackling tale reads like a startling mash-up of Jim Thompson and Iceberg Slim, making Bloody Sheets that rare achievement: hardboiled and hard-hitting, but transcendently heartfelt as well.”

My Thoughts

I had no idea what to expect when I opened this novella and I was pleased to find good strong prose and a no-holds-barred style laced with acid wit. A raw, straight ahead vengeance tale for fans of pulp fiction, Bloody Sheets is grit on steroids. Enter the deep south of the United States, a small-town in Alabama riven with racism and hatred, a location where the Ku Klux Klan are strong and active. When a young couple in love defy local mores – she’s white, he’s black – a father seeks revenge and calls in a favour from ex-con Coke. What unfolds will take your breath away and be warned, this novella is not for the faint of heart!

Bloody Sheets is a fast-paced, one-sitting read, with witty and sharp dialogue and graphic scenes of extreme violence. The title is apt and metaphoric, the story strong on setting. Rausch even manages to endear his badass hero to his readers and provides a stark portrait of racial hatred and its inevitable consequences. I loved the final twist.

Not exactly a morality tale, but there is enough in Bloody Sheets to make you pause and think.

Andy Rausch is an American film journalist, author, screenwriter, film producer, and actor. He is the author of several novels and novellas including Elvis Presley, CIA Assassin. He also wrote the screenplay for Dahmer versus Gacy and is the author of some twenty non-fiction books on popular culture. Books: Riding Shotgun, Bloody Sheets, A Time for Violence, Layla’s Score.

 

You can usually find Andy on Twitter @writerrausch1, and he maintains a blog at https://authorandyrausch.wordpress.com/

Grab your copy on Amazon

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. Isobel was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019 for her biographical short story, ‘Nothing to Declare’. The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is the winner of the Raven Awards 2019. Isobel holds a PhD from the University of Western Sydney, for her research on the works of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey, the ‘Mother of the New Age.’

Launching Blackthorn Book Tours

I am thrilled to announce Blackthorn Book Tours, a review-only book tour service dedicated to dark fiction.

After almost a decade promoting my own novels I have a real understanding of how hard it can be sourcing reviews. I have pitched single emails to over two-hundred book bloggers for a single title. A 5% take up rate is said to be good. Out of that 5% maybe half will review. It’s demoralising, so I turned to paid book tour providers and booked tours. For a modest sum, the stress was removed, I could relax, and I got to enjoy the thrill of the tour and receive about twenty solid reviews of my book each time. But when I searched for a book tour service for my dark fiction, I couldn’t find one. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough.

Seeing many of my peers in the dark fiction scene also struggle to get reviews, I decided to create Blackthorn Book Tours, throwing in my lot with PR Manager and mover and shaker Henry Roi of Close to the Bone Publishing, and already we have a long list of top reviewers who have jumped aboard. We kick off our enterprise on September 1st with Bloody Sheets by Andy Rausch.

 

Following close on the heels are these three book tours:

You can find out more about our book tour service here https://isobelblackthorn.com/blackthorn-book-tours/

 

Bloody Good Horror Books 5*****Star review of The Legacy of Old Gran Parks!

I’m delighted to share this exceptionally warm and thoughtful review of The Legacy of Old Gran Parks from seasoned industry reviewer, Renier Palland.

 

“The Legacy of Old Gran Parks” by seasoned author Isobel Blackthorn is a droll, deeply satisfying and very understated horror novel published by HellBound Books. I’ve read some of Blackthorn’s work in the past and I haven’t been kind to her in a couple of reviews. Thank Buddha for her latest novel! “The Legacy of Old Gran Parks” is unique, extremely idiosyncratic and bathed in perfect prose. Blackthorn doesn’t just focus on “writing” a novel – she writes with such eloquence that one finds it difficult to critique her tempo and narrative techniques.

Blackthorn combines vengeance and wit to create a fictional world powered by strong plot machinations and a keen understanding of her characters. She injects her narrative with subtle symbolism and quasi-feminism. This amalgam forms an entirely new perspective on the revenge genre and its counterparts. Blackthorn deconstructs the novel like a set of Legos, then rebuilds both the plot and narrative to create a multi-faceted climax and denouement. This novel is much more than meets the eye. During my initial read-and-review process, I missed some of the finer details. Only after a secondary speed reading did I pick up on Blackthorn’s tongue-in-cheek satire.

The novel is billed as a dark comedy, but I disagree with this label. Blackthorn’s novel is a layered tour-de-force. The themes, although sardonic in their entirety, are actually much more insidious than Blackthorn imagined when she wrote the novel. There’s an element of darkness that broods underneath the hood, leaving you breathless once you actually delve deeper into the narrative.

Blackthorn’s characterisation is spot-on. The characters are perplexing, annoying (intentional) and they suffer from a derisive self-imaging machination. It’s as if the characters know Blackthorn, and they understand that she’s toying with them. This character/author intrusion is an intentional narrative device. Blackthorn poses the characters on an imaginary bookshelf and asks the reader, “So fucking what?” It’s a sign of a great author – someone who understands and knows what they’re doing with their characters and narrative.

Technically, Blackthorn didn’t make a single mistake. There was no verbiage, misused adverb or adjective techniques, or myocardial infarction of the plot. I didn’t have to restart the heart like I do with most novels. Blackthorn’s writing style flows like a river in a barren land. Unobstructed. Understated. Unequalled. As a fellow HellBound author (this does not affect the review), I notice just how great their editing techniques are. Unlike other imprints, where mistakes are made during proofing, HellBound delivers perfect editing. I’m not writing this to praise my own publisher – I’m merely stating my observations.

I once gave Blackthorn a 1 out of 5 rating for another book of hers. After a thorough editing process, I reviewed my critique and changed the rating. I was afraid that Blackthorn had to endure another less-than-average rating, but I am pleased to say that “The Legacy of Old Gran Parks” is her magnum opus.

It is definitely the best novel she’s ever written. And one of the best novels of 2018.

RATING: 5 out of 5

Bloody Good Books Reviews

Wow!!!!

Read more about Gran Parks here

Grab a copy here

The Legacy of Old Gran Parks’ Book Tour wrap up

First, I would like to thank Faye Rogers for her efforts in organising this book tour and all those book bloggers who read my book and wrote some fabulous reviews. The tour has had its highs and lows. Here are my reflections:

When a new book comes out, it is the job of authors and publishers to go on the hunt for reviews. The more the better and the one place we want them all to end up is on Amazon, because Amazon counts reviews and based on the number (not the quality) it will activate its own internal promotion of your book. We need 20-25, or better still 50, to be taken seriously. Less than 10 looks sad. To make matters even harder, Amazon splits the reviews up, so a review posted on the UK site or the AU site does not appear on the US site. Dedicated book reviewers will take the trouble to post on all three Amazon sites, cos that’s what it takes these days, and every book blogger worth their salt knows this.

In the past, when I’ve had a new book coming out, I have written hundreds of individual emails to book bloggers soliciting reviews. I’ve trawled the internet on the hunt for reviewers, joined Facebook groups and kept my eye on Twitter. It’s exhausting and the average take up rate is about 5-10%. On the blogging side, book bloggers are swamped, the good ones especially.

To take the pressure off authors and publicists, some bloggers have set themselves up as book tour organisers and for a fee they will organise a tour. When I started to investigate these service providers I was hesitant, but I began to see it as the only way forward. I would still solicit reviews, but at least some of the strain would be off my shoulders.

I had no idea what to expect when I hired a book tour organiser to set up a 14-stop review-only tour. I wasn’t prepared for the disappointment. Despite the organiser’s best efforts, out of 14 bloggers, 2 chose to post an extract and 4 chose to do nothing at all. That has left me with 8 reviews and out of that 8, only 6 have so far shared their review on one of the Amazon sites.

However, all is not bad news. Those reviewers who did read my book wrote honest reviews and there are many delightful comments peppered throughout their paragraphs. I’m grateful to each and every one of these bloggers, and to the tour organiser, who cannot be held responsible for the actions of those book bloggers who agreed to be part of the tour and then failed to follow through. Here are some of the highlights:

“This was my first time visiting the mind of Isobel Blackthorn, and it certainly wasn’t boring! The dark humour, gritty scenes and unusual characters all combine to make an entertaining read….Like the recently successful Jane Harper (author of The Dry and Force of Nature), Blackthorn knows how to convey the sinister nature of the Australian setting, making blistering heat tangible, the seaside seem lethal, and the all-encompassing forests claustrophobic….Overall, this is a darkly humorous tale expressed through brilliant prose and intriguing characters!”

Get Litty – https://www.getlitty.co.uk/single-post/2018/04/18/BLOG-TOUR-The-Legacy-of-Old-Gran-Perks

“This is the first book I have read from Isobel Blackthorn and it won’t be my last. It is such a well written book that I was gripped from the first few pages.The strapline of the book is ‘A Dark Comedy to Tickle Your Spine…’ and it lives up to your expectation.”

Helen Loves – http://helenloves.co.uk/blog-tour-review-the-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-by-isobel-blackthorn/

“The Legacy of Old Gran Parks has a wonderfully dark, nasty feel to it…The legacy of Gran Parks is a legacy of fighting back against abuse, and taking responsibility for dealing out your own style of justice.”

Liam of Book-worm-hole – http://book-worm-hole.blogspot.com.au/2018/04/review-legacy-of-old-gran-parks.html

“The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is a very unique, very fascinating but ultimately savage and dark read that I very much enjoyed. If you are a fan of Tarantino movies, you are more than likely going to enjoy this book which starts out a little bit eerie and odd and then turns violent and dark. It was a book unlike any I have read before but I actually really loved it.”

Faye of Big Little Books – http://www.bigbooklittlebook.com/2018/04/legacy-old-gran-parks/

“showed me an insiders view of rural Australia which I easily pictured even though I’ve never been.”

Parchment and Quill – https://parchmentandquillchronicle.wordpress.com/2018/04/12/blog-tour-book-review-the-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-by-isobel-blackthorn/

“The Legacy of Old Gran parks—is one of the rarest piece of story I ever read. It was unique and got an eerie exotic feel. A truly remarkable, and an unforgettable piece. Highly recommended to everyone.”

Bibliophile Angel – https://bibliophileangelblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/15/blog-tour-the-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-by-isobel-blackthorn/

“I really enjoyed the writing and plot ”

Read Between the Scenes – http://www.readbetweenthescenes.com/2018/04/blog-tour-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-by.html

“a marvellous read and I’d recommend it to anyone who asks.”

Infinite Pages – https://infinitepagesbookreviews.wordpress.com/2018/04/19/the-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-blog-tour/

If you want to review any of my books, I will give you a free electronic copy.

Book review: The Visitors by Catherine Burns

Horror fiction takes many forms. Good horror is an art form, one that requires considerable mastery and imagination. Psychological horror shades into dark fiction – bleak, gothic at times, often literary – and as ever, books can be hard to categorise. Catherine Burn’s The Visitors is one of those books.

 

I’m only sharing some of the blurb as I think the rest is a spoiler.

“Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar.”

The Visitors is a grim read, more disturbing as the story unfolds, the narrative devoid of humour but not wit. The is novel driven by its backstory, and amounts to a acutely observed character study of the protagonist, Marion Zetland, as she observes her brother, John, and his deviant habits. Burns makes a study of dark passion, but not the brooding malevolence of a serial killer, more the banal evil referred to by Hannah Arendt, one laced with pathetic and inane self-justifications. For Miriam, a sad-sack of a woman in her fifties, is as drab, anxious and miserable as they come.

What ensues is a slow unfolding, a game of seek with no hiding, the reader allowed to peak first here, then there, as the narrator reveals Marion’s foibles, and those of her brother, their mother and father. The collective past of the Zetland family is not pleasant. And neither is Marion. She is impossible to like. She is irritating, repellant and frustrating. She has no willpower, no ambition, instead she is a hopeless figure stripped of her will, immobilised by indecision, her morality compromised by the voices in her head. Existing on a diet of biscuits and tinned food, she loses herself in imagination and fantasy, her escape from a lacklustre existence inside the only home she’s ever known.

Then there is the small matter of the visitors in the cellar.

What begin as justifications for Miriam’s inertia eventually turn into justifications for why she acts the way she does when she finally exercises her will. And it is only then that explanations of certain little mysteries emerge. Burns exercises perfect narrative control, in command of her plot and her characters at every turn, her premise a powerful one and demanding to execute. I can only imagine what it must have taken to write this book.

Not for everyone, but for those who do enjoy dark fiction, this novel is superb.

 

Stunning *****5 star review***** of The Cabin Sessions!

For once I am sharing a review of one of my own titles just in on Amazon. It isn’t every day an author receives such high praise.

The Cabin Sessions – for those who like their horror dark and psychological.

“Well!
Talk about being blown away.
If you are in search of a stonking read with delicious descriptions – chilling horror (very psychological in places) and perfect prose then this is the book for you.
The horror was delivered with sophistication and stealth – so much so that when I wanted to pull back or run for cover I couldn’t.
The story telling is masterly and I would class this book – author, as a modern day classic.
Unique- individual- and unapologetic.
To me was as good as a holiday- I love that feeling you get when a read has reached every wanton corner of your psyche and cleaned up!
Thank you to the author for a truly defining read!” – Amazon reviewer Kathleen McCarthy

Thank you Kathleen, for making my day!

You can read more Amazon reviews here

Review: The Blood Red Experiment

My journey into dark fiction just keeps getting better. What is it that draws the reader into the realm of the macabre? I guess the answer to that is different for everyone, but for me, uppermost is the application of top-class literary skills.

“Inspired by the genius of Hitchcock and his films, latin luminaries such as Argento and Bava directed macabre murder-mystery thrillers, that combined the suspense with scenes of outrageous violence, stylish cinematography, and groovy soundtracks. This genre became known in their native Italy as giallo.

Giallo is Italian for yellow, inspired by the lurid covers of thrillers, in the way that pulp fiction was derived from the cheap wood pulp paper of the crime stories, or Film Noir came from the chiaroscuro of the German Expressionistic lighting.

We at TBRE want to bring gialli-inspired stories by some of the best crime writers on the scene today to a wider audience, giving birth to a new literary movement in crime writing, NeoGiallo, and drag this much maligned genre screaming and slashing its way into the 21st Century.”

*****

My entry into NeoGiallo has been rewarded with this superb collection. Edited by Jason Michel and Craig Douglas, The Blood Red Experiment is a well laid out magazine with a healthy noir vibe. Many of the stories are first instalments of serialised works, a smart move on the part of the editors, as those stories are compelling and leave the reader wanting more, rendering The Blood Red Experiment a collectible, a must-have for any noir-loving fan.

The opening story, ‘Machine Factory’ by Richard Godwin, is about as confronting as it gets inside the mind of a psychopathic killer. Unrelenting, vivid and artistic in its execution, I am in admiration of the author for his ability to enter into the pathology of macabre glorification and can only hope the protagonist is not his ‘Mr Hyde’. Godwin display his literary talents in evocative descriptions:

“I will escape it and find otherness like a black widow spider clutching with unreal feet at the empty window pane of time.”

‘Machine Factory’ contains a satisfying twist, one that entices the reader to start back at the beginning.

Every story in The Blood Red Experiment is worth a mention. Mark Cooper’s intriguing ‘Quaenam in Illis’, the tale of an out-of-work linguist used by a mysterious group to decipher ancient writings, pulls the reader into a seedy Paris underworld. Kate Laity’s ‘Maddona of the Wasps’ is a rich and tantalising tale of erotic desire and gore, as a dominatrix uses her minion, a slave to his own lust. In ‘Didn’t Bleed Red,’ Tom Leins makes use of a reflexive giallo motif, as his private investigator protagonist comes face to face with a grotesquely overweight, red-faced man who calls himself The Auctioneer. Jack Bates displays impressive narrative control and provides an unexpected twist in his confronting tale, ‘Canvas of Flesh’. Then there’s James Shaffer’s chilling and tense ‘Blood of the Lamb’, a story in which even the light bleeds; and Kevin Berg’s sensual and literary ‘L Impermanenza Dell’Art’, a story that takes searching for inspiration in an art class to a whole new level.

The high literary standard that can be found in the dark-fiction genre never fails to please, and the standard of writing in The Blood Red Experiment is excellent. The authors are adept at creating evocative metaphors and captivating imagery, and display all the artistry of good prose, brought to bear on the gruesome side of life.  Dripping noir from every page crease, the hallmark of this issue is dark sensuality, the sort only good writing can achieve. Every author is engaged in a dance of seduction with the reader. The Blood Red Experiment is a privilege to read. My only critical remark is the shortage of women writers in the mix.

Grab your copy here

Review: And Then You Die by James H Longmore

I can’t describe what sort of taste was left in my mouth after reading James H Longmore’s …and Then You Die, a novel that marks my entry into the genre of bizarro, where absurdism and satire meet the weird and grotesque. If you find the concept of bizarro off-putting, then …and Then You Die  is not a book for you! But you’d be missing out on an extraordinarily visceral cultural experience.

“Following a drunken, hedonistic night out on the town in New Orleans, successful businesswoman and sexual deviant Claire Jepson accidentally soils herself in her expensive car. The resulting excrement comes to life as a terrifying, sardonic fecal spirit and not only dishes out a particularly gruesome death to Claire’s unfaithful, gold digging fiancé, but also thwarts a kidnap/murder plot by her employees and introduces Claire to a world of depraved pleasures beyond even her depraved imagination.

A year later, the errant spirit has spiraled wildly out of control with its insatiable appetite for perverted sex and human flesh and has destroyed both Claire’s business and life.

To her horror, Claire then discovers that the fecal spirit plans to consume her unborn child in order to attain immortality and she must return to the seedy underbelly of the Big Easy where her nightmare began in a heart-pounding race against time to confront the spirit’s creator; a high priest of a most ancient and deadly order, who is the only one who can put a stop to the spirit’s murderous intentions.

A wicked, fast-paced story laced with tongue-in-cheek, dark humor and which is at the same time incredibly erotic and stomach churning; definitely not one to be read whilst eating!”

Take heed of that last comment!

I consumed, no I devoured …and Then You Die, an off-the-wall tale laced with hilarity and an astonishing wit. Longmore does not mince his words, confronting the reader at every turn with the utterly detestable, lifting up the toilet lid on the excrement most prefer to flush away, and  bringing it to life in quasi-human form.

…and Then You Die is a sexy, earthy romp of the most deviant order. In protagonist Claire Jepson, a dot com businesswoman, Longmore makes a not so subtle comment on the debauched perversions of the moneyed classes. Through the protagonist’s initial accidental soiling, Longmore brings to life the shit pile. In an extraordinarily detailed expose, …and Then You Die goes on to explore in depth and in breadth every aspect of living shit.

Longmore’s pacing is excellent, the action never wanes, plot twists driving the tale into greater depths of degradation arriving on cue. The narrative contains a solid, four to the floor rhythm, a forward driving pulse that makes …and Then You Die a delight to read.  The author’s wit shines from every page, right down to his shit-in-the-bag entity that morphs into an antagonist with a voice like Russell Brand. Ever since Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, in which the main character wakes up to find he is a giant bug, authors have played with the grotesque in the paranormal. Longmore has penned a work of excellence, both in the quality of writing and in his ability to sustain a work that pivots on a single metaphor: shit.

…and Then You Die will appeal to lovers of dark comedy. Be warned! This is not a story for those with refined sensibilities easily offended by in-your-face revulsion. Think kinky and twisted Iain Banks.

You can find out more about James H Longmore here
Grab your copy here

Or find the novel through ALL good booksellers.

 

Review: Demons, Devils and Denizens of Hell: Vol 2

I’m thrilled to share my review of Demons, Devils and Denizens of Hell: Vol 2, and anthology of horror stories compiled by P. Mattern, edited by Ztina Marie and published by HellBound Books.

http://www.hellboundbookspublishing.com/demonsdevilsdenizens2.html

“Another anthology of otherworldy delights, tales of horror, dread and hellish inhabitants, – all lovingly compiled by award-winning author P. Mattern.

Our second journey into the darkest recesses of Satan’s pit has superlative tales of nefarious delight by: Andrew MacKay, Ryan Woods, PC3, Richard Raven, Dante Crossroad, Josh Schlossberg, Brianna M. Fenty, Paul Lubaczewski, Marcus Mattern, R.L. Chambers, Gerri R Grayson, John T. M. Herres, James Nichols, Feind Gottes, P. Mattern & Lynne Ligocki Gauthier, R.L.Chambers, Richard Alan Long, Jaap Boekestein, James H, Longmore, Savannah Morgan, DJ Shaw, Bill Evans, Sergio “ente per ente” Palumbo, Jay Michael Wright II, and the incomparable Stephanie Kelley.”

As a reader of short stories I’m hard to please. I’m looking for substance and depth. I want to know the author has thought long and hard about character, setting and life in general. I’m not interested so much in being shocked or horrified. I’m interested in how the author is pulling it off. I want to be impressed. Also, I want wit. I guess that makes me hard to please. Especially regarding an anthology, a book readers will delve into when the fancy takes them, sampling rather than reading from end to end.

I opened Demons, Devils and Denizens of Hell: Vol 2 not knowing what I was to be treated to, save each story was destined to be either revolting, terrifying or both. What I discovered was a delight. Demons, Devils and Denizens of Hell: Vol 2 brims with cracking reads; the hallmark of the volume, strong writing. From the thoroughly revolting, edge-of-seat horror-crime story ‘Duplicate Counterpart’ by John T.M. Herres, to the mysterious and compelling, and ultimately shocking ‘There Shall Be No Night’ by Josh Schlossberg, and beyond, there is much to savour between the covers of this anthology.

Each story is distinct. James H. Longmore’s ‘My Possession: An Introspective’, a presentation of the state of mind of a sales executive turned writer wrestling with his inner demon called Dave, provides incisive wit and dark hilarity. As does ‘Beauty is the Beast’ by Gerri R. Gray, her protagonist, Vanity de Milo, a macabre twist on the children’s fairy tale the story alludes to.

Quoting from ‘The Huntress’ by Savannah Morgan, gives a taste of the sort of writing to be found in the anthology:

“Guts and entrails fell out like gruesome chunky soft-serve ice cream from a dispenser on the fritz.”

No matter the genre, sentences like that make a reader like me tingle.

Feind Gottes foreshadows his dark tale, ‘Black Lodge’, with some powerful imagery:

“A simple black lodge in a forgotten wood where ghosts feared to haunt but memories were free to crush a man’s soul.”

Like the other stories in this anthology, Gotte’s tale grips to the very last sentence.

The authors of these dark tales have stretched their imaginations, brought to bear their wit and drawn on their many and varied insights into the human condition. Not only that, they’ve applied themselves to the task of writing, and writing well. The result is a must read.

Buy your copy here.

Check out more from HellBound Books here