Tag Archives: Sam W. Anderson

Back Roads & Frontal Lobes

Nothing thrills me more than discovering new authors. New to me, to be precise.

Brady Allen intrigues me with his unapologetic attitude and willingness to stand tall and stalwart while brandishing his opinions with honest intellect. This is a trait one sees very little these days, when it is all too fashionable to lay with the herd and suckle at the teat of popular opinion. This made me wonder about his literary output, so I reached out and got a copy of his collection.

Back Roads & Frontal Lobes is as amazing a collection as it is puzzling. Not a single tale here is what it appears to be. Most flirt with horror but are more about the human condition and attitudes of characters. There are shades of noir and bizarro, but the stories are most often darkly surreal and more terrifyingly realistic than should be allowed. This collection is a unique stampede of unease, stamping and snorting discomfort. I mean that complimentary, of course.

Opening with “Slow Mary,” Allen gives us a strange tale of road kill and revenge. But it was actually the second tale, “Not Over Easy,” that won my dark heart. That story follows its bizarre protagonist through a series of troubling and odd scenarios to a conclusion that is just as puzzling as the opening. “Devil and Dairy Cow” is a hallucinatory tale of a girl, a teacher, and a rainy recess where the shit hit the diabolical fan.

In the title story, a man on the lam makes a stop in Death City and finds he likes it. “The Last Mystical Vendor” has exactly what you need even if everything you know tells you otherwise. And in “The Taste of a Heart,” a motel room is the stage for an exceedingly sinister game between a man and a woman.

“Six Miles to Earth” is a highway roadshow; Tarantino by way of Russ Meyer. “Burger” is a nasty side-road monster mash. “Ballad of Mac Johnstone” concerns the courtship between an aging bluesman and death. “Road Kill (A Love Story)” brings us to a man who feels compelled to remove dead animals from the roadside and the chain of unfortunate events that come about because of it. And “Praying” exposes the insectile ways we have.

Of all of the stories, however, “Rounding Third” was the one that smacked me in the face and then continued to do so. A tragic and all-too-real slice of reality. If it doesn’t make you cry—God help you.

If early Joe R. Lansdale left you gobsmacked, then you MUST read this cat! Allen is versatile and fearless. He doesn’t give much of a damn if you get what he’s doing or not. He’s writing to get it out and if it happens to bring enjoyment to someone, cool. If not, oh well, he’s doing it anyway. And I’m glad for that!

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American Gomorrah: The Money Run Omnibus

I had never heard of Sam W. Anderson or his Money Run series of stories prior to the box of Gallows Press books turning up on my stoop. Remorsefully ashamed is how I feel now upon completion, for these stories are fantastic. Is it horror? Not really. Is it straight fiction? Far fucking from it.

The stories in American Gomorrah are set on the edges of the American grid. Back roads, lost highways, bars and strip clubs, and all those seedy places we drive by and through and never give a passing nod.

Truckers ferry the damned and the doomed to destinations better unknown. Diner cooks have unique menus that include long pig and other fiendish foods. There are schizophrenics and midgets and sociopathic hypnotist preachers. Lot lizards with literal tails are all just another part of the deal.

The writing is as rich as the characters who reside here. Life is hard in the veins and arteries of the American circulatory system. The roads paved with tears and blood, sweat and spunk.

This is the real deal.

This is 21st century trash Americana noir.

This is…one of my new favorite books.

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