Tag Archives: Plague

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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King Death of Nowhere Hall

Simon Marshall-Jones’s Spectral Press is setting itself up as a force to be reckoned with. Spectral releases limited-edition, professionally-designed chapbooks. I reviewed the first two releases last year. Both shared a theme of loss, guilt, and coping with that loss.

So it’s no surprise that the next two titles in the catalog share a theme, as well. The third published title from Spectral is Nowhere Hall, by the wonderful Cate Gardner. I was familiar with her quirky style and prose from her connection to Shock Totem (her story “Pretty Little Ghouls” was featured in issue #2).

Nowhere Hall follows the bizarre adventures of Ron, a man who seems to teeter on the edge, both courting and fleeing from Death. He ends up in a dilapidated hotel, peopled with odd mannequins and living shadows. Ron plays cat and mouse with Death and learns the power of a good umbrella. A more whimsical one-man version of The Shining through the looking-glass.

The visuals are strong, and though sometimes the prose gets a bit coiled and confusing at times, there is a lot to process here. Incredible descriptions and a depressing mood ooze from the pages. Were I not already a fan of Cate’s work, this would be a step toward winning me over.

The next release was Paul Finch’s King Death, a daring story set in 1348.

A plague-battered England is a smorgasbord for Rodric, a morally bankrupt looter and opportunist. He trolls the countryside stealing from the dead. As he roams, he encounters a strange young boy and presents himself as King Death in order to scare the boy into leading him to his estate, where he envisions wealth and shelter.

The boy does in fact lead him to his manor, and it is here where things begin to turn, where Rodric learns things are not always as they appear and that Death is, in fact, an entity that is best not toyed with.

Incredibly deft writing is what makes this story so enjoyable. These types of tales, set in this period are usually dry as hell and leave the reader frustrated at trying to decipher what they just read. Finch tells his tale with ease and in a way that flows smoothly. The few characters are strong and the atmosphere presented is bleak and hopeless.

So far, Simon and Spectral Press are four for four, and I can’t wait to read what comes next.

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