At the beginning of each month we will take a look at some very promising genre talent that you may not have heard of- fresh faces, if you will. These authors will be names to watch out for in the future so check them out so you can say, “Ah yes, I remember reading them back in the day.”
Have you ever been watching a really good horror film and you can just tell that the filmmakers were absolutely in love with the genre? It’s a good feeling, right? It’s like we are part of some special community where we are all just fans. That happens to me all of the time with film but it is rare that I get that feeling from a novel. Well Ed Kurtz has given me that feeling with his debut novel, Bleed. Ed knows what horror fans want because, at his core, he loves and understands the genre.
When Walt Blackmore moves into an old gable front house on the outskirts of a small town, things are really looking up for him; he has an adoring girlfriend to whom he plans to propose, a new job teaching English at the local high school, and an altogether bright future. His outlook and destiny are irreparably changed, however, when an unusual dark red spot appears on the ceiling in the hallway. Bit by bit, the spot grows, first into a dripping blood stain and eventually into a grotesque, muttering creature.
As the creature grows, Walt finds himself more and more interested in fostering its well-being. At first he only feeds it stray animals so that the blood-hungry monster can survive, but this soon fails to satisfy the creature’s ghastly needs. It is gradually becoming human again, and for that to happen it requires human blood and human flesh. And once Walt has crossed the line from curiosity to murder, there is no going back.
The audience has a front-row seat as Walt slowly begins his descent into the unthinkable. As the mysterious stain grows so does Walt’s insanity. Bleed
is a slow-build with a quick pace. I know that sounds a bit contradictory but the pacing within each chapter is extremely quick while the chapters themselves build slowly to the climax. It is a very interesting dynamic that certainly helps Bleed
deliver the scares while building a fantastic amount of tension.
As Walt loses his mind and the stain takes on a more recognizable form, Kurtz brings the scares. I found myself honestly frightened at what may be waiting for me on the next page. Kurtz picks off “safe” characters with reckless (and grisly) abandon so you never get “comfortable” within the story. Again, this is a testament to Kurtz’s ability to masterfully understand and manipulate the conventions of the genre.
With all of the scares on display, do you know what really got me? The noises. Kurtz saves his most descriptive prose to describe the sickly noises throughout the novel. Whether it is the creaking bedsprings in the intense prologue or the slurping and sucking sounds that emanate from the stain as it begins to take shape, these sounds add to the terror more than any amount of blood and gore ever could.
Bleed is a very simple novel done exceptionally well. Kurtz knows how to take a safe setting and few characters and twist it into an unpredictable mass of blood and scares. Kurtz is certainly a name to keep an eye out for in the future. I know I’ll be waiting with bated breath for his next release.