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Review – Cigarettes & Wine by J. E. Sumerau

Imagine the terror and exhilaration of a first sexual experience in a church where you could be caught at any moment. In Cigarettes & Wine, this is where we meet an unnamed teenage narrator in a small southern town trying to make sense of their own bisexuality, gender variance, and emerging adulthood. When our narrator leaves the church, we watch their teen years unfold alongside one first love wrestling with his own sexuality and his desire for a relationship with God, and another first love seeking to find herself as she moves away from town. Through the narrator’s eyes, we also encounter a newly arrived neighbor who appears to be an all American boy, but has secrets and pain hidden behind his charming smile and athletic ability, and their oldest friend who is on the verge of romantic, artistic, and sexual transformations of her own. Along the way, these friends confront questions about gender and sexuality, violence and substance abuse, and the intricacies of love and selfhood in the shadow of churches, families, and a small southern town in the 1990’s. Alongside academic and media portrayals that generally only acknowledge binary sexual and gender options, Cigarettes & Wine offers an illustration of non-binary sexual and gender experience, and provides a first person view of the ways the people, places, and narratives we encounter shape who we become. While fictional, Cigarettes & Wine is loosely grounded in hundreds of formal and informal interviews with LGBTQ people in the south as well as years of research into intersections of sexualities, gender, religion, and health. Cigarettes & Wine can be read purely for pleasure or used as supplemental reading in a variety of courses in sexualities, gender, relationships, families, religion, the life course, narratives, the American south, identities, culture, intersectionality, and arts-based research.

For those of us who lived in the 90’s, for those of us who came from smaller towns, for those of us that felt constricted with the need to hide our ‘strangeness’ from others, Cigarettes & Wine puts you right back there, ready or not. Our unnamed protagonist navigates their teen years dealing with love, friendship, sex, and growing up.

Nothing about adolescence is cut and dried, despite what we might think at the time.  It’s like stepping on eggshells in a minefield. Adding in issues of gender and identity only make it more difficult. Our narrator is unapologitic for who he is, which I think is putting a positive example out there for any youths reading this book. There is no sugar coating here: drinking, smoking, and sex happen; also heartbreak, elation, fear, and happiness.  These are all things that happen, and I think it’s an excellent thing to see portrayed honestly, and not demonized or glorified.  It’s also good to see the topic of poly relationships pop up.

The storytelling is solid and the narrative flows well. It definitely kept me interested. The fact that it is also a part of the Social Fictions Series, crafted from interviews and research, back it with authenticity.  I appreciated the fact that it also had topics of discussion and assignments for a classroom setting. It’s not just dealing with ‘LGBTQ+ subjects’ it’s dealing with people in all their various forms in different ways that can be gleaned from this story and its characters. Overall, Cigarettes & Wine is an enjoyable and thought provoking story that I highly recommend.

Buy here==>

https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/social-fictions-series/cigarettes-and-wine/

https://www.amazon.com/Cigarettes-Wine-Social-Fictions-24/dp/9463009272/

 

Review: Cinema by Jason Gehlert

Cinema by Jason Gehlert

Cinema is Jason Gehlert’s fifteenth entry into his library of work and his unique writing style brings horror to a new level! This collection, separated into sprawling short stories and poems, brings back several of his iconic characters as well as some thrilling new heroes. Laanes Available paints a disturbing tale about reckless teens stranded in a rundown bowling alley. Echoes is the centerpiece of the collection, featuring a group of teenagers fighting for survival inside a cave and features William, a Down Syndrome character you’ll likely not soon forget. Gehlert’s Immortal hitman Jeremiah Black (from his novel of the same name) returns in a pair of unique tales, and Malcolm Ellis for the macabre tale, My Black Valentine. Cinema also features artwork by artist Mary Ellen Doering, and marks the fifth collaboration with Black Bed Sheet Books. “Gehlert’s Cinema is a unique collection of horror stories that will keep you up at night with the lights on!” – From award-winning G.A. Minton, author of TRISOMY XXI.

I’ve been reading a lot of anthologies lately.  Not a bad thing, but I have been hankering to dig into some novels and get lost for a longer term. I decided to belay that for Cinema by Jason Gehlert, and I made the correct decision. I’ve read Gehlert’s books before, and enjoyed them immensely, so I sat back to see what sort of madness he had for me this time.

The title ‘Cinema’ is fitting.  Each story plays out very visual and textured, much like a good creepy movie would be; maybe showing some old rundown theater in a dirty back corner of town.  The illustrations provided by Mary Ellen Doering were a nice touch, which I think helped set the stage. Starting with a story of a fisherman for hire, you aren’t sure if he’s going with ‘Old Man and the Sea’ or maybe ‘Ryme of the Ancient Mariner’.  As per usual, it goes in a different direction entirely, and away we go into the darkness. The book is broken up much like a movie, with acts and intermissions.  It’s a device that works because each Act has a different tone to it.  Each story in Act One gives us twists and turns, keeping us interested.  In Echoes, we find our hero to be not whom most would expect.  In the Roade to Ruin, we find our hero to be exactly what we expect, but what he has to go through keeps you on the edge of your seat. (or bed, if you like to read in those sort of places)

The Intermission is a nice little palate cleanser.  Full of poetry, dark and moving, it helps ready for Act 2 without forfeiting the tone of the anthology. I’ll admit, while I sometimes enjoy poetry, I’m not one to speak to much on it.  I still think the peak of poetic genius lays with Shel Silverstein, so I’m probably not a great authority. I read each one, though.  Each and every word.

Act 2 starts with a seriously creepy piece of body horror in Incision.  Then we get to a treat.  Combining the worlds of his previous work in Jeremiah Black and The Ferryman, we are taken on a hell of a ride in Ferrymen: Judgement Call.  This is a world I wanted to read more of and hope there is more of it in the future.  The Devil’s Troll and Laanes Available, both delightfully disturbing lead up to My Black Valentine, where , Jeremiah Black shows up one more time in a ‘just one more before we go’ gesture. He tussles with love, devotion, and various open wounds.

Overall, this is a fun collection of stories and poetry. Each story is a ride all in of itself, leaving a lasting impression. I highly recommend this anthology.

Buy it==> https://www.amazon.com/Cinema-Jason-Gehlert/dp/1946874019/
http://downwarden.com/blackbedsheetstore/authors/jason-gehlert/cinema

Review – Tongues By Sam Joyce

 

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Journalist Catherine Cobb is caught up in something so much more than she expected when she goes to a little Texas town.  Investigating Aryan groups, she quickly realizes that there is something more dangerous than the racists she is there to interview.

A sporadic rash of sudden violence quickly erupts into something more wide spread and she tries to simply get out with her life.  Things get so much worse as she stumbles headlong into a plot involving government agents, a dark occult practitioner, and forces that threaten the world at large.

Catherine quickly learns that no one is safe, nor can anyone be completely trusted.

The thing about starting a new book, especially going into one cold, you’re really not sure what to expect.  Coming out of the gate with issues like Neo-Nazi’s and racism might put one on guard when digging into a new read but it pays off.  Instead it drives you into the real meat of the story. There is plenty of action and occult shenanigans to whet the appetite as Joyce spares no details on his characters and the mechanisms of what drives the evil in Tongues. The story keeps you moving forward and you’re never quite sure when the next turn will come or where you will end up. A fun and dark read.

Click here for reading action ==> Tongues

 

 

 

Reviews and Interviews – Nicholas White

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Not Quite Your Regular Interview With Nick White

The Sly Lake Gang is the story of four estranged friends brought together through circumstance to face down a merciless killer -a monster connected to a strange incident from their childhood. Apathetic insurance professional Donald Borland reaches out for his adoptive brother Darren Lemay after a horrific accident. Darren, ever the leader, marshals the forces of their childhood friends Monica King and Dr. Patrick Williams. After a miraculous recovery, Donald and his friends return to their childhood stomping grounds: Clarkson, a sleepy retirement community nestled in Northern Ontario that harbors a powerful and unnatural force. Meanwhile Patrick’s old friend Jason Brower, a small town hero and police constable, is trying to save Clarkson from a bizarre and seemingly inhuman murderer. He reaches out to his friend and learns the dark secret that Patrick and his cohorts have kept quiet for nearly twenty years, kept by the pseudo superheroes who call themselves The Sly Lake Gang.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for character driven stories.  It’s always a bonus when those characters are thrown into a good plot.  The Sly Lake Gang by Nick White was a great example of this.  Starting out with an email exchange between two of the Gang, you get quick access to the characters.  As the story unfolds you learn more and more about the gifts that make these now estranged friends ultimately inseparable.  The villain of the story was unique because we got to ride around in his head.  It was creepy and thrilling to get such an intimate understanding of the process he was going through from both the in and outside.

This was a highly entertaining book that kept you going until the end. Here’s hoping for a sequel.

Tell us a little bit about yourself without once using the letter ‘e’.  NFL fan. Whiskey fan. Comic book fan. Lazy Shut in. Odd duck. Witty if drinking.

Sly Lake Gang centers around a group of people instead of just one main character. Did you find it more challenging than just focusing on one main P.O.V?   I found it somewhat difficult to be doing a third person narrative – bouncing between one character and another, but it became sort of a fun exercise. It breaks up the long swathes of writing you don’t want to do. I had always been a fan of the idea that the ‘narrator’ is lying to you. It is a challenge but eventually you can show the way character ‘x’ looks at a situation vs character ‘y’.

How much of yourself do you put into your characters? Would you consider a character in Sly Lake to be more you than the rest?  They all are to some degree. I mostly take a trait I certainly know I have (or people say I have), and shuffle things around. I take something I know I do and exaggerate it, or elaborate on it. That goes for any villain I write too. I take some bad behaviour, which we all might have practiced at one point in our lives, and push it to the limit. Gun to my head; Donald Borland.

What upcoming projects are on the horizon for you?   Well I think my next book is cool. I suspect my mother will agree. I am working on a sequel to Sly Lake Gang – but in the interim I tried to write a thriller that didn’t have any sci-fi or supernatural elements. I’m just about done that one and I am excited about it.

What do you judge to be the best Canadian beer?   This is deep. I’ll preface that as I drunk I love all beers in the spectrum. An everyday beer; I’d go “Amsterdam: Natural Blonde”. It’s local, but I am sorry it doesn’t have a cliché Canadian name.

Who are some of your influences? Bonus points for naming the influences to your influences.  Stephen King, (feel like no {one} needs to write that anymore), and his influence, Richard Matheson. Those two in particular because they teach you how to create a great psychic space in your book – without alienating your audience with ’’50 buck words’ so to speak. It’s vivid but it is never syrupy. I also love Cormac McCarthy. The style is wonderful and I dig him for the same reasons as Matheson. And the other end of the spectrum, where it is syrupy, Lovecraft. The idea of the antagonist not being evil; just indifferent to you living or dying.

Ask yourself (and answer) a question.  What do you look to do when you write a villain in terms of believability? I enjoy writing two types. A grey man, who walks between one choice and another, and opts for the bad guy choice. The other is the man being dragged into being the bad guy through no fault of his own; Frankenstein’s Monster, Brundlefly…

Ask me a question.  Night Shall Overtake is optioned for a movie deal. Gimmie a couple directors who could handle it. —Guillermo Del Toro, David Lynch, or Ridley Scott.  Though, for shits and giggles, I’d like to see what Mel Brooks did with it.

True or False: Agatha Christie was just Alfred Hitchcock in drag. Please explain your answer.  Excellent question. False. I feel if Hitchcock was in drag – he would own it. Maybe even kill it.

The Sly Lake Gang is available for your consumption at all the fine retailers you expect good books to be.  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at the Black Bed Sheet bookstore.

Don’t forget to stop by and say ‘Hi’ at his website.

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