Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: Samson and Denial by Robert Ford

Samson And Denial by Robert Ford

Samson and Denial by Robert Ford
128 Pages
Release Date: 9/2/2011
Official Launch at Horrorfind Weekend
Available from Thunderstorm Books

If you're not familiar with the great Robert Ford, you'd best get to reading! While not nearly prolific enough, though that's hopefully soon to start changing, Bob Ford has captured my interest with his flowing narratives, immersive settings, and raw, gritty characters that seem to come to life, springing from the page and taking on lives of their own.

I was lucky enough to be given an advanced view of Bob's latest, Samson And Denial, in exchange for this review, although I would have jumped at the chance to share it with all of you regardless. I read through it in one sitting, it was impossible to turn away from. I actually found myself staring at my empty coffee mug and deciding I could wait until I'd finished the next section before going for more... And I ended up repeating that until I'd gotten all the way to the end.

Samson And Denial is a beautiful, gritty amalgamation of brutal mobsters, strung out junkies, supernatural remains, murderous cultists, and one hell of a protagonist. Samson is exceedingly well written as a character. We learn about his past and his relationship with his brother and his wife through bits and pieces, little recollections and memories that have been seamlessly interwoven throughout this unique and visceral tale. Within a few pages you start to feel like you know Samson, and by the end you feel for him like a friend. The pacing of this story is one that I think makes it especially unique, there's a lot of action going on, and yet at no point did I feel lost or overwhelmed, or feel like I needed a breather. It flowed very well, one scene to the next, leading all over the streets of Philadelphia before smashing into a fantastic ending, with just enough of a twist to make you wonder how you hadn't seen it coming.

As a writer, one of Bob Ford's greatest strengths is his characters. He has a unique ability to bring the people who populate his stories to screaming, throbbing, pulsing, breathing life in a way that few authors can, and this story is no exception. From the antagonist, whose presence is only felt in a very brief part of the actual story, right down to the bit players, each and every one of them comes striding off the page, ready to rock and roll, ready for action. And action is something this tale has in spades.

Just in case it wasn't evident, I absolutely loved this read. If you can get your grubby little paws on a copy, I highly advise you to do so. And pick up Bob's other works, while you're at it! You won't be sorry.

5 dessicated mummy heads out of 5!

Post script: Samson And Denial will be launched at HorrorFind Weekend, which anyone who's anyone (Including yours truly!) will be attending! See you there!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Let's twist again...

As a fledgling writer, something I've been struggling with is how to handle criticism. My lovely readers may recall a post about that a little while ago on my reflections on Horrible Saturday. As a person, I admittedly don't respond very well to "feedback" in general. I try to justify things, make excuses, rationalize. I tend to get defensive and hurt, and take things way too personally. I know this. It's something I've always dealt with. It's tough, because I really do want to improve as a writer, and I know that means identifying my weaknesses so that I can better address them. Generally, feedback falls into one of two categories. Praise and "constructive". But what to do when confronted with something that doesn't clearly fit into either box?
Some time ago, I posted the first (very rough) draft of a story called The Lesser. I got a fair amount of feedback on it, which I loved. Feedback means people actually read it, and to have people reading my stuff is a huge boost for me. Most of it was positive. Some was constructive, and I've taken it all to heart. Then there was one little comment, left by "Anonymous" of course, so I can't ask for any follow up.

"Love your stuff! great work! Your too gimmicky tho. Focus on the writing."

Blink, blink. Gimmicky? What? I'm not quite sure I understand. I sat there for a minute, staring at the screen, unsure of what to say or how to react. Gimmicky? Me? What could that possibly mean? I took some time to think about it, as well as speaking with some friends on the subject, and what I came up with is this: As a writer, part of my style has always been a tendency to rely on twist endings. Long winded literary puns, as one cohort said. Could it be that I am the M. Night Shayamalan of amateur horror writing? Maybe. But why? I thought about my literary influences. Shirley Jackson was one that immediately sprang to mind. The Lottery and We Have Always Lived In The Castle are famous for their remarkable twist endings. I thought about L. Ron Hubbard's Fear and the way that it leads up slowly, building suspense, pulling the reader into the antagonist's growing hysteria before POW!, that sock-you-in-the-face ending. I thought about Thomas Tyron's Harvest Home and the way that story evolves, hiding it's dark secret behind a cozy little home town facade. Then, I thought about my own work. Insofar as I can recall, The Lesser is the only thing I've ever written without a twist ending, therefor it just may be the exception that proves the rule. And you know what? I'm OK with that. I think it's part of my literary identity and who I am becoming as a writer. At the end of the day, I like my twists. I like my endings. I like the idea of keeping my readers guessing, even if they think they already know what they're in for. And after all, without a twist at the end, how do you know the story's really over?