Nick Reads & Reviews Page 8

Traumatized by Alexander S. Brown

(2006 Publish America.)

After reading Traumatized I decided in this review to make an example out of Alexander S. Brown. Going down that road, I must begin with how this work came to my attention, and if memory serves me right I believe I was introduced to Brown's Myspace page, and one thing led to another resulting with a copy in the mail and an author at the other end anxious to know my thoughts. 

I get a lot of that. And if I had a nickel for every last one..........
     .......yet, at the end of the day, I've read through the works of many unsung authors and more often than not I've found most of them to be promising, despite shortcomings, despite lack of the proper infusion of poetry in their prose, oftentimes exhibiting great storytelling/character structure but lacking in the sort of finesse that turns pages and makes a mediocre book a great work to be proud of as an author....that sort of thing, especially with what goes regarding a majority of self-published material. Alex Brown is self-published, his first novel Sweet Dreams ( 2003 from Authorhouse, or 1st Books Library as was what it's been known as prior to being Authorhouse), has a couple of good reviews by laymen reviewers on Amazon and sports one of the worst covers I've ever seen on a book. In 2008, Brown utilized the services of Xlibris to publish his 15-tale, 300-plus-page collection Traumatized, the work which falls under scrutiny here. I checked out an "about the book" website regarding Traumatized designed by Xlibris that looks hella cool but doesn't say much of anything, and, a more personal site ala Brown's Myspace presence but doesn't have much to it albeit a good bio about the author. Since his high school years in Mississippi, Alex Brown has more than tampered around with his passion for telling stories, the kind of dark stories I dig, and in print he's been around since 2003, so to date he's been dancing around with stories to tell and sell to the masses for a good handful of years but (for reasons that likely have to do with why his web presence lacks the meat and potatoes I was hoping to find) he remains a teeny little voice compared to where he should be by now.
     Point is, Traumatized is a collection that deserves far more credit than what's encompassed within the above paragraph, and it blows me away how this assemblage of exhilarating and refreshingly macabre series of stories could not have been more prominently pimped than it has. It's an example......a perfect example......of a genuine piece of work that deserves the attention of writers and writer's associations whose authors do this sort of thing for a living but falls short of the recognition it deserves. Take Feast of the Pigs, for example.....highly entertaining cops/turned-bloodsucking-creatures faire, how a Big Easy spirit came to be in Althea's Last Dance is top-notch narrative, and we also have a delightful The End of Summer where a hand-me-down occult book library inspires grisly voo-doo doll-type mayhem done with balls-out satisfying style. There are a handful of instances where Brown seems a bit long-winded.....where, for example, the opening Bloodlines tale (essentially a good haunted house-type "Clue" where a group of people are summoned to a mansion to search for a mysterious treasure) can be detailed down a bit and given momentum. Traumatized is damn worth paying attention to, and I hands-down recommend it.
     Now that I've said what I've said, I don't think I need to make an example of Alexander Brown. I think he's an example in his own right, of a literary talent that needs to broaden his horizons to the extent that it fits the exemplary nature of what he's done with this work, and not hide it under a bushel and remain that teeny little voice. Some of this caliber of, it's well above a lot of the books I get in the mail to review that makes me say yet again "....if I had a nickel for every last one......" and it's a shame it hasn't seen anywhere near its potential yet, for lack of whatever the reason, online or off.          

Splattered Beauty by Brandon Ford 

(2008 Arctic Wolf Publishing.)

This was a difficult book to review because I made the mistake of looking around for other reviews of this work online, just because I was curious to see what other reviewers thought of Ford's Splattered Beauty, only to find that many of them said some of the same things I was going to say. Heck, there's even a cool retro-ish book trailer for it I came across on Fango's website ( that I liked, filled with blurbs similar to what I was going to give. So where do I start, then? Well, everybody seems to agree that this is a love letter of sorts to the scream queens of horror film history, and that's true. It says so in Ford's forward. And it is good. But when it all boils down to things, aside from my agreement with most other reviewers (and their extremely positive reviews) in what they had to say, I'm going to go this route: 
     We have a story here where, in essence, we've heard time and time again. Someone gets pissed off at their life and decides to go and kill a handful of people in the heat of being pissed off, and in this case it involves a huge fictitious horror flick Scream Queen, by the name of Alyssa, who's been screwed by the business and her ex-boyfriend/film director who has a nice younger something-something, and throughout the book, we get the picture how her career and life are pretty much washed up which fuels her ultimately vindictive fire. It's basic Lifetime movie fare, putting it that simply, and stripping it down to its bare bones, that's what it is, with added suspense and gore and a few high-pressure scenes that Lifetime wouldn't touch but rather the producers of an unrated B-movie film. People killing people for all the reasons in the world will be written about until people stop writing.
     With that said, the way Brandon Ford writes this story is exemplary, and I hold his storytelling in high esteem. Solid characterization and a plot that moves, flows, and keeps you reading. It's simple in plot, yes, but I love the way he writes it. It's got what it takes for a potentially mediocre tale worthy for the masses to read. There were also a few sequences where I thought things were moving one way, and they went into the opposite direction. That's a phrase said often in positive reviews, and it applies here. Brandon Ford, whose Crystal Bay (his first book to which this is his second) was critically acclaimed, can certainly take a story formula and tweak it to the extent that it's original because his writing is original, and in this business, that's part of the battle. In a world where originality is lacking, it's nice to see a good writer flexing his muscles even if it's another vendetta/killer entry, and I expect to see Brandon Ford win awards and go far.
    He has the passion and drive for it, and the talent. Splattered Beauty, as a tight and easy genre read, is something all should pick up and delight in if for only the way it's told alone. Along with Alyssa, you'll get pissed off too and want her to kill someone. I almost, almost, found myself even rooting for her, and feeling sorry for her fan sidekick that came into the story with the best of intentions.

Deteriorate by Julie L. Thielen 

(Illustrations by Kimberlee Traub) (2009 Lulu Publishing.)

Prose poetry and illustrations wrapped in a tight little book, oh my!  I've seen countless books in all their guises, from thin 8X5 paperbacks like this one to hardcover coffee table-types of poetry and artwork to comliment the poetry.  A dime a dozen, if I go as far as to say.  Not that either one in particular is bad, it's just that anyone can put one out there with self-publishing as rampant as it is nowadays, but now that I've said that, this little bit of prose and accomanying artwork (masterfully done by Kimberlee Traub, who is an artist to keep on eagle eye on) is something I am delighted to have on MY coffee table.  Nice, sleek, black & white.

The prose is heartfelt and top-rate, not rants and scribblings but written with real soul, and not too weepy but written with a precise sense of style like Julie really cares how she conveys her soul to the readers.

And who is Julie L. Thielen, may you ask?  She also goes by the name of Cannibal Rose.  Look her up.

Nicholas Grabowsky's Diverse Compendium


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