Tag Archives: Brandon Tietz

Burnt Tongues

Transgressive fiction is just a spiffy gold badge for seriously fucked up and off-kilter stories to wear so they seem a bit more high class than they are. I love weird fiction. I like stuff that is dark and bleak and just plain strange. A taste that began when I first read the works of Robert Aickman and continued through to the heady waters of bizarro that we have around us today.

I must admit that I am not much of a fan of the work of Chuck Palahniuk. I find a great deal of his work a bit pretentious and overly obnoxious for no other reason than to be just that, but I hung in and accepted the challenge to review Burnt Tongues. All stories were hand picked by Palahniuk and all of them rabidly wild and unsettling—and like any good scar, they’ll itch and remind you of their existence long after you’ve tried to forget them.

“Charlie,” by Chris Lewis Carter, in which a lonely man brings an abused cat to a veterinarian who proceeds to tell a tragic story from his childhood, one that seems to have an all too tight noose around the present.

“Melody,” by Michael De Vito Jr., shows us a sweet love affair missing a side and a few other things. “F is for Fake,” by Tyler Jones, is the story of an imposter and the lengths he will go to prove a point. Phil Jourdan’s “Mind and Solider” is a deeply troubling tale of a crippled veteran and his encounter with a neighbor boy.

“Ingredients,” by Richard Lemmer, reads like an urban legend, woven around a twisted retail game and the grisly outcome. Matt Egan paints a tear-stained picture of a girl justifying her own tragedy with that of another in “A Vodka Kind of Girl.” One of my favorites from the collection is Brandon Tietz’s “Dietary,” is a gut-punching window into cubicle politics and reindeer games with sharper teeth and parasites.

My favorite of the bunch is “Bike,” by Bryan Howie. This one has stayed with me, so simple and brilliant, I can’t even give a synopsis for fear of draining any of its power. “Heavier Petting,” by Brien Piechos, is a gruesome tableau of relationship woes and secrets, with a little bit of dog-fucking thrown in.

The closer, “Zombie Whorehouse,” by Daniel W. Broallt, saunters up to you while you’re already weary from the others and smacks you upside the head and grabs your face to make you read it. A sick and brutal tale of a man undercover sent to expose a zombie whorehouse from within, and much more.

The collection is solid and while not all of the stories left me gobsmacked, quite a number of them did. But it left me feeling dirty and ashamed, like I’d just watched Gummo again. If you like your fiction left of center and brutal, unafraid to hurt you and unwilling to hide behind the flowery garments of literary trends, this is your shit. Embrace it.

Available through Medallion Press.

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Good Sex, Great Prayers

Brandon Tietz gives us a cracker of a novel with Good Sex, Great Prayers. The back cover simply entices with its header of “Pratt has fallen upon strange times.” But it’s an honest tag line.

Father Johnstone has been the town’s preacher for nearly three decades. He knows his flock quite well, inside and out. As of late, he hasn’t been quite himself. Restless nights of little sleep and periods of black that he doesn’t remember are troubling him. He discovers that during the foggy interludes he doles out suspect and crude advice to parishioners as well as engages in some un-man-of-God-ly behaviors. He meets up with a new resident of Pratt, Miss Madeline Paige, and she begins to assist him and teach him about what is really going on in Pratt.

Meanwhile, there are two other entities on a crash course for Pratt. One is a man of such unbridled rancor and madness that his deeds are truly cringe worthy. His games include Christian lingerie, blessed articles, and mutilation. His antics are despicable and truly twisted. I guarantee you will never again be able to hear the phrase “chili dog” without grimacing. The other is Billy Burke, Truck Stop Preacher. A scarred and dusty man who regales the denizens and travelers of the nation’s highways and bi-ways with his sermons. Delivered in colorful everyday language and profanity.

As they work their way to Pratt, things there just get odder and odder. Things are dying: grass, crops, bees. People are acting more peculiar than usual and the townsfolk want a scapegoat. They seem to think the noose will fit the Father’s neck just right.

Good Sex, Great Prayers is a great read. The writing is tight and smooth. I must admit that in the early chapters it seemed a bit overly descriptive, but Brandon hones in and things get leaner and meaner as we move along. The characters are wonderful and the pacing superb.

What really won me over was the subject matter. I can’t really nail my point without spoilers, so I’ll just say that despite the crude and over-the-top sexual shenanigans that take place between the covers of this book, the reverence and respectful way with which he handles the religions is admirable. After a year or so of seeing total intolerance of opinions on social media sites and the news, it was refreshing to see a few differing perspectives, not only portrayed but done in a calm and amicable manner. Paralleling Christianity and Craft in a fashion that is not only logical but believable, without sneering at either belief, could not have been an easy task. But Brandon sticks it.

Fresh and fun, I would definitely add this to your Summer Reads queue. Good Sex, Great Prayers is available from Perfect Edge Books.

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