Dreadful Tales Book Club – June 2013 Edition

Pork Knuckles_Apocalypse CowMeat is murder at Dreadful Tales and The Mortuary this month! Or, more accurately, meat is murdering.

We have two kick ass titles to read for June that both involve farm animals striking back at humans. We have the slime-spewing psychic psycho pig Pork Knuckles in MP Johnson’s novella The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone (Bizarro Pulp Press, February 2013). And we also have cows out for blood not cud in Michael Logan’s novel Apocalypse Cow (St. Martin’s Press, May 2013).

porknucklesYou can pick up Johnson’s novella The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone here in paperback format or for Kindle. I’ve already read this one, but I plan on reading along with y’all again. Here is the review I posted yesterday on Dreadful Tales. The short version is I love this story. It’s bizarre but sweet, disgusting and hilarious often all at the same time.

You can friend MP Johnson on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, and check out his website (which is also a DIY zine) Freak Tension to keep up with all his fiction and non-fiction shenanigans.

This is my first time reading Apocalypse Cow, but I apocalypse cowcan tell at only the 50 page mark that this will be a fun ride. I mistakenly read this at lunch today. Right at the point where an abattoir worker is describing how this epidemic started – with a cow gnashing its teeth, chewing its mouth into a pulpy mess, and shooting bloody snot rockets at the slaughterhouse worker – I was biting into a delicious Meatloaf Manhattan. A beautiful, thick piece of meatloaf resting atop a soft slice of white bread with mash potatoes on the side and drowned in gravy. Despite feeling just a little sick after reading that passage I pressed on and finished my meal like a good girl. Hope it doesn’t kill me!

You can pick up a copy of Michael Logan’s Apocalypse Cow here. Doesn’t look like it’s available for cheap on kindle, but the paperback is quite affordable.

Like Mr. Logan on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, and check out his website.

I hope you will join us for this fun filled month of meat and mayhem! Don’t forget to stop by The Mortuary to chat with the gang about this month’s books here.


The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone by MP Johnson

porknucklesDid you ever have a pet for a best friend? Maybe a lil’ cat you would watch morning cartoons with? Perhaps you had a dog that followed you everywhere, ate your table scraps, and truly lived up to the catchphrase “man’s best friend?” That’s the premise of MP Johnson’s first book The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone about 12 year old Daryl and his pet pig Pork Knuckles published by Bizarro Pulp Press (February 2013). Daryl treated Pork Knuckles, also known as PK, as if he were a person, sewing outfits for the pig and spending all his time with PK. They were inseparable and Daryl expected it would always be this way. “When he thought about the future, PK stood beside him through everything: helping him study his way through law school, handing him the ring on his wedding day, traveling the world with him and hand-gliding from the tops of fuming volcanoes. Everything”

Doesn’t that sound sweet? Of course, I’m sure you can guess that since we’re reviewing this story on Dreadful Tales, and being published by Bizarro Pulp Press, this is no sweet boy-and-his-pet coming of age tale.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon.com:

What’s a farm boy to do when his pet pig becomes an evil, decaying hunk of ham with slime-spewing psychic powers?

After Daryl Malone absconds to Green Bay with the remains of his pet, Pork Knuckles, strange things start to happen. Why is everyone around him so hungry for ham? And why is green ooze pouring from their orifices? When he finds the answer to these questions, he’s forced to choose between his best buddy and a family that has only existed on the periphery of his life. That choice will send him and the ones he loves barreling nonstop through a labyrinth of cannibal hippies, Nazi flies, rabid drag queens, brawling grizzlies and punk rock muck fests.

The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone is a trippy, punk-inspired, weirdo tale. Even though this is a bizarro story with bat-shit crazy characters, insane twists in plot and viscera squirting from every damn orifice imaginable, this tale has heart. As one would expect from the bizarro genre, this story is over the top, but it’s not a constant one-upping of gross-outs and camp to shock the reader; young Daryl is a good kid trying to do the right thing by his friend and I white-knuckled my Kindle until the very end hoping he would make it out in one piece, pig or no pig.

At a scant 94 pages, there’s a limited amount of space for Johnson to expand on Daryl’s character and the relationship with his father Albert, but he successfully keeps them from being one dimensional. Johnson has an obvious talent for creating pitiful yet likable and relatable characters in a super short amount of time. This story would be a blast to read even without the family background, but the insight Johnson offers early in the story gives the action that follows more weight. Sure, the weirdo truck driver, the bus full of drag queens, the meat orgy at Meaty Pete’s Butcher and Deli, and crazy puking punk rock aunt and uncle are all entertaining, but the father-son thread at the heart of the story makes it all the more engaging.

At times, the story tugged at my heart strings a bit while I hoped for the father-son reunion between Albert and Daryl, but The After-Life Story… is all about a consistently morbid sense of humor. Johnson has a quirky way of writing and a distinctive style. Like in this passage when Albert is confronted by a rather large man: “The man packed at least three hundred pounds of meat onto his five-and-a-half foot frame. A significant percentage was nose, as if God had reached the end of a batch of humans and, instead of discarding the excess nose material, simply slapped it onto this guy. Waste not, want not.”  Then there is the finale at a punk show in which Daryl sings “Dead Piggies” which, ironically, the aunt notes “It’s not about the cops, but fuck them anyway!”

MP Johnson has an extensive background in non-fiction writing, his music obsession satisfied in reviews for his own personal zine and website Freak Tension and the punk music magazine Razorcake. Johnson doesn’t abandon his non-fiction world of punks, freaks, misfits, social rejects, and psychos (and I use all those labels in the most complimentary way) but instead uses them to fill his fictional bizarro world, albeit through a distorted funhouse mirror, infusing his own unique voice in an often trudged genre keeping things fresh. The marriage between Johnson’s own real life experiences with the bizarro world is one of the reasons the story so satisfying.

You can pick up MP Johnson’s The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone in both paperback format and Kindle format here or anywhere else cool books are sold. This will be one of the Dreadful Tales Book of the Month club titles, so be sure to get a copy and join us at The Mortuary to chat about it!

To follow MP Johnson and all his fiction and non-fiction shenanigans, friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, and check out his website Freak Tension. While you’re at it, check out this post which offers some insight into the origins of Johnson’s story.


NBAS ’11: Lepers and Mannequins by Eric Beeny

I was slightly confused when I started Lepers and Mannequins. The confusion was, I later realized, simple because I had recently come off of reading a spate of hilarious Bizarro novels that challenged me to stretch my imagination to the fullest, while bending me over in pain from laughter. My initial react to this novel wasn’t, at all, funny. I was concerned. I was concerned for the main character, for her lover, for her society and their natural enemies, and for the entire world they lived in.

And then I realized what was happening, and the brilliance that this novel is capable of.

Eric Beeny not only assailed my senses with some of the most off-the-wall characters and plot devices, but he also made me think long and hard about society and all of its nasty little ‘isms’. This is the Bizarro novel that almost made my damn self cry.

From Amazon:

It’s been three years since the last harvest, and the lepers are preparing once again to wage war on the mannequins for spare parts – prosthetic limbs they need to rebuild themselves. Jaundice (a female mannequin) and Quall (a male leper) have fallen in love in the midst of this war, forcing them to confront and redefine the nature of loyalty and betrayal. An absurd and tragicomic allegory, Lepers and Mannequins explores how love, identity, class, religion and desire all divide people not only from each other, but from themselves. As the lepers struggle to maintain their humanity (striving at all costs to conquer both the mannequins and their disease), they could ultimately lose it. This is the mannequin metaphor, and warns of a startling fate for the lepers – if they can stay in one piece long enough to put themselves back together…

I usually don’t like stories that tell themselves from more than one perspective, but the way Beeny did it here is almost poetic in its subtlety. Not once does he let on that he knows he owns you, but he also actively encourages the reader to fully immerse themselves in the story through clever and strange positioning of key ingredients. The slop and squelch of the world that these two warring, yet intrinsically linked peoples live in is absolutely tangible. I loved the way that, no matter what was happening in the story, Beeny found a moment or two to explain what the terrain was like, and how the living conditions fared to the touch of these two ‘tribes’.

The entire novel could easily be set in anyone’s local forested area, making this one of the more accessible novels in the series. Yes, I understand the fact that Mannequins aren’t alive, and that Lepers are rarely in such a state of decomposition that they may feel a tinge of social unrest, thus planning an attack bent on harvesting the limbs of their neighbouring colonies… but that’s besides the point. The fact is, Beeny is very adept at slinging his words in a way that shows you he means business, but also sits early with those who don’t want to slog through weighty words that mean less than they appear to. The end result, thankfully, is a novel brimming with social commentary, copious amounts of face shredding insanity, an a generous amount of twisted Romeo and Juliet love that will melt the heart of the most hardened of genre readers.

There isn’t much more that I can say about this novel that will justify it, except for praising Beeny’s keen eye for dynamic characters. Jaundice is immediately identifiable as the quintessential female desire to be ‘perfect’ yet still different from those around her. Her lover, Quall, never hesitates to lay everything on the line for his love, calling to mind the selfless things that a man will do to profess his undying loyalty to the woman he desires. The rest of the Leper colony, and Jaundice’s Mannequin tribe act accordingly, eschewing their feelings for one another in favor of vilifying their painful, violent past. If it sounds a little Shakespearian, that’s because it is. This is, by and large, the best adaptation of a classic, though throughly original in its own right, that I have ever read.

Wild, violent, tear-jerking attraction is almost immediate in Lepers and Mannequins. Beeny has created something special here, and I’m pleasantly satisfied with the result.

You can grab a copy of this book in paperback and for your Kindle. Also make sure you check out Eric Beeny’s blog, Dead End on Progressive Avenue, and Eraserhead Press for more incredible Bizarro Fiction. If you’re looking for even more Bizarro information, visit Bizarro Central for all of your weird needs.


NBAS ’11: Seven Seagulls For a Single Nipple by Troy Chambers

Seven Seagulls for a Single Nipple is a strange tale. Not only does it start with a kind of “what the hell am I reading” vibe, but it quickly moves into a “why the hell haven’t I read something like this before” vibe.

Still with me? Good.

A walking, talking, nipple; a baby faced, serial rapist lobster, a psychotic lesbian nun, and a flock of godly seagulls walk into a bar… wait… no, it’s not a joke. It’s this novel. And oh WOW what a novel it is.

From Amazon:


Wilmorn is a nipple. A nipple in love. Living on a Voodoo priest, Wilmorn the sentient nipple crosses paths with a foul-mouthed lesbian nun shouting about wickedness in the streets of NYC and instantly falls in love. He summons the Seagull Gods in a bid to gain bodily freedom and pursue her, asking for his own human body. The Gulls grant his request. Sort of. They make him a big nipple with a gross little face and spindly limbs. And give him a lobster baby companion/guardian-a chain-smoking demon maniac with a lobster body and a baby face who tail-rapes people to death and picks on Wilmorn ceaselessly. Yes, tail-rapes. It’s his… thing.

Can Wilmorn convince the nun to love him so that he may be human? And what if he succeeds? Making deals with evil Seagull Gods from magical dimensions might not always work out as one would hope.

I’m sure that when Troy Chambers sat down to write this novel, he went about it with the same kind of vigour that I read it with. Only, Chambers is obviously a huge dreamer and a twisted man. Me, I was just the innocent bystander that happened to chance upon his descent into madness. And hell, I’d witness his madness over and over again if it was as entertaining as this. This novel is some hilarious stuff!

Take Stalin, the aforementioned baby faced, serial rapist crab. Can you honestly think of anything you’ve read recently that is as outlandish as that? No. You can’t. Couple that with the fact that this crab is the living embodiment of James Brown, Mr. T, and Samuel L. Jackson’s attitudes mashed into one, on a bad day, without coffee, having an eternal nic fit… with a brutal hangover. That’s who Stalin is. And he’s brutally hilarious throughout the entire novel. Actually, I’d hazard to say that he completely steals the show from the main character, Wilmorn.

Speaking of Wilmorn, did I mention that he’s a massive giant nipple who struck a deal with the seagull gods in order to detach himself from his owner, look for his true love, and eventually go through a massive bodily change that leave him, well, different? Yes. This book is hilarious and amazing.

Chambers is obviously very comfortable with the world he has created in his head, and it translates to the page phenomenally. While this is one of the more extreme novels of the NBAS ’11 group (if only for the serial raping lobster) it’s also one of the most colourful and strangely cathartic as well. Watching Wilmorn go through his transformation, his journey to find his hate-filled lesbian nun/true love, and the overall theme of the book was a real eye opener for me. The author truly let his creativity flow with this novel, and it’s very refreshing to see in genre fiction.

The entire novel centres around Chambers’ ability to surround his cast and with some of the most outlandish situations imaginable, while still keeping things flowing smoothly and on a direct path to a clear ending. I seriously have to hand it to this man. Chambers is not only coming out of the gates with a brilliant novel in tow, but he’s coming out screaming bloody murder, with the intent to take the whole damned place hostage.

This, my friends, is a novel worth looking at.

Seven Seagulls for a Single Nipple is a love story gone terribly wrong… in a good way.

Grab this book at Amazon in Paperback and for your Kindle. Check out Chambers on Facebook, and make sure you take a look at the other fine Bizarro Fiction Eraserhead Press has to offer. If you’re looking for even more Bizarro information, visit Bizarro Central for all of your weird needs.


NBAS ’11: Party Wolves in My Skull by Michael Allen Rose

No writer should be able to pull off such a high-octane adventure as Rose has in his first outing. And further more, it’s completely absurd that something like this, something that reads at break-neck speed and refuses to quit, wasn’t shoved in my greedy little hands sooner. Now that I’ve been introduced to the work of Michael Allen Rose, I can honestly say that I want more-more-more! Party Wolves in My Skull is the adventure novel featuring renegade eyeballs, murderous walruses, penguin footed hotties, and a pack of attitude laden wolves jammed into some guy’s skull that I’ve always been looking for.

Yes… I demand a lot from my fiction.

From Amazon:

Norman Spooter awakens one morning to find that his eyeballs have fallen in love with each other. They proceed to tear themselves out of his head, steal his car keys, and take off for parts unknown. So he does what any of us would probably do in that situation… he goes back to bed, hoping it’ll all resolve itself. Unfortunately, in the middle of the night, a pack of WOLVES moves in. The worst thing is, they’re party wolves…

BUT they gave him a security deposit, so he decides he’s going out to get his eyeballs back.
He joins forces on his epic quest with a woman named Zoe, who has a mysterious secret almost as crazy as Norman’s Party Wolves. Besides, she needs him too. She’s on the run from her psychopathic ex-boyfriend, who happens to be a dangerous sociopath, a classic car enthusiast and, worst of all, a fully grown walrus.

The road trip/chase novel is flipped on its head with everyone chasing everyone… explosions, battles and madness are the drivers in this particular race, along with a few stops in such places as the Motel Sick and a cult town in North Dakota featuring some dangerous hooded guys who’ll pretty much marry anything to anything. With violence and insanity nipping at his heels and a race against the clock to get his body parts back, this could turn out very badly for Norman Spooter.

For any of those folks reading who have a soft spot for a Rebel Without a Cause style of attitude in their fiction, Party Wolves… is right up your alley. Featuring some of the greatest characters on this side of the genre, Rose has penned what will undoubtedly go down as one of the funniest, most creative renegade animal stories you’ll ever come across. Complete with a cast of characters so damned strange, this novel touches on everything from love and hate, all the way to justice and revenge. There’s not a damned thing wrong with this story except for its short length. I would have loved to see something far longer, and hold out hope that Rose may expand on this story at a later date.

The visuals are stunning and colorful, making it easy to see this as a graphic novel or even an animated series on The Cartoon Network, for sure. The emotional value present Rose’s dialogue is what makes this piece feel so damned full. Every corner of this writer’s canvas was painted inexplicit detail, eliticiting screams of laughter at the whimsy of these folks, and tears of sadness when any of the characters feel even the slightest bit of sorrow. This is a true gem in genre fiction, and will undoubtedly win many crowds over.

Now, Rose creates some of the most interesting characters in this story, and has no problems showing his ability to ‘play God’ with them. The author offers up a penguin-footed heroine, a murderous, love-scorned walrus, a man whose eyeballs have abandoned him in an act of political defiance, and a pack of wolves who like to party, and just so happen to become the tenants in the previously mentioned man’s skull. The fact that Rose went with a slapstick gag just prior to the introduction of the party wolves makes this pairing that much more hilarious.

I would get into more intricate detail about the wolves themselves, but I don’t want to spoil the fun for those of you who are going to check it out. Let’s just leave it with the fact that they play out a wicked example of a 50’s tough-guy gang, and use their secret abiblities (and their shame) to entertain and ravage readers with a very unique style. Rose really hit the proverbial nail on the head with this one.

You can grab a copy of Party Wolves in My Skull in paperback and also for your Kindle. Make sure to visit Rose’s website and check out Eraserhead Press for more awesome Bizarro Fiction. If you’re looking for even more Bizarro information, visit Bizarro Central for all of your weird needs.