Reception by Kenzie Jennings REVIEW

***This review contains mild spoilers***

Let me start this review off by saying that–as a recently married man–I found the chapters leading up to the climax of this story to be the most accurate modern description of pre-wedding events that I have ever read. Not all horror entails the grotesque. Some of the scariest moments in life involve the mixing of one’s odd family with another, sharing completely disparate views and values, only to be forced to watch it all unfold with a smile presented across your face. That is truly terrifying, even as I have survived it.

Yet, with a glorious (gore-ious?) debut of a novel like Reception, written by Kenzie Jennings and published by Death’s Head Press, things are not entirely as they seem. Utilizing a book cover showcasing a twisted family’s idea of a home cooked dinner meant to startingly compete with the likes of both The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, allow me to explain that this story has both the chilling appetite and the uproarious humor of the former and latter, respectively, without losing sight of the small moments that keep a reader enthused beyond the simple shock value trappings that many first time horror authors find difficulty in elevating their work beyond.

Ansley Boone is the black sheep of her little sister, Shay’s, side of the wedding party. She’s just come from rehab and all eyes are on her, expecting the inevitable, that she’ll make a mockery of herself and her family in front of the groom’s. All of this is good and well until Ansley discovers that her special kind of crazy had been set upon every single ear that she’d meet, adding even more tension as she slowly loses her composure, wading through the narrative already built for her sans her own participation. Her anxiety, stomach, and overall instincts battling it out as the story progressively gets worse for her, through no small fault of everyone involved.

One particular scene involved the breakfast before the ceremony. Leading up to my first “what the actual fuck” moment had Ansley already unknowingly sleeping with an engaged groomsmen. Afterward, with the women on both sides hilariously bickering about hair styles, cake decorations, make-up, et. cetera, the maid of honor’s four year old son, Bryceson, complains about a German sausage tasting nothing like a hot dog–nothing at all. My jaw dropped as the kid said this and while more and more uneasy conversations unfolded, I had to remind myself to unclench my jaw by the time the story approached the most realistically awkward beginnings of a toast by the sister of the bride, Ansley herself, in front of the entirety of the wedding.

This is when shit hit the fan.

At first, I didn’t like the main character too much. This isn’t a make or break it with me, but as time went on her snarky attitude and coarse understanding of the world allowed her honest moments with her mother and sister to shine through in spades. We aren’t meant to like her right off because she is us. She’s at times a spoiled, ungrateful, longing child and when confronted by a past which your family won’t ever seem to let you forget, you’d be a bitch, too. Ansley Boone is one of the great first person POV’s in a realm occupied by far too many mediocre attempts to comprehensively name.

Kenzie Jennings has boldly used as her debut novel to examine family intersectionality and mental trauma, mixing it with a telling of a concept that under a lesser author, could be extremely kitsch, but instead comes off as leaps and bounds above her contemporaries. I will readily await her upcoming works with wide eyes and a clenched jaw for she is something special and we need to prepare for whatever she has in store for us, her victims, next.

Bravo. Bravo.

Purchase Reception here.

21st Century Freedom

My short story featuring a young body builder hell-bent on quitting his regimented lifestyle and living a new life of decadence is out now, serialized in 6 parts for Weird Mask Zine.

Pretty excited about this story being published. It’s a darkly comedic attempt at an R-rated Kafkaesque trip through a man’s mind, and a lot of it rhymes! So if that sounds fun and you like transgressive horror fiction, check it out and share it, please.

Part 1 available here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 here.

Part 4 here.

Part 5 here.

Finale here.

-TDR

Great company to be in!

‘FIRE BURN & CAULDRON BUBBLE’ OCTOBER 2019

Vamp Cat has released their “Fire Burn & Cauldron Bubble” issue for this October, featuring my little story about a sentient disembodied skull named Ca$h Money.

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

—William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Read it here and then keep the spirit flowing by checking out the rest that this Spook-tacular issue has to offer!

-TDR

Review of THE DAMNED PLACE by Chris Miller

Our wildest horrors and most terrible imaginations are nothing when compared to the evils that prevail in our everyday lives. In the real world, the sickening trend to inflict pain on those weaker than us or to stand idly by to watch these monstrosities occur is now in full force, exemplified even more by the 24-hour news cycles of today. This unabashed depravity is especially true in The Damned Place by Chris Miller, published by Black Bed Sheet Books.

Miller’s third full length novel shares only the most raw and visceral with his previous outing, The Hard Goodbye. Where that novel featured male protagonists–and one female– as they dealt with an evil man out for revenge, leading to many a gruesome end, The Damned Place matches this base setup, but adds a flare of conjoined human and supernatural madness into the mix, while also subtracting the age of each character to that of preteens.

This novel starts with a familiar set up. A band of kids in a small town piss off the wrong people in the process of discovering that the aforementioned town has a deeply disturbing history, growing closer through the chapters as they band together to defeat the evil. The Stephen King influence is undeniable, but what Miller does here is truly astonishing. He may have begun as some sort of R-rated interbred of Stranger Things and early 90’s nostalgia, but this behemoth of a book quickly evolves from that status and into one of the most well-written horror novels I have ever had the pleasure to hold in my hands.

There are actually two major stories in this book. There is the conflict between the main characters and the bullies as well as the story of an empty-bellied beast waiting to be released from another world, residing in the thin atmosphere of the woods.

The story within the story, that of detailing the origins of the eponymous damned place, was my favorite section of the book. Its lore and characterized descriptions, written in both first person POV and third person omniscience provided much leverage to tempting my heart into full on adrenaline-fueled despair, yet I couldn’t look away. I read that full section, which is a hefty chunk of the book, in one agitated sitting. I was actually saddened when this part came to its fitting end. All I know is, we will see more of this “Glutton” character and that is terrifying to imagine what it will do to enter our world.

The main plot about four friends within the twilight of their preteen years has just as much to sink your teeth into for any fan of suspense and horror. Each chapter is written in variable third person limited point of view. This is his way of having his cake and eating it, too. This could have turned out awful, but Miller strived for something greater and I think he did a bang up job implementing these perspectives, although I understand this won’t work for everyone. Miller unwaveringly moves his plot forward with every paragraph, almost to a fault, as there is hardly any time to catch a breath once the bullies come into play. The main villain is Jake Reese, more so than this Glutton monster. If the horror-lit God’s have any real influence on the reading public, they will mark that character as one of the most chilling villains to have ever been written on the page. He is equal parts fledgling serial killer and gross mismanagement of testosterone-fuled hell raiser inclinations. If I didn’t grow up in the early 90’s, I’d think of this kid as a ridiculous, over indulgent fantasy of an amateur horror author. I’ve lived it. I’ve met these monsters among men and they start young. His stooges, Bart and Chris, are either do nothing wannabees or ill-gotten, reward driven, voyeuristic playthings, respectively, in Jake’s own world of gleeful torment.

The main kids are characters that we can all relate to in certain stages of our lives. There was always the girl we all loved and there was always darkness in each of our lives. With the detailed mayhem that Miller swam in for this book, I bit the bottom of my lip on multiple occasions expecting nothing but the worst for these past reflections of myself. I truly began to care for these characters in a way so few horror books accomplish. It is easy to see that Miller knows each of these characters from his own life or through himself. I didn’t want them to die and I don’t think Miller did either, but he’d certainly do what he had to do.

Chris Miller, with The Damned Place, has written a novel that deserves to launch beyond the trappings of indie horror and into the stratosphere beside works like those by Barker, King, Hill, and more. Many years later, we will look back at this novel as a giant leap over the stepping stones so many indie authors like myself wish to climb. I wish him the best of luck in his deserved meteoric rise within Texas horror and beyond.

Buy your copy here.

Rocky Montgomery Interview

My interview with rapper Rocky Montgomery is up at GUA, where we discuss a wide variety of topics like hip-hop, parental influences, kung-fu, his new album projects, living in Vegas, and more!

Check it out here.

And if you know of any urban artist that would be interested in an interview, send them my way.

I am on Twitter – @RogersDrue

If they want to message me.

Thanks for reading.

-TDR