Die, You Bastard! Die! by Jan Kozlowski

Every once in a while a book comes along that totally side swipes you. A piece of fiction in this genre almost always allows you to experience some sort of emotional peak, but it’s rare that one lulls you into a sense of security, only to flip around and turn someone you’ve become accustomed to, or even begun to find yourself attracted to, into a goddamned human pincushion.

And yeah, I’m looking right in the direction of Jan Kozlowski at the moment.

This small imprint is beginning to look a lot like the island of misfit toys to me, complete with deranged clowns and outcasts who have more passion and ability in their little finger than the masses on the mainland. When I saw that Kozlowski had a book coming out, with a title like this no less, I was actually quite surprised. Here’s a woman who looks so completely unassuming, is always painfully polite or excited about the genre, and she’s releasing a story with the legendary John Skipp. Shit, I still remember the first time I read Skipp and Spector’s Book of the Dead back when I was just about to head into my teens.

Based on that, I should have seen this coming.

Claire is a first-rate paramedic, with a heroic devotion to saving lives. She is also a survivor of unspeakable abuse, who has rebuilt herself entirely, as far from home as she could get.

But when her aged father is hospitalized, after a crippling fall, Claire is dragged back into a brutal nightmare of sexual depravity, and deepest betrayal. Where the only question left is, “How can I possibly survive?”

 And the only answer is, “DIE, YOU BASTARD! DIE!”

from amazon.com

Die, You Bastard! Die! opens up with an intriguing plot and a heart-wrenching scene of sadness that won’t leave your mind any time soon. The big bastard that this author depicts is the epitome of human scum who preys on the smallest and weakest members of our society. An act like this is definitely something that makes me, as a father, uncomfortable as hell, but it’s also something that would make any person with a heart and a brain cringe with horror on a regular basis. I don’t care how fucking hardcore you are, child abuse and sexual molestation is an act that should reward you with pains beyond that which a cenobite can deliver. End of story.

Now, when Kozlowski sets the scene with her main character, it’s easy to assume what’s coming next. About halfway through the story, you feel a sense of closure overcoming the plot, and literally wonder what’s coming next. I really looked at the rest of the story and wondered what the hell all of these extra pages were for if this was going the way I thought it was.

I’m also starting to wonder if the word “gullible” is in the dictionary or not because I totally fell for the ruse.

This author kicked the shit out of me like only Jack Ketchum did when I read Off Season for the first time. My mistake was in the fact that I assumed, and we all know what assuming does.

Yeah, I’m an ass.

But so are you if you think you’re going to walk away from this one unscathed.

Sheer will is the one of the only ways a reader could possibly sit through the rest of this book, and retaining the hope that redemption will be sought is the other. The crimes perpetrated on this main character are absolutely atrocious, but Kozlowski has her own brand of justice to mete out by the climax of the tale. And my, oh my, does she do it with style. Think I Spit On Your Grave mixed with a little bit of the most depraved Japanese hardcore spatter flicks you can muster, and then reinvent it in your own mind. If you have an imagination like mine, you’re totally screwed. Sorry.

Kozlowski is definitely fresh breath in this stagnant genre. Her voice is unassuming and works much like a lullaby before a terrifying scene in horror movie. She has a mastery over the written word unlike any other, and truly knows how to craft a brutal scene. The fact that this one affected me so much actually pleases me, as it’s something I find doesn’t happen all that often. Mind you, I read this while I was in the middle of a really good run of books, and it still kicked my ass. I have no doubt in my mind that this is the beginning of an incredible career for this author, and will be waiting with baited breath for more of her output.

Personally, I want to thank her pre and beta readers for being the guinea pigs to such a wonderfully poignant, but brutal work of fiction. The core of the tale is unfortunately true, as children and young people all over the world are exploited and wounded all of the world on a daily basis. While I usually balk at the idea of reading and reviewing a piece of work that centers around this issue (it’s a sore spot for me that I really don’t like visiting), I have to congratulate Kozlowski for not exploiting the nature of the beast, and delivering a very fact oriented and interesting story.

Like I’ve said before, Ravenous Shadows is definitely in the right place at the right time, and I have no trouble saying that this little imprint will become a powerhouse in years, or even months to come. And for those of you who are questioning whether Skipp can “pull it off” again? You bet your sweet ass he can. This line of novellas is proof that the man is on top of his game, as always.

If you’re not afraid to traipse into a world of depravity and sorrow, grab yourself a copy of Die, You Bastard! Die! at Amazon today.


Tribesmen by Adam Cesare

While I generally have a great outlook on horror fiction and the efforts of upstart authors, there are some times where even my expectations are blown right out of the water. There are also times where I’m left holding a stinker that I wish had been sent to one of our other reviewers.

This, however, was not one of those cases.

When Ed Kurtz released Bleed onto the world, I was incredibly impressed. Same goes for Tobin Elliott’s Vanishing Hope – a novella/chapbook from Burning Effigy Press. J.R. Parks’ The Gospel of Bucky Dennis was another one that shook me all night long, and the works of a few others have kicked my ass and made me regain my faith in the genre (which is waning, let me tell you). The above mentioned are some of the folks out there who are doing everything they can to make reading fun again.

And then there’s Adam Cesare – a man who not only wrote one of the best first efforts I’ve ever read, but also managed to craft a novella that has all of the appeal and entertainment found in the sticky theaters of a 1970s era 42nd street. This book may very well be the one that brings both horror film and fiction fans under the same roof to rejoice in the glory that is cannibalism. And yes, Cesare is bringing the entrees.

In the early 80’s – at the height of the ultra-violent “Italian cannibal” grindhouse film craze – a small international cast and crew descend on an isolated Caribbean island, hoping to crassly exploit the native talent.
But the angry, undead spirits of the island have a different, more original script in mind. And as horror after staggering horror unfolds, the camera keeps rolling. To the blood-spattered end…

– from amazon.com

Under the Ravenous Shadows line, curated by legendary author/screenwriter/editor John Skipp, Cesare has offered up a classic cannibals-in-the-jungle story, added his own wicked twist, and managed to channel Jack Ketchum, Ruggero Deodato, and Umberto Lenzi into one furiously fast-paced, and brutally unforgiving read. The fact that this unrelenting read is staged in a semi-script format lends credence to my previous comment regarding film and fiction fans. This was obviously written by someone who knows both of these arts very well, and makes me wonder if it was a clever ploy to subconsciously poke both groups into submission. If that’s the case, Cesare has accomplished his goal with me, at least.

Cesare has the chops to bring down a lot of the big boys, and isn’t afraid to wield his words like an almighty sword of literary power. His characters do exactly what they’re supposed to do, and his more ethereal jaunts into supernatural territory work effectively beside his real-life situations. This, my friends, is apparently a tough feat to accomplish these days, as proven by the half assed and slovenly attempts I’ve seen in just the last few months. Even the prologue to the main story is a brilliant example of the author’s ability to play in various literary landscapes.

Truth be told, this is exactly what I’m looking for in fiction, and exactly what I’m looking for in film as well. If Cesare thinks he’s going to get off with keeping himself stationed in fiction, he’s got another thing coming. Like Lamberson and several others, this is a man who is obviously meant to write for the screen. It would be a sin to have him leave his literary pursuits, especially since his career has just begun, but to see these words made flesh would be a real treat.

Skipp made a brilliant choice in throwing this publication at the masses with the first outing of his Ravenous Shadows imprint. It’s pieces like this that make readers become aware of powerhouse presses, and Skipp’s expert editorial skills ensure that RS is going to go far. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of Cesare’s work in the near future. In fact, I’m sure we can count on it.

Grab yourself a copy of Adam Cesare’s Tribesmen and see what I mean.