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Review of Writing and Rising From Addiction by Brian Bowyer

Every once in a while, one encounters a truly special book. Usually, this book connects with us on an individual level. It feels as though the work was written for us, and that the writer plucked the emotional turmoil out of our minds and fashioned an antidote in the form of alchemical narrative. Not only this, but these special books are usually difficult to place in terms of their genre. They don’t fall into easy categories. In fact, they transcend them.

Writing and Rising From Addiction by Brian Bowyer is one such special book. I have never read a book like it and I highly doubt I am ever likely to read a book like it again. It bears the qualities of a story that simply had to be told, lest the author combust from the internal pressure of the story trying to escape. What is even more astonishing about this book is that it is autobiographical, and whilst the events related seem fantastical—impossible by today’s standards of officious “realism”—the level of detail and the earnestness with which they are conveyed leave me in no doubt that it is all true.

Writing and Rising From Addiction covers the first forty-three years of Brian Bowyer’s (highly eventful) life, from his earliest memories right up until a climactic moment of transformation in his forty-third year. Clocking in at 535 pages, it’s epic in chronological and geographical scope as well as emotional depth.

I must preface everything I’m about to say with this: this is not a book for the faint of heart. If you are looking for a cosy autobiography about a middle-class journey to Hollywood success, then this is not for you. Right from the first page, Bowyer lets us know we’re in for a rough ride, and the darkness of addiction takes hold of his life at an obscenely young age. This book deals with childhood abuse and trauma, violent crime, drug addiction, alcoholism, and suicide. Every trigger warning applies. But if you’re brave enough to peer into the abyss, you’ll discover the diamonds within.

Clive Barker was an early influence on Bowyer, and one can see similarity in Bowyer's life and work with Barker's paranormal realities, where the fantastical and ordinary abut one another!

Bowyer’s literary style is one of minimalism, of great empty spaces that the reader can populate with their own responses. Only rarely does Bowyer interrupt the narrative flow to tell us how he felt at a given time. He presents us with events in the cold and methodical way of a pathologist establishing the cause of death. I am not sure this book have been written in any other style. There are no frills or self-indulgences to distract us from the journey. And there is likewise no cushioning to soften the heartbreak. And this book will break your heart. Some of the things Bowyer has endured go beyond torture—they are nearly unspeakable. Yet speak about them he does. 

I am not going to go into great detail analysing specific events in the story, as to do so would be to destroy the wonderful surprise of discovery. I guarantee you will not be able to predict even half of what happens in this story, and even when you do have an inkling of what is about to occur, it is normally by Bowyer’s design, a careful foreshadowing that lets us know storms are gathering on the horizon. But, despite not detailing specific events, there are some devices and themes I want to highlight that contribute to making this book so special.

Firstly, Bowyer understands that in order to tell your own story, you have to establish yourself as the epic hero of yourlife. I’m not saying here that Bowyer is egotistically bigging himself up. On the contrary, he lays his faults bare and then some. He confesses to crimes that are genuinely shocking. Indeed, he walks right up to the line of possible redemption. But, he grasps that even though this is an autobiography, it’s also a story like any other, and he is the protagonist, just as we are all the protagonist of our own lives. And what a remarkable protagonist he is: equal turns absurdly resilient, ingeniously creative, seductive, magnetic, cruel, kind, blind, and despite everything utterly, utterly likeable. You desperately want things to turn out well for Bowyer, and every time they don’t, and life throws him another catastrophic curveball, you feel your heart riven in two. To speak bluntly: the shit this man has endured is worthy of a hundred Hollywood movies, though no one would ever believe it had all happened to one person.

Pulp Fiction was a huge influence on Bowyer, and at one point he seemed poised to take over Hollywood himself.

Secondly, Bowyer is to be praised for unashamedly discussing the numerous supernatural occurrences in his life. Some of these are so startling that they will raise the hair on your arms. If you’re a horror reader and have enjoyed Bowyer’s other books, never fear, this autobiography has plenty of supernatural horror to keep you awake at night. Although, it must be said, the occurrences are so numerous, one has to wonder whether Bowyer himself is the magnet for all these strange apparitions and hauntings. His energy and vitality—despite drug and alcohol abuse on a scale that is difficult to comprehend without reading the book—suggest a supernatural power working through him. And indeed, that power works upon us via his book as he keeps us hypnotically glued to the page, hanging on every word.

One of the aspects I found most fascinating is how Bowyer weaves in both his love of books, and the writing and publication of his own novels, throughout the narrative. As a big fan of Bowyer’s novels, particularly Autumn Gothic and Flesh Rehearsal, I was fascinated by Bowyer’s journey as a writer. He discovers a love of reading in the most unlikely of circumstances, and from there always has a book in hand, at one point amassing a library of nearly five thousand paperbacks. As you might expect, the books he is reading and writing—and the music he selects, as he is also a talented songwriter and guitar-player—always seem to have a strange relationship with the events in his real life. Fiction is imitating life, to a degree, but it is also occurring the other way around, with his life taking on dimensions of the fiction he devours and creates. Bowyer is deftly able to explore the notion that stories, just like drugs and alcohol, can become another method of escapism, and there is a peril in that of a different kind. But unlike drugs and alcohol, there is also a hope and a healing to be found.

Ultimately, Writing and Rising From Addiction is a unique work, an autobiography that reads like a modern gothic novel, an epic that remains intensely personal, a true story that stretches credulity to its utter breaking point, a moment in history that yet feels like an eternal archetype. I devoured hundreds of pages in single sittings. It is utterly compelling just as it is disturbing. At times, the journey feels so bitterly dark you wonder whether you will ever find the light—only to emerge like Dante at the foot of the mountain of Purgatory, startled and awed, the black of hell falling away from your eyes. Writing and Rising From Addiction is a must-read for anyone remotely interested in horror, writing, addiction, magic, and love. It is a testament to the human spirit and the courage necessary to follow the ineffable paths set before our feet by powers mightier than ourselves.

You can get the book at one of the links below:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

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BEST IN SHOW: THE TOP FANTASY & HORROR WRITERS OF OUR TIME

There are lots of articles ranking the very best books in a particular genre, and there are also lists ranking the best writers and books of all time. Whilst a sense of hierarchy (this thing is more perfectly executed than that thing) is important in criticism, it should never come at the sacrifice of palette. The old-fashioned saying “Different horses for different courses” rings true: we go to certain genres and writers for specific experiences, whether we know this consciously or not. And so, I wanted this ranking list to work a little differently to most. Instead of saying who is the “best” (because of course we will all have different definitions of what constitutes “the best”), I wanted to showcase writers who excel at delivering particular experiences. Picture it like this: rather than looking at who is sitting on the biggest pile of gold, I instead wanted to point you towards the writers who possess very niche, gleaming treasures… I also exclusively wanted to feature living writers. I love the classics, but there are so many hugely talented authors working today.

Of course, this list—like all lists—is entirely subjective, but it might just help you to find the right writer to scratch a particular itch, a particular artefact you’ve long sought in the paradoxical desert of over-saturation. In addition, there are a good number of phenomenal authors who did not make this list, authors like John Durgin, Richard Thomas, Iseult Murphy, Brian Barr, Eric LaRocca, Anna Smith Spark, and more... The reason they did not make this list is no aspersion upon their literary abilities, and simply a reflection on the aesthetic focus of this article and the limitation of space!

So, without further ado, here are the best in show, my choice fantasy and horror writers and the particular delights they offer up. They have such sights to show you!

The best to make me believe in the supernatural… Lee Mountford

I had the privilege of meeting Lee Mountford in 2022 at the Self Publishing Show in London, a conference for independent authors run by Mark Dawson and James Blatch. He is one of the most kind-hearted and humble souls writing today. However, not only that, but his fiction is truly unique. He has taken the “haunted house” formula to another level of intensity, combining gothic verisimilitude with supernatural intensity. Lee Mountford’s Perron Manor, which is part of his Haunted series, will immerse you in the dark history of the eponymous house, a history so intricately interwoven with real history that you will find yourself Googling “Perron Manor” to see if such a place really exists. The mantle of reality cloaking Mountford’s work is, quite frankly, terrifying. With a torturer’s artistry, he makes you believe one small thing after another, until finally we reach a crescendo and come face to face with supernatural horror in its purest form—and are forced to believe that too.

It is shocking to see how quickly esteem can turn into infamy.”

Inside: Perron Manor

The best to make me care about f*cked up people… Christa Wojciechowski

Christa Wojciechowski is one of the most original writers working today. Her work is equal parts psychological horror, erotic thriller, and something altogether more mythopoeic. There were therefore a number of reasons to include Christa Wojciechowski on this list, from her startling and dark eroticism (which is so much more than pornographic, but almost spiritually harrowing) to her scalpel-sharp command of prose, but ultimately I settled on what may be her greatest gift: making me care about objectively awful people. Christa Wojciechowski has a unique gift for creating characters of rich psychological depth, and rendering those psychological interiors in ways that don’t feel expositional. Her characters are often broken, wrestling with addiction and vice, and many of them do terrible things in the name of love or in an attempt to survive, but somehow we still love them, forgive them, and care about them. Christa Wojciechowski has made me weep for abominable people, people who—were I in my right mind—I might wish were locked up. This is her dark genius, and I hope more people get to experience it.

If he only knew how good I was at tapping into veins, every one except the one of truth.”

Oblivion Black

The best to make me peer into the abyss… S. C. Mendes

I first encountered S. C. Mendes by chance. I was a big fan of the publisher Blood Bound Books and therefore monitored the books they released. They had put put a novel entitled The City, authored by Mendes. I confess, I did not pay it much attention at first, but then I heard online rumours in the form of cryptic reviews, rumours that the novel was not entirely what it appeared to be. One rumour used the phrase “lizard people”. Needless to say, my curiosity got the better of me. Nothing could have prepared me for The City. It is elegantly written and terrifyingly brutal, a vision of total horror that yet conceals in its gory excrescences a pearl of wondrous hope. It is a book of psychological layers, of Dantean ingenuity and spirituality, and not for the faint of heart. In short, The City was and is a totally life-changing book. There are many “extreme” horror authors out there, but I find much of their work lacks the spiritual power that a true hell descent mandates. Mendes will make you peer into the abyss, but not because he is a fetishist or likes violence or depraved sexuality, he will make you peer into the abyss because he has been to hell and returned to the land of the living to share with us its dark lessons.

The City seemed cold this time, but it no longer felt foreign. The carnival atmosphere was like a discarded lover: the terrain was familiar, but its company was unwanted.”

The City

The best to make me care about a relationship under duress… Dan Soule

Dan Soule is the literary James Herbert you did not know you needed in your life. His books take classic horror concepts, such as a mummy or an alien invasion, and transform them into heartfelt, modern, and epic narratives. His greatest talent, however, is his ability to describe relationships—whether a friendship, family relationship, or a romantic entanglement—that you immediately become invested in. Dan Soule understands that “no man is an island” and every individual is bidirectionally entangled in a network of relationships that continuously modify and define them. Balancing Dan Soule’s elegant relationship work, however, is the horror itself, which often threatens to tear the relationship apart, or else to warp it so out of shape that it is no longer recognisable or wholesome. The stakes of Dan Soule’s books are therefore always higher than high because we care so much about a particular bond. Dan Soule uses this tension to grip his readers by the throat. 

Dawn was still a distant shore for all those souls cast adrift on the night.”

Savage

The best to make me afraid of the woods… Steve Stred

I’ve been a fan of Steve Stred for a long time. There are so many things I love about his work, from his brutal, direct prose-craft, to his grounded and believable characters, to his interesting takes on religious and occult themes. However, there is one thing Steve Stred is becoming known for above all others, and with good reason: making people shit-scared of the woods. Many of his stories take place in the forests and wilds, yet the theme never seems worn out. As a competent outdoorsman, Steve Stred knows his way through the wilds, and he uses that knowledge to create terrifyingly believable works of horror that make me never want to see a tree or go for a night-stroll through the forest ever again. I may sound like I am being flippant, here, but we all know it takes consummate skill to imbue a familiar and beloved location with a sense of dread. Spielberg’s iconic film Jaws made an entire generation of people, multiple generations in fact, terrified of the water, and is rightly praised for this incredible feat to this day. Steve Stred is to the forest what Spielberg is to the sea, a maestro who can tap into our deepest fears.

His dreams that night were filled with visions of the trees swaying in the wind.”

The Stranger

The best at world-building… Carlton Mellick III

This might seem like a highly controversial choice. Surely, the title of best world-builder should belong to a classic fantasy author or someone writing alternative history novels. To my mind, however, Carlton Mellick III is simply untouchable when it comes to creating a world that is internally consistent and believable, yet also fantastical and totally surprising. Whether he is exploring the internal anatomy of a fallen kaiju (The Big Meat), a world of modern conveniences and metropolises populated by faeries, elves, and nymphs (Full Metal Octopus), or else a futuristic universe in which the population crisis has been solved by “combining” people (Biomelt), Mellick always delivers. His skill is in making the world-building an integrated part of the storytelling. There are no info-dumps: characters and their actions reveal the world’s mechanics organically. His concepts are outlandish—they don’t call the genre bizarro for nothing—and yet he makes them feel more grounded and realistic than the most pedestrian literary fiction novel. We believe not only that such a place could exist, but that all the people living in it are real too, and are products of this unique (and sometimes disturbing) world. Mellick has so many talents as a writer. He remains one of the only writers capable of making me cry when reading what is ostensibly tentacle porn. Yet, his world-building methodology is worthy of attention for anyone looking to write their own fiction and learn from a master.

At least his wings haven’t been clipped. At least he’s still beautiful, even if his beauty is only allowed to shine when he’s safe behind closed doors.”

Full Metal Octopus

The best to take me on a dark adventure… Rob J. Hayes

Rob J. Hayes is swiftly becoming a favourite author. I bought the first book of his War Eternal series based on the cover alone, but what I found within surprised and delighted me: a compelling, unique fantasy narrative that manages to hit all the fantasy tropes I love so well whilst making them new. The War Eternal is a five-part series (I am currently on the final book) that follows Eskara Helsene, a sourcerer (the spelling is significant) who is imprisoned for being on the losing side of a war. There are so many things to praise about this series: the narrative voice is astounding, the world-building is fascinating and well-handled, and the dialogue between its rogue’s gallery of characters will put a smile on your face and strike to the heart in equal measure. But, what I love most about The War Eternal is the story vivifies a feeling I had not experienced for a long time reading fantasy: that I was on a mythical, dark, but wondrous adventure. Whether we are journeying to the site of a terrible war between magicians, through an underground city of the Djinn, or to the floating city of the Rand, or to the bustling, phantasmagorical cities of Polasia, Rob J. Hayes’s story instills that sense of wonder and adventure that so enchanted me as a child reading every fantasy book I could get my hands on. In my view, this sense of adventure is sorely lacking from so much of fantasy these days, which tends to focus more on battles and politics (for those who enjoy these, however, there is plenty to be found in War Eternal). So, if you’re ready for an adventure, I highly recommend his masterful series.

They had always intended me to be a weapon used against the Terrelan Empire, but what if I was more? What if could be more? What if, instead of being a weapon used by one empire against another, I was a weapon to be used against a God?”

The Lessons Never Learned (Book 2 of The War Eternal)

The best to surprise me… Brian Bowyer

As a student of the five act structure, an editor, and someone who has spent a lifetime working with narrative and fiction, I find that I am rarely surprised these days. This isn’t as bleak a picture as it sounds, as I find a great deal more pleasure in the journey of a story as a result of my studies. For example, if the identity of a killer is going to be revealed, I usually find I’ve worked out who it’s going to be, so instead of focusing on the “surprise” of the reveal, I tend to focus on how the reveal is executed. It’s a different mindset, but yields just as much enjoyment. However, as you've probably gathered, everything I’ve just said gets thrown totally out of the window when we discuss the work of Brian Bowyer. When reading a novel by Brian Bowyer, I can safely say at no point do I ever know what is going to happen in the next paragraph, let alone in the next chapter. This isn’t because his books are full of random and meaningless events. His stories have a dreadful, inexorable logic to them, pulling you towards some moment of revelation or horror—or sometimes even heroism—that is totally unexpected yet hair-raisingly cathartic. Perhaps the greatest example of this is his novel Flesh Rehearsal, where a character on a dark and twisted arc suddenly arrives at a moment of transcendental redemption almost too epic to put into words. Bowyer surprises his readers at every turn—and yet you sense that he is not trying to surprise you. His work isn’t strained, or preposterous, or conceited, simply totally and utterly alive. Be warned, if you want to read Bowyer’s work, you are going to be faced with horror so demented and twisted it will turn the stomach of even a hardened veteran, but the horror is often worth it for the—here’s that word again—surprising glimpses of hope, love, and faith that emerge from the darkness.

They spoke of him on the radio again—he who was currently between names—and he didn’t like it. He turned the radio off. Much better. Now, the only sounds in his car were the rumble of the engine and the music of his tires on the road… He drove out of the hills into the city. With a couple of hours to kill, he decided to look for someone to sacrifice to the ancient gods of death.”

Flesh Rehearsal

The best to make me afraid of having sex… Nikki Noir

Nikki Noir is a truly original voice in dark fiction, combining eroticism, the occult, cosmic horror, and more besides. Her Black Planet series is a powerful coming of age story that plunges us into the depths of human depravity and supernatural evil, a tale of innocence in the face of cataclysmic corruption. One of the most brilliant aspects of her writing is the way she uses the erotic elements of her stories to cloak the dagger she is about to drive into your heart. She lulls us expertly into a false sense of security, titillating us with scenarios that are all too believable perhaps because they mirror the darkest human yearnings, only to then ambush us with scenes so horrifying they seem to have leapt from a John Carpenter movie. Nikki Noir is the sadomasochistic seductress of the written word who has frankly traumatised me into periods of abstinence.

Riley rose from Jordan’s crotch, letting the gore drip from her mouth, still praying to the dark quarters of the universe. Hopefully, the watchers were as satisfied as she was.”

Black Planet

The best to make me feel awe… Clive Barker

Most of the authors on this list are independently published. That’s because I genuinely read more independently published fiction these days. I find indie fiction is where the really interesting writing is happening, where authors are experimenting, taking risks, and painting unique landscapes upon the canvas of the human mind. However, that is not to say I only read independently published fiction, and credit has to be given where credit is due, such as to the great master Clive Barker. For many horror and fantasy writers, Clive Barker is where a love of the genre began, and it’s easy to see why: his prose is angelic, his imagination one of the most fecund to have ever found expression via the pen, and his ability to challenge preconceived notions of desire, morality, and beauty are frankly, to quote the great man himself, “legendary even in hell”. However, if I had to pick one faculty of Barker’s writing which most draws me to him, I would say it is his capacity to instil awe. In our modern world of cynicism, scepticism, and desensitisation, awe is a rare and beautiful thing. Yet, Clive Barker’s stories, whether short or long, almost unfailing evoke it. Barker writes like one who has tasted the magic of the world, fully imbibing it, so that it has become a part of his very being. Reading his work, we can taste a little bit of this magic too.

All his adult life, he’d asked why. Why God? Why meaning? Why love? Now he realized his error. The question was not why; it was why not?”

Everville

Thank you for taking the time to read this (very lengthy) article! I hope you enjoyed reading about these amazing writers, and that it played havoc with your TBR pile. Please do share this so others can discover the amazing work these writers are doing, and maybe find their new favourite author in the process! And lastly, if you have a particular author who offers up a particularly rare gem of experience you would like to suggest, please do leave a comment and let everyone know! 

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Review of Flesh Rehearsal by Brian Bowyer

Flesh Rehearsal is undoubtedly a work of dark genius. I say this knowing full well the word genius is frequently overused in contemporary discourse, and often awarded to work that is simply shocking or experimental, as though this were the only barometer of worth. However, Brian Bowyer’s novel is the real deal, a morbid beast of a book that explores existential questions such as what happens when we die, that comments on modern culture and our obsession with violence and sex, and, most surprisingly of all, shows how true love can stand in the face of darkness.

I often start my reviews by saying there is so much to unpack that it’s hard to know where to begin, but this is especially true of Brian Bowyer’s novel. His style is economic, which doesn’t mean that Bowyer doesn’t occasionally flex his poetic muscles for a passage of wonderful (or horrifying) description, but ultimately his preference seems to be cutting the bone—pun fully intended. This means that whilst the novel is a lean three hundred and sixty pages, more happens in the first fifty than in most trilogies.

One of the great distinguishing trademarks of the Russian novelists, particularly Tolstoy, was their use of action. Tolstoy’s prose is full of verbs, of doing, of movement. This creates a sense that the characters are dynamic and alive. Yes, there is introspection, but even the introspection feels active somehow. It’s as though all the characters and even places are caught in a kind of eternal stream, a ceaseless motion. Indeed, Tolstoy actively comments on this at times, calling this ceaseless movement “God”. Bowyer’s Flesh Rehearsal is similarly active. His verb tenses are almost never passive. All his characters are constantly alive and in motion, which gives the narrative an unstoppable momentum. Once I was hooked into the characters, and got a sense of who they were, I couldn’t stop reading.

This is a nice segue into the characters, who are—not to put too fine a point on it—fucking bananas. Firstly, there’s Gretchen and her sister Abby (a sly nod to Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism or pure coincidence?), who have suffered a lifetime of abuse at the hands of their father. These are arguably the most grounded characters in the book. We sympathise with their plight and we want the best for them. But we also recognise that, due to their upbringing, there’s a darkness in them too. And this darkness is expressed in strangely theatrical soliloquies about the nature of black holes, and death, and evil. In another book, these might feel out of place, but Bowyer’s masterstroke is really his setting, a setting that contextualises these surreal moments and makes them feel earned.

Dean Koontz once observed that, “I can forgive a writer a lot if they can wield a warp and weft of mood”. Flesh Rehearsal oozes mood. Every page is laden with Gothic dread. Though the novel is set in America, and the main action of the plot takes place in L. A., it is not the L.A. you can visit, it is the secret “dark side of the moon”, the side hidden from the conscious mind, an underbelly blacker than sin and certainly magical. Though Flesh Rehearsal is grounded in our world and real suffering and emotions, it is also unashamedly mysterious and supernatural. Bowyer taps into the sense that all of us, even staunch atheists, have had, that there is a world beyond our own just out of reach, and this life is just a “flesh rehearsal” for it. Occasionally, this world encroaches upon our own, and sometimes it drives men and women insane with what it reveals.

The strange characters inhabiting this dark fantasyland therefore feel like they are in their natural habitat. Out of the six main characters, four of them turn out to be either murderers or serial killers. The majority of these reveals aren’t big narrative revelations, by the way, it’s just part and parcel of living in this deeply fucked up world. One of the characters may or may not be gifted with superhuman powers—such as unnaturally long life and supernatural strength—as a result of appeasing the “gods of death”. Another is a prize-fighter who specialises in death-matches. But she also has a sensitive side and writes graphic novels.

Several of these characters are in a heavy metal band called Noctourniquet.

Let that name sink in.

As you’re hopefully beginning to realise, there’s little I can really do to prepare you for reading this book. It’s an experience as much as a narrative, a headlong plunge into abyssal black waters from which you may not emerge the same as when you went in. But having said that it’s an experience, the narrative in the Flesh Rehearsal is incredibly strong, governed as it is by the characters and their desires. Boiled down to its barest, barest parts, the book might be said to be a love-story. It’s girl meets girl, both of them damaged, but each of them capable of healing the other. The sweetness of this love-story is, I think, the secret to the book’s success, for without it the darkness of the world would surely overwhelm us.

And speaking of darkness, the second major component of the book is a thread that is deftly woven throughout the novel of a serial killer called The Lobotomiser killing women across L.A.. As I’ve already mentioned, there are several serial killers in this book, and we follow quite a few of them, but The Lobotomiser is distinguished from the others for the sheer awfulness of his murders and vile desecrations. Some scenes in this book will turn your stomach and make you nauseous—you have been warned.

The Lobotomiser is the king of the killers, and L. A. is his playground. We start with a very distant perspective on him: rumours and news reports, gossip and glimpses, but slowly we move closer and closer until we finally realise who The Lobotomiser is. The way the revelation is handled is sheer brilliance—Bowyer gives us just enough to know, to work it out for ourselves, and as a result it raises the hairs on the back of the neck. The novel reaches its climax when The Lobotomiser crosses paths with one of our star-crossed lovers. The tension of these concluding chapters is frankly deleterious to one’s health—we know exactly how bad it’s going to be if The Lobotomiser gets what he wants (seriously, it’s worse than you think). The stakes are real, and this makes the narrative electrifying.

But if this summed the narrative, then I still probably could not give Flesh Rehearsal the hard-earned descriptor of “genius”. There is another thread running through the narrative, however, the story of a twisted and conflicted Gollum-like man called Ludlow, and this is what takes it to the next level. Ludlow was undoubtedly my favourite character in the story: a drummer, a drug-addict, and a schizophrenic wrestling with reality itself. His chapters feature a wondrous intermixture of pitch-black humour and hair-raising terror. He is a dreadful person yet we also pity him because he does not seem to be in control (hence my comparison to Gollum, it is as if he has two sides).

Clive Barker once wrote in Imajica, “in any fiction, no matter how ambitious its scope or profound its theme, there [is] only ever room for three players. Between warring kings, a peacemaker; between adoring spouses, a seducer, or a child. Between twins, the spirit of the womb. Between lovers, Death.” Ludlow, to my mind, embodies this third actor or player, this dynamic element that cannot be predicted but we know will serve some greater narrative purpose. This purpose is fully realised at the end of the book where, like Gollum, Ludlow’s evil comes to serve good—it sends chills down my spine just thinking about it. And perhaps the most spine-tingling aspect is that Ludlow finally gets to have a moment of control, where he chooses—character development at its finest. 

Whilst Flesh Rehearsal is undoubtedly gonzo—one might even say borderline bizarro—it juxtaposes hyper-violence, drug-use, serial killers, vampires, and steaming-hot lesbian erotica with moments of profound pathos. I'd like to hope the world is not as dark or full of killers as Brian Bowyer’s version of L.A., yet artists use lies to tell the truth, and we see in it a mirror of the human condition and the struggle of being alive.

Stephen King once described H. P. Lovecraft as horror’s “dark and baroque prince”. After reading Flesh Rehearsal, I have to conclude that the title has a new bearer.

You can buy Flesh Rehearsal at the links below:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Amazon CA

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