A waist-deep wade into “The Two Revolvers Saga”, a Post-Apocalyptic Western Series

The Two Revolvers Saga is not something I intended from the beginning, although the response from readers has been the primary source of fuel when deciding to expand upon the lore and the man that is Rancid Mahoney, a character who is quickly becoming my favorite literary child. In this article, I’ll be offering a little insight into the so-called “creative” process of this world, and revealing a bit about future books of the series. This won’t be spoiler heavy at all, but if you don’t want to know anything at all about the future of the series, here’s your warning. I’d like to thank everyone who’s expressed to me their feelings of these books so far, via messages, writing reviews, comments, etc, and I want you all to know that your love means the absolute fucking world. I used to write only for myself, literally without a care at all about the thoughts and opinions of the reader. But recently, with this series evolving into the state that it is, and even further to what it could eventually become, I’ve come to terms with the idea that writing for someone else, specifically the reader, is a goddamn thrill. So thank you all for that.

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Thus far, the exact age of Rancid Mahoney has never been revealed; he is only ever introduced as being old, feeling old, or having once been young, but not young enough to be disqualified from feeling tired in the way someone old might feel: tired, exhausted, and just done with existence. Even during scenes depicting his younger self, such as in Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain or in the upcoming Legend of the Horizon Vengeance, it is not explicitly stated what his age is, there is only ever a roundabout range of ageness he is existing in at the time we are reading about him. This is true for several characters, and in a way is one of the central themes of these books. That’s because in the world of The Two Revolvers Saga, age is not an important matter anymore, being the exact number of years someone has been alive, or even keeping track of the exact amount of time something has been around for. In Mahoney’s world, the only thing that’s widely considered to be the most important is learning how to survive, and learning how to keep on surviving by any means necessary. That’s what he’s taught from the very beginning, and those are the lessons that are constantly being challenged by the static, but also constantly evolving world around him.

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When I started writing these books, it was only ever supposed to be Mercy. Mercy was only ever going to be one standalone novella, starring a man somewhat near the end of his years, saddened by the lack of purpose his life has turned into, but not entirely angered by it either. When Mercy opens, Mahoney is at a middle ground of existence, a point in which he is neither falling behind, or moving forward. He is at the top of a long-climbed mountain, looking at the ravaged land all around him, with neither the desire nor the motivation to descend back down the mountainside. At this point in his life he has fallen into the sell sword way of life, taking any job he can just so he can afford to continue drinking, although I’m fairly certain if the flow of income ceased for long enough a time, he’d simply use his other talents to acquire the drink. Which is why when a nine-year old boy comes up to him, asking for his help and he sees that the boy is strangely well-financed, the drinker in him agrees without too much consideration for what really may be at play. His relationship with the boy throughout the course of the novella changes, of course, from a man who doesn’t entirely care what happens to his client, to almost that of a protective parent and by the end, that becomes agonizingly apparent for all parties involved. Along the way, we’re introduced to the character Til Drange, someone from Mahoney’s past whose motivations we can’t rightfully conclude other than from the few musings and reactionary behaviorisms Mahoney exhibits. It’s not until the flashback chapter Train that we really get a sense of what their relationship is at this point, and why it is the way it is. And because this novella was originally intended to simply be a one-shot deal, I wanted to give the sense that there was this mysterious, but very involved past they shared without revealing everything. I liked that about certain characters in other books of epic scale. In Lord of the Rings, it’s very clear from the start of his introduction that Aragorn has a very complicated past, and the fact that it’s not all revealed at once, or even fully during the course of the main narrative, unless you read the appendices was very appealing to me. This of course, would somewhat change when I decided I wanted to write a prequel, taking place twenty or so years prior to the events of Mercy, centering around how Mahoney and Til Drange met, with the backdrop of an impending war as the magnetism bringing them together.

I began writing the prequel to Mercy, which was originally titled Sovereignty, in late 2019, with the main story thread revolving around the descendants of native Americans rallying together to take back the lands that were stolen from their ancestors centuries ago, using the cataclysmic event that ended civilization as an anchor and sign that their time for justified revenge has finally come. I very quickly came up with a main plot, the circumstances of Mahoney’s and Drange’s first meeting, and various other aspects, culminating in a novel detailing the first battles of a new war that forces Mahoney to choose a side, or no side at all. There were even inklings of writing a third book, taking place after Mercy to round out a trilogy. But I became distracted by life, as anyone can relate to, and I began working on other literary projects that to date still are nowhere near completion. I wouldn’t return to the world of Mahoney until February/March of 2020, in which I finished the remainder of the first draft in a few unexpectedly intensive weeks. Sovereignty, at that point, became an entirely different beast from what I originally planned. The title changed drastically to Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain, which was inspired by the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. I included a Prologue and an Epilogue, bookends to show Mahoney at a very, very early age to sort of mirror the events of the main narrative, with hopes of conveying a sort of constant, unavoidable truth of life. The wolf scenes are very symbolic, having to do with a direct link to the unpredictability of nature, both of the world and of the deep human nature we all feel whether it’s subconscious or literally in the palm of our hand. For me, I think the main theme of Blackheart Mountain, if it has one, has a lot to do with that unpredictability, that no matter how hard we try to, or hope that we can control something or prevent something awful from happening, in the end, we may not be able to, and if that something happens to spiral out of that hopeful control, there is a certain level of acceptance we have to appreciate, or be destroyed by it. From a very early point in the story, it’s obvious that Mahoney has already put into motion events that while ignorant to him but foreseeable to us, the readers, he will not be able to control once the proverbial (and literal) shit hits the fan. He’s young, impressionable, and prone to making mistakes without seeing the ramifications of those consequences or understanding the lessons that could be taken advantage of to his benefit. His relationship with Til Drange evolves from that chaos and throughout the years will echo from this very violent beginning.

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Once I finished Blackheart Mountain, I decided I couldn’t limit the world of Mahoney to a simple trilogy. There had to be more, and there was more, so much more to expand upon. I had kept the circumstances of how the world came to be a mystery for a reason. I’d already come up with what actually happened while writing Mercy, and threw in a few vague hints to what the the most popular rumors were, but I never went too deep into it in the two books thus far because in this world, the general population really doesn’t care what happened, other than knowing that whatever did happen it was a few hundred years ago. The truth, in this world, much like our own, is not a hot commodity, so much as is having the means for survival. This will all be revealed and greatly expanded upon in what will eventually be Book 4 in the timeline: The City and the Veil. I have a basic plot written for the book… it’ll encompass more of a thriller/conspiracy type feel while still maintaining the western genre of the rest of the series, and it’ll more than likely take place a few years after Mercy. I can’t say much more about the plot without spoiling anything other than one of many challenges Mahoney will be tasked with is the emotional toll the events of Mercy has befallen him with. Book 5, One More Grave to Dig, is the planned final book in the series and will serve as the culmination of everything Mahoney has experienced up to that point. Most of the story is written, including the ending, but I don’t intend on the story taking on a grand, epic scale like some of its predecessors. As the final book in the series, I want it to be the most personal, Rancid-Mahoney-central story possible.

Currently, I am writing Legend of the Horizon Vengeance, chronologically, the second book in the series. It takes place barely a year after the events of Blackheart Mountain. Very briefly in Mercy, Mahoney mentions a man named Frank Delmont, who according to him, was “destroyed by the world, beaten down, and defeated”, etc. In Blackheart Mountain, this Frank Delmont has a bit of a cameo scene, it’s quick and he’s not meant to have any real hold over the plot of this particular story, but during the conversation he has with Mahoney, he imparts upon him a little bit of “retirement wisdom”, which will come into play much later on. Writing that scene, I always wondered myself about this Frank Delmont character. Why was he so bitter and just done with his way of life? Why was he retiring from servitude to his and Mahoney’s mutual employer, Gunther Ostrander? There are certain people you meet in real life who you can just tell by the immeasurable presence they command, that there’s so more to them, that the real wealth of their existence comes from a very complicated past. There’s much more there to be told even if they aren’t open to talking about it. And in Legend of the Horizon Vengeance, I go deep into Frank Delmont’s retirement “plan”. Without revealing too much of the plot, at the very beginning of Book 2, it’s revealed the Frank Delmont actually served as Mahoney’s surrogate father. He was the one who literally raised him and taught him the mantras of the wasteland, the tactics of survival, and is basically the reason why Mahoney has survived this long in this world. Delmont, as we will see further on, while working for Gunther Ostrander, one of the central characters of Blackheart Mountain, for so many years, decided that if he ever got the chance to retire, he would spend his remaining years seeking out the remaining members of his own family, tracking down whoever is still alive, and would attempt making amends with them, after having neglected them for so long while working for Ostrander. And because he essentially adopted Mahoney while he was still a pretty young boy, he first reaches out to him, to join him and to help him seek out the other members of his family, if there are any still alive. This element of the story brings up the argument of what really makes a father a father, how thick really is blood, and can forgiveness for negligence really be attainable among family members if that negligence is shadowed by greed and betrayal? The setting for this book is very different because I wanted Mahoney to feel completely uncomfortable, completely alienated while being confronted by these ideas. Taking place mostly in a post-apocalyptic Caribbean Islands, Mahoney and Frank Delmont travel via galleon-style ship to what is currently known as Old Havana, the capital city of the Woodstar Triangle, a chain of islands held together by the business of trade. Mahoney is introduced to swordplay, and is quite horrible at it, he finds. He is taught how to care for a ship, and the crew members aboard, and by extension, is taught a new lesson in isolation brought on by being out to sea. There is no war going on like there is to the north, but supplies for wars are supplied to highest bidders via ocean trade routes, there’s a lot of shadowy goings-on that parallels the age of piracy so many centuries prior. Mahoney and Delmont become swept up in these matters in their search to unite the members of the Delmont Family. Among the new cast of characters that play a heavy role in the story are Val Remo, the seemingly kind, but shrewd queen of Old Havana, who holds complete and supposedly unchallenged sway over the oceanic trade routes of the Woodstar Triangle. There is Sebastian “The Anvil” Longbar, captain of the Igneous Reef, who is feared by hundreds across the sea mainly due to him keeping a bear as a demonic “pet”, caged in a lower deck of his ship and used for executing unruly crew members, or anyone else he deems need to be made an example of. And Wyatt Delmont, Frank’s estranged biological son, who has been the most elusive member of the Delmont clan to date, but for a very specific reason that will surely shake the moral compasses of all those involved. Legend of the Horizon Vengeance is shaping up to be a far more elaborate story structure-wise than Blackheart Mountain, and I’m hoping to challenge Mahoney in a way that will eventually turn him into the man he is in Mercy. Legend of the Horizon Vengeance will release sometime in 2021, probably the third or fourth quarter, if all goes well.

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Thanks again to everyone who’s patted me on the back, offered me words of encouragement to continue, and everything in between. You’re all the reason I keep on keepin’ on.

Now, for a bit of commercialization… if you’re interested in taking the dive, you can find both Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain and Mercy on Amazon in paperback and for the kindle. The links to each book are below.               

Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain:

Mercy:

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Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain by Dave Matthes – Review

Recent review for my newest post-apocalyptic western novel “Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain”!

Debjani's Thoughts

Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain byDave Matthes explores what is sacred to a murderer.

Rancid Mahoney works for Gunther Ostrander, Head Prospector of New Canterton, a mining settlement in what was once, a long time ago before civilization ended, “the heart of American Northwest”. Mahoney’s task is to find out the Blackheart Mountain which is the source of “Blackvein”, a miracle mineral rumored to cure even grievous injuries to the human body. Mahoney has failed to discoverit so far.

Until now.

Before he sets out on yet another expedition, Ostrander asks Mahoney for a favor: hand over the prisoner Til Drange to the settlement of Vermont so that Mayor Kenroy can punish Drange for killing his brother. Along the way, they encounter scouts of the Tuskatawa tribe who believe it is now time for them to take back the land of their native ancestors.

Now, add Mancino Rolandraz

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Dangling in the breeze, you know, like all the rotten sacks do…

Chinaski, Chinaski, Chinaski.
Somebody dig this man up from his grave and slap him across his rotten face, tell him enough with the horse track poems, tell him they’re bad, real bad! They’re real bad, Hank, if I have to read another line about you at the track I’m gonna jump right outta my third story window and aim for my fucking head!entry4

But the rest of “Dangling in the Tournefortia” is great. The rest reminds me of conversations I’ve had with lesser people, including my own self in the dead of empty night sometimes long ago and far away, sometimes more recent, like yesterday morning as I was dancing drunk in my robe listening to Jim Morrison yappin’ away about some wasp thing.

I’ve got this first edition of the book, the one published in 1981, and the pages still smell like an antique store. I should probably do some research into what causes old books to smell like this, the scent reminds me of everything good in life, and most of the poems on these pages do too, even the sad ones. Because sadness is good, hey, it really is good to be sad sometimes. A friend of mine and I talked about the book for a little while, and as usual we pretty much agreed almost entirely about it. He recommended I pick up “Roominghouse Madrigals”, which I’m looking forward to starting soon. Thanks, Patrick, ya cunt. That’s right Patrick Moore, I’m calling you out by name! Sidenote: Patrick also has a cat named Hank and I’ve considered it a direct assault on my sense of individuality for as long as I’ve been aware of this factoid. Fuck you, Patrick. Fuck you and your “Hank”. He isn’t real. He’s a goddamn impostor.

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Reading more of Buk’s poetry got me thinkin’. I’ve read a good handful of his books. Probably at least seven thousand of them, but none of his posthumous works because that’s about the only motherfucking sin I’m not ever willing to commit (all you motherfuckers behind releasing his unpublished words after the old man croaked should be ashamed of yourselves). All these words of his, not just in this book, but in most of Hank’s poetry, there lies an underlying theme of fighting even when the fight looks like it’s gonna take you down. Even if you look like a total retarded maniac while taking hits to the face and it’s obvious there’s no way to topple over the hideous giant in front of you. I thought about my own writing. All the projects I started last year, and some earlier this year. Some of these projects I swept under the carpet, losing interest in them myself for one reason or another. Earlier this year, I took on one of them, the prequel to last year’s novella “MERCY”. It began as a simple story of the two chief characters from the novella, telling the story of how they met, etc. etc. Basic stuff. And it was good, in my head. I titled it “Sovereignty”, and mapped out a backdrop having something but very little to do with Manifestation Destiny, a connection to native american tribes of the past, and crazy mining tycoons digging for a mineral that could reverse death, so to speak. As mentioned before, I lost interest. I started writing another novel. I lost interest in that, started writing another novel. And it went on. Recently, however, I took on “Sovereignty” and told myself it was a story that absolutely had to be told, and not because I’m some indie author that truly believes thousands of people will sit down and read it, but because I needed to tell it. It was about more than just Rancid Mahoney and Til Drange meeting. It was about more than just a crazy mining tycoon and a few tribes of native american descendants seeking revenge for the atrocities of the past. I picked up the pages again, and finished the son of a bitch. “Sovereignty” died, rotted away, and stayed dead for a while. But I remembered Bukowski, the fight, the hits, and the determination of the monster that he was. And I brought the literary bastard back to life, finished the book, and re-titled it appropriately: “Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain”. In all the years of writing, I’d never felt that accomplished. So I decided maybe I should go back to the literary fetuses of the past, and start really chippin’ away at them, at least for as long as I can, or for as long as this pandemic allows me to still breathe.

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So really, this is more or less an elongated blog rambling about my current writing projects. There are several, which may take a few years to complete, or maybe I’ll drop dead one day and nothing will come of my efforts. I’ve set aside the poet in me, simply because for the time being, that side of me has died. I’ve tried to sit down and conjure a poem, and wrote two that could be good poems, but in the end it’s the writer that has to decide that. I can’t take myself seriously enough to write another poem for the foreseeable future, and that may very well change one day, but for now I’ll be focusing strictly on prose. Novels. Novellas. Short stories, etc. I can’t even drink an entire bottle of whiskey and write a poetic thought the same way I used to, so something has changed there but I’m not entirely sad about it. I can still drink and I can still write, so long as I have those two abilities, I don’t think I’ll need to be committed (hopefully).

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First up on the list is a novel I’d hoped to have finished by now, originally titled “A Handle on Life”, and then “Hard Luck”, and then, and currently, “Buffalo Nights at Glassbrook Estates”, a story about a retired boxer wrestling with the end of his life while those around him wrestle with their own problems. I stopped writing it a few months ago to finish up the “MERCY” prequel, and had written about a hundred and fifty pages, so there’s at least a small foundation to continue the building. The story takes places over a time span of several years, so I’m projecting to have this one be my big release of 2021(probably the only one depending on how the other projects go). So while my last post had something to do with mentally projecting my declining love for Bukowski, this one is more in the vein of thanking him for giving me a little hope in the view of finishing off incomplete projects. So, here’s to the good fight.

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The Beats are dyin’ away, and I don’t think I can stop em…

I hate to give a dead man a somewhat poor review for one of his books when I can in no way ask him about what was going through his head at the time. But even if I could ask him, why would that matter? He’s Bukowski. He doesn’t have to give a shit.

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As a late novel in his Chinaski series, Hollywood plays out in some areas feeling similar to an “Old Man Logan” feel, or in this case “Old Man Chinaski”. The parts that are best are the passages in which Buk reflects back on his “old life”, fueled by nostalgia and how he would have handled present-day situations if he were younger and of a different mindset. He recalls how far he’s come, but still isn’t quite on board with where he ended up, and considers the idea that he may have rolled over, bellied-up, and died inside by taking on the “responsibilities” of so-called normal society like buying a new car, a house, hiring a tax-advisor, etc. Buk occasionally wonders what people he knew during his formative years “are doing now” because he’s subconsciously comparing his own self-worth to whatever they became and however they must have turned out, answers he will probably never get. The banter between he and his wife Sarah (Linda) remind me of my own conversations with my wife, so that was fun.

That being said, the rest of the book is insanely boring, tedious, and a literal chore to get through. I found myself stretching before opening the book each time to read a few chapters, both physically and mentally, because much of the story deals with the making of the movie “Barfly”, one of the worst movies ever made in my opinion. All of the conversations between the Hollywood minds go on and on and on and on about the making of the movie and all the trials and tribulations (some of which are interesting but only in the same way you might discover a new favorite kind of toilet paper because it’s a dollar cheaper, or it feels slightly better on your exiting hole) and they never seem to achieve anything other than placing another domino on its skinny end next to the last domino, making an endless trail of dominos that never seems to lead anywhere, whereas Buk just sits there and observes next to his wife who in this story serves as little more than a character ornament (Buk was never very good at making his characters stand out in any special way, they all kind of blend together, cut from the same cloth).

By the time I finished, I found myself wanting to hire someone to cut my head off with a chainsaw, just so I could find some peace of mind. While not a horrible book, it is a pretty bad in terms of being compared to Buk’s earlier work. There were some lines that gave me an out-loud chuckle or two, but that doesn’t make a book a particularly good book. I didn’t hate this book, but I will have to agree with a friend of mine in saying that this is officially my least favorite of Buk’s. If you’re going to write a book about writing a screenplay for a bad movie, maybe you shouldn’t. I’d give it 3.5 stars if I could, but I never round up. So 3 stars it is.

Postscript:
In recent days, I’ve noticed something that I don’t think I’m ready to fully allow to take hold of me, not to sensationalize pain and suffering. I have come to a crossroads with Bukowski, a potential parting of paths, at the very least a realization, if you will, similar to that of one I experienced with Kerouac several months ago. With Kerouac, after reading several of his books, ending with Dharma Bums, I’d come to the point in my short existence in which I cannot ever read another word uttered by Jack. I’ve grown out of him, I guess you could say. I’m bored with him. He writes the same… damn… thing. Over and over. Long passages soaked with “spiritual realizations”, pretentious nonsense that’s intended to be intensely examined by the reader, looked at like a mirror and then tossed out of a window just to go on another journey of painfully unchanged semblance and importance and find another mirror, look into it, and talk about the sanctity of “the human condition”. Maybe that’s not what Kerouac was goin’ for, maybe his followers all wish they were him in some way, shape, or form (all those pretenders certainly do). At the end of the day, my realization that I’m over Kerouac was somewhat painful because there was a time in my life in which I felt something good about myself while reading his work. I thought maybe there was some truth to what he was writing about, and maybe there still is, but it’s no longer a truth I need in order to understand life. That time has since passed. I don’t think that will ever happen with Bukowski, at least to that violent extent, because there’s so much variance to be found among his poetry and short stories (his novels are all pretty much the same but they’re still enjoyable for their own reasons). Having read Hollywood, though, I feel like for the first time that maybe one day I could feel the same about Bukowski that I do about Kerouac. The Beats are dyin’ away, and I don’t think I can stop it. There will always be a spot on my shelf for the works of Hank, because in a way, he’s responsible for my having tapped into a form of writing that would eventually lead to the refined(still absolutely shit) style I now stroke and choke the blank page with. Reading Bukowski taught me that it’s okay for a story to be about essentially nothing to someone but everything to someone else, to not care who read and appreciated what, and how to make that aforementioned nothing be overflowing with that intangible jizzy substance: frothy, flavorful literary ejaculant that makes the reader feel like they’ve been fucked by their 9th grade history professor. Maybe, in a way, Hank has been like an anchor (in this example I don’t mean my goddamn devil cat). There isn’t an anchor on this earth designed to last forever.

 

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Steinbeck never saw this one coming

“New Veronia”, the debut novel from M. S. Coe, is a demented, other-dimensional parallel to “Of Mice and Men”, dipped in a boiling hot vat of skinhead blood, and then fried in whatever baby oil concoction Hulk Hogan uses to keep himself looking as young today as he did three decades ago. The main character, Bennet, is Lennie Small; stupid to a degree, lame, and frequently confused, but the reader does not realize this comparison until having spent a little time with him. And Jay, Bennet’s closest friend, is George Milton, an intelligent, but inherently evil kid who will undoubtedly grow up to be the next Grand Wizard of the KKK. “New Veronia”, at its most superficial core, is a coming-of-age story depicting the lives of a small band of high school students who do their best to traverse the labyrinthian maze of what they think everyone expects of them, which isn’t much because they’re teenage boys, and we all know what pulls the strings of a teenage boy’s strides and aspirations. Sex. Sex, sex, sex, without any sort of emotional attachment, no life-ending repercussions, no consequences to regret, nothing except the experience to notch off the list of things to do before one becomes a full-fledged adult, and of course, for popularity among the masses.

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The mind of Bennet, our chief character in which the point of view of the story is told, is a multi-floored asylum in which the elevator has been rendered permanently out of service, and so we as readers are forced to take the stairs if we wish to see the big picture. We take each step alongside him, slowly at first, sometimes confused as to the reasoning behind some of his decisions, sometimes screaming at him to stop and to go back. But what a view it is once we reach the top. From here, we see all the pieces of the puzzle come together, all the jagged, razor-sharp edges of the pages lining up until all the cracks are sealed, all the light is kicked out and all we have left is blinding, horrifying darkness. We witness the roles of villain and hero reversed with such painful, agonizing vigor that at times we cannot read on, no matter how close to the end we have reached. But we read on anyway. The sights compel us. And the inevitable tragedy of adolescence is told in a way that none before it has ever done.

I have to admit, the only reason I picked up a copy of “New Veronia” is because the cover caught my eye. I’ve never really done that with books, only wine. I’ve never considered myself a wine snob and I generally only buy bottles of wine if the label is appealing to my eyes, gets me excited and makes me wonder about the drunken nonsense that the liquid inside its glass prison will unleash upon consuming. That’s how I felt when I saw the cover of “New Veronia”, feelings amplified to a set-in-stone demeanor once I read the author’s synopsis. I quickly “added to cart” and waited excitedly for a new read, and hopefully not a total fail of a story. I’d been let down so many times in the past with reading new books from new authors that I’d sort of begun to lose hope. When the book arrived, I started reading right away. At first, the story felt familiar, with hard and opaque comparisons to movies like “The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys”, one of my favorites, and a strangely gender-role-reversed “Now and Then” with more focus on the psychosis that comes with following the herd than figuring out one’s individual self. I read comfortably, thinking to myself this will be a good book, but nothing special, nothing to piss my pants over. That changed of course, when I realized this wasn’t just a story about a small group of friends desperate to lose their virginities during their high school years. There is so much depth that I did not see at first, that I realized during the latter half of the book, smashing me in the face with hammers and bricks and the front ends of large dump trucks. Without spoiling anything, during the second half of the book while Bennet and Jay are “on the run”, I felt a foreboding horror that something horrible was coming their way, and perhaps my way as well. With the drastic change of their environment, the decay of the land they traversed was mirrored in the mind of Bennet’s and Jay’s, a change neither one of them probably saw coming. One scene in particular I appreciated, was one in which they are hiding out in a treehouse in some random person’s backyard. It’s here that Bennet comes to terms with something very opposite of what a boy of his age should be thinking about, and the fact that it all happens inside a treehouse, a staple, an icon of perpetual youth, makes that realization all the more painful and breathtaking. The two of them started the book off as awkward best friends, Bennet worshipping Jay like a god, because “Jay always has a plan, always knows what to do”. But as the pages turn and we draw closer to the story’s climax, the development of their characters reaches a cliff in which neither one of them are prepared to leap from, except maybe Bennet. Bennet, the Lennie Small of this universe, has brought to fruition a very different, and much darker dénouement than Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”.

As the debut novel from author M. S. Coe, this was a hurricane of a breath of fresh air. I hope she writes more.

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Get the book on amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/New-Veronia-M-S-Coe/dp/1944866329/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3VVBL92XFK4TH&keywords=new+veronia&qid=1574872153&sprefix=new+veronia%2Caps%2C206&sr=8-1

Buy directly from CLASH Books:
https://www.clashbooks.com/new-products-2/ms-coe-new-veronia

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“This was the year that I fell in love with a tornado…”

Do stick figures dream of a third dimension? If they do, that dream springs forth from the creative mind-womb of Julian Porter in the form of his debut novella Hibakusha Don’t Eat Pop-tarts.

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On the surface, which is not completely what the heart of the story is about, Hibakusha is told from the point of view of Darla, a self-proclaimed “sad girl” with lots and lots of inner turmoil that she has either placed the blame of its own existence on “The Nothings”, an occasional meal-sized helping of intangible metaphysical/imaginary representation of narcissism, or has refused to confront altogether because that’s what young people do. There’s a lot of psychological art in this book, sometimes conveyed with moderately repetitive descriptions of woe and melodrama which only further illustrates Darla’s lack of experience with life outside of her Nothings-populated head-vault. There is a clear rising of intensity at play here, from the first pages in which we meet Darla, to the final chapter when it all comes to a painfully agonizing realization of apocalyptic “acceptance”. In the beginning, Darla’s hallucinations start off as a mere vehicle of confusion, and throughout the 80-some page novella, they rise in rank from a near jab to the lower ribs, all the way to questioning Darla’s reasoning for not having actually gone through with a suicide attempt. Hibakusha is a simple story laced with the complexity of the young human mind and presents the human condition as a testament to the world unwillingly revolving around it, and also, vice versa. Unlike many stories that detail the angst of teenage minds, Darla already accepts the world she has been thrown into. Her struggle has more to do with cultivating it into a form that makes sense, even if “The Nothings” would rather have her jump off a cliff or step out into rush hour traffic, because they know if Darla can both make sense of her world and move through it on her own terms, they will have no further reason to exist.
Before reading Hibakusha, there was a moment in which I told myself this is Porter’s first book, and as with anyone’s first full-fledged book, whether it’s a novel, a novella, a collection of poems, or anything really, there should be a predetermined understanding that it may not be very good. One would hope that glimmers of potential shine through the cracks that threaten the very foundation of the book’s soul. That being said, Hibakusha Don’t Eat Pop-tarts is not only good for a first book, it’s damn good for any book. Even with the aforementioned slight repetitiveness of some of the descriptions of Darla’s feelings and observations, Hibakusha offers one hell of a tour de force through the growing mind of a stagnant girl during her formative and perhaps most vulnerable years. When I was younger, I remember dating a few girls or even just hanging out with some, who I could liken to Darla. But when I was younger, I couldn’t fathom some of their behaviors, their decisions, or their dramatic mannerisms because, obviously I wasn’t literally inside their head. I may have even ignored them in a way that now I see as having been terribly disheartening. As I grew older, of course, I would learn through different mediums the art of understanding all manners of women, but I could only understand them up to a certain point because… I did not grow up the same way, and on an obvious physical level, I’m not a woman. There’s no way in hell I could empathize with someone like Darla. But in Porter’s novella, I am at least given an opportunity to imagine what it must have been like for her and other girls like her. Darla paints her world with colors and shapes and contortions in place of emotions, worries, and boring words, and with those inflictions, as a reader, a new level of understanding for the beginning stages of the evolving human heart is presented as the main course like a chopped up bleeding corpse on a silver platter at a dinner party I never thought I’d ever be invited to.

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Hibakusha is a short book, as novellas are, around ninety pages. But it is exactly as long as it needs to be. It can be read quickly in a single sitting if you’re a fast reader. I recommend taking your time with this one. Reading one chapter every few days was not just because I have a heavy work schedule and a writing schedule on my own, but because each chapter is psychologically and emotionally heavier than the one that came before it. Each one stacks above the other like a totem pole of despair and hopelessness, but I read more and more, and felt as though many of the ideas and scenes blended into one another in the same way the live action and hand-drawn animated segments of Pink Floyd’s The Wall conveyed its tropes and concepts. Hibakusha Don’t Eat Pop-tarts is Julian Porter’s presumption that breaking through the “wall” of a debut work of literature doesn’t have to be a half-assed attempt at being a writer because it’s something that sounds like fun and “anybody can do it”. Something very meticulous was put into motion with this book, and the end result is a cake with black blood frosting that tastes like caramel sauce-dipped powdered donuts. Every author should be proud of themselves for writing their first book, but not all of them should go ahead with publishing it. Julian Porter is among those who’ve fluked the expectations, his debut book is a declaration of war and brutal in its execution; there is nothing about this book that shouldn’t have been written. Hibakusha isn’t simply a launch pad for Porter’s hopeful future as a writer, it’s a starting point and one that should be remembered.

Buy the book on amazon:

To keep tabs on Mr. Porter, you can find him at the links below:
Instagram: julianporterx
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48054158-hibakusha-don-t-eat-pop-tarts

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Mercy Mercy Me

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I recently started up a side project Insta account called theindiereadspeakeasy, to promote the wonderful works of fellow independent authors as well as to discuss what mainstream reads I’m currently piling through.

Here is my review of Mercy, by Dave Matthes. It’s a genius modern take on the Western literary genre and I adored every single second of it:

[I don’t know where to begin with Dave. He’s a modest man who seeks no praise in his wide variety of works, but there’s so much to be said about this tiny, powerhouse novella. First thing’s first, it’s an amazing piece of literature. Beautifully written, well edited, it’s the type of book you’d find on any store’s shelf, whether mega conglomerate chain or Mom n’ Pop, and thank the starry eyed heavens that you took a leap of faith in choosing a book you didn’t know much about. Because…

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Poetry Review-“Coping Circles” by Glen Binger: A Bittersweet Romp Across Gallows, Through Open Windows, Over Bridge Railings, and Along the Edge of a Razor Blade

Glen Binger, Jersey poet and author of “Thing’s You Don’t Know”, “ENJoy: Stories by the Sea”, and others, slams readers in the face and in the gut with a handful-sized helping of poetry this time in the form of semi-autobiographical splurge “Coping Circles”.

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“Coping Circles” is a hand-sized booklet of twenty-one  single-page or two-page length poems, each one depicting an episode of death, loss, grief, or as the title suggests “coping”. They can be read from the perspective of one person’s mind, or each poem coming from a tragic tale of woe belonging to one individual random wanderluster.

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Glen’s theme this time around is much different than what he usually sifts out into the world; it’s darker and heavy, and consequentially is sometimes hard to get through. That’s not to say his words aren’t good, they are VERY good. Poetry is supposed to invoke emotion, and it doesn’t always have to be happy, sunny, uplifting, or optimistic. I read this little book in one sitting, because I felt that I should, not just because I wanted to. Something pulled me to the end, despite each of the poem’s own daggers sticking itself in me with each turn of a page. They dug in and twisted, reminding me of all the things I’ve taken for granted over the years, whether it be family members, woman I’ve fallen in love with, including my fiancé, pets I’ve taken care of and every single material possession I’ve pocketed along the way in life thus far. I don’t count myself as being ungrateful for anything in life, but the poems in “Coping Circles” reinforced my love and my need to hold on to everyone I keep close. Reading “Coping Circles” eventually began to feel trance-like, as if I were meditating in deep thought. I was reminded of a walking-simulator game called Dear Esther that I fell in love with years ago, that I played a hundred times just to hear the voice of the narrator while listening to the haunting morose, perfect score of the soundtrack. I began to read each of these poems in the voice of that narrator, and had to take a breather several times just to remind myself I wasn’t reading the thoughts of twenty-one cursed, depressed and burdened-by-loss people. But by the end, I was supremely grateful for the journey taken. It’ll probably be a long time before I open this book again, it’s one of those “one and done” deals, but in the best of ways. The poems inside all bring home a reminder of humility, letting you know that if you haven’t already lost someone or something close to your heart, the time will eventually come and you’ll have to find a way to deal with that loss, but also if you do find a way to cope, there’s a stronger chance that you’ll always find a way to cope.

Buy the book:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1797052225/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Glen can be found here:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bingbangbooks/
LinkTree: https://linktr.ee/bingbangbooks

 

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Poetry Review- Scott Laudati’s “Camp Winapooka”: A Nostalgiamageddon of Honest Stitchery and Confluence

My reading relationship with Scott Laudiati is still of a fairly young age; I’ve read Bone House while staying in downtrodden motels for work trips and fell in some kind of love I can’t yet describe. So like any curious wanderer through fields and forests of words, I dug deeper into the literary arsenal of Laudati with “Camp Winapooka”.

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With lines like “because they knew the flag only flew for them now, and the rest of us were just guests long ago uninvited”, Laudati perfectly illustrates american patriotism, and you can decipher the meaning in any number of ways depending on your perception of America and “freedom”. In the poem “beautiful things”, it wrenches loose the rusted, crusted, and tightened-by-adolescence bolts and nuts keeping my emotions imprisoned inside my brain so easily that everything I’ve ever felt as a teenager is suddenly and without prejudice released out in the open forcing me to remember all the good times and the hilariously awkward times and all the times I was introduced to pain, horror, tragedy, and regret, experienced while growing up. In another poem, one of my absolute, unquestionable favorite lines of poetry ever, now, “you were a dream I’d been saving since my first life”, makes me want to be that person to get poetry tattooed on my inner thigh to remind all those who go down on me just how serene and reflective I can be.

This book is a soulwork of honest stitchery, something rare and unexpected in the world of self-published authors. To modify an internet meme I’ve seen written about the show “The Office”: To think I could have lived a thousand lives during any number of eras throughout time and somehow I am existing in the same existence as Scott Laudati and his poetry. That pretty much sums up how I’ve felt about these words thus far. Can’t wait to read more from this poetic obelisk.

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Scott Laudati is the author of books “Camp Winapooka”, “Bone House”, and more, and is apparently a very sporting fan of shucking oysters. I wonder what Freud would make of that.

Get your copy of Camp Winapooka HERE
Follow Scott on Instagram

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People Wilderness: The Spices and Love Juices of Cold, Frigid February

Ron arrived just three and one-half hours after I’d made the phone call, when they said he’d only be an hour, maybe two. Through the falling snow flakes, he looked like a round, purple, oblong-shaped Eskimo, because he wore a one-piece jumpsuit that was entirely purple, bright purple, like an Easter egg, hood drawn up over his perfectly spherical head. He was only outside for about three or four minutes and already there were clumps of snow embedded in his stringy beard. While he worked the socket wrench over the lug nuts, he whistled and hummed a song that sounded like something a sailor might sing. Ron didn’t seem bothered by the snow, or the slush, or the cold at all. He swung a massive sledge hammer against the tire, trying to break the wheel free from the wheel studs. He kicked the top of the tire with his big boot and then swung the hammer down at the bottom of the tire. He sang and he breathed heavily, alternating between kicking and swinging. People in the parking lot walked passed pushing their shopping carts, some stopping to look for a moment, to gaze in awe at the singing, purple Eskimo swinging a sledge hammer that was longer than he was tall.
            “You don’t talk much,” he said.
            “Honestly I’m not very talkative, but I’m not sure what I would talk about in this kind of situation, no offence to you, of course.”
            “No offence taken. It’s just, I dunno, I’m generally around people who like to talk.”
            “What sort of stuff do people usually talk about when you’re out here?”
            “My hammer.”
            “Hmm?”
            “My hammer,” he held out his giant sledge hammer. “People go nuts over this thing. They say they’ve never seen one like this before. And I tell them, well that’s because it’s a very special, particular hammer used specifically for this type of work.”
            “Just looks like any old sledge hammer to me,” I said.
            “Take a closer look at the head. See that flat peace of metal? That’s actually tri-fabricated, temper-ionized Kevlar. It’s the strongest material on the face of the whole fucking earth. This shit will stop a rhino at full charge. They used to use this out east in the war, battle armor. But it got too expensive to order in bulk. But, ordered once, for instance for this hammer… and you have an only slightly-more expensive, but much more effective sledge hammer that I’m willing to bet my year’s salary no one else has.”
            “Oh,” I tried to sound interested. Part of me was, most of me wasn’t. I didn’t know what Kevlar had to do with changing a tire.    
            “This yours?” He held up a small, two-feet in length bungee cord with a rusty, curved hook on one end.
            “No, that was what was in the tire,” I told him.
            “Where’s the other hook?” He asked.
            “I don’t know. It only had one hook when I pulled over to see what was making all the noise,” I said.
            “Well,” he said, “wherever it is, I’m surprised this was the thing that got ya. These tires are in shit condition, but they’re still thick. And this hook son of a bitch went right through the entire raised part of the tread and dug deep into the tire. Crazy. They tell ya stuff like this happens but it’s rare. I never thought I’d ever see anything like it.”
            “I guess to you this is like running into bigfoot in the wild, huh.”
            “No,” he said blankly. I’m not sure if he realized I was just being funny. I thought I was being funny.
            I signed the papers and gave him the company info, because the company I worked for had an account with them, and he just needed a confirmation number.
            “Be careful out on the road, and I don’t just mean about those bungee cords. Snow is making the road real wet and there’s a lotta hostile drivers out there driving like maniacs.”
            “Thanks, man,” I said, climbing back into the front of the truck. I turned the heat up until the blower fan whistled. I looked at the time. Just after two in the afternoon. I heard Ron’s service vehicle drive off and I called the boss to let him know the tire was changed successfully. The boss said okay, good, now get back to work.
            “We lost nearly five hours waiting for that tire to get changed,” he said, “that’s almost half a day’s work.”
            I told him yea, I’m just as upset about it too, and drove back onto the highway.

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            It’s not often I cross paths with someone in management who is shorter than me. Most times they’re taller, or much taller. They usually played football in college. Or had their fraternity letters tattooed on their foreheads. Their faces were clean shaven, and sometimes worked out an arrangement that allowed them to work from home on Friday’s. I would keep it civil by asking them questions like “how’s it goin’” or “how’re the numbers?” because moreoften than not, I worked an odd schedule preventing me from ever seeing them in the flesh, so when we finally did happen to run into each other, the event felt more like an awkward reunion with someone you’d rather not carry a conversation to its fruition with.
            I was at a remodel site for a location in one of the more massive burger joint chains we serviced and did other work for. The instructions were to place the oil tanks we had installed last week onto a set of tank stands that would raise them higher off the ground by about a foot. There happened to be a miscommunication, however, as the location of said tanks had apparently changed without my knowing.
            Enter Roland (I don’t remember his last name), one of the managers, district or regional- whichever was bigger and more impressive, for the burger joint chain. He wore his hair like a gangster, like Ray Spigotta in that gangster movie from the 80’s… Swell Fellas… Good Guys… I dunno. But he looked just like him. The thing that defeated his stance, however, was quite literally his stance. Ray… I’m sorry, Roland, was about three inches shorter than me. Which was great for me because that made it a pure joy to say “no” to him, or to school him on the technical requirements of OSHA, or to illustrate to him with my words that if I positioned the tanks the way he wanted, our techs wouldn’t have any access to the tops of them, should we be required to come in for a service call.
            “We got this guy Rico, real big son of a bitch,” I said,  “huge, even. Kind of useless, actually. Not sure why they hired him. You can bet your ass that if he’s the one that gets the service call for this joint, he’d quit before climbing a ladder to the top just to climb on top of these tanks. You’re outta your mind.”
            Before Roland could keep goin’ with his demands, this other, much older guy walked in like he owned the place.
            “I’m Larry Mole,” he said, holding out his hand for me to shake, “I own the place.” 
            “I’m Dave Matthes,” I said. We shook hands. He had a good grip. Better than Roland’s.
            “So, what’s the problem here? What’s the story with these tanks?”
            “Well Larry I’ll tell ya,” I started, “I’ll install em however ya want, but I’ve just gotta go over this with ya because if I do it Roland’s way, there’s a possibility OSHA could get involved if they swing by for one their surprise inspections. See if we move the tanks horizontally, we’d have to move the grease funnel to the other side of the tanks. And if you look closely, you’ll see that the oil line would now cross over one of your drains. Now, again, I’ll put the tanks here. But god forbid there’s a leak-”
            “Why would there be a leak?” Roland asked.
            “Nothing is built to last, kid,” Larry told him, answering for me.
            “Larry’s right,” I said, “a little bit of waste oil leaking down a drain isn’t bad. But if it’s a lot, you all could be fucked.”
            They decided to go with my way. Larry Mole shook my hand, thanking me for my insight. Roland said thanks but didn’t sound sincere. In fact he looked like he hated me.

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Bangor, Pennsylvania.
People have come to this town from all walks of life. And unlike the steam-rolled fakes walking the streets of the big cities back south, Philadelphia, DC, and New York City up north, everyone here is different. It seems they have each been created uniquely, whereas people from elsewhere look so alike and behave so alike they could have been shat out of the cunt of the same goddamn woman. Everyone in Bangor, Pennsylvania is their own person wearing their own colors and walking a stride with their own special twist attached.
            Take Mary, for instance, the manager at “Flacco’s Shakes, Burgers, and Wings (BEST CRAZY FRIES IN NORTHHAMPTON COUNTY)”, only had one hand. That’s right, she was missing her left hand. She had a whole left arm, and it looked exactly like her right arm, except it ended at the wrist and rolled into two folds of skin. Damn thing looked like a sock puppet. While all the other employees screamed and shouted their orders and discontentments with life, Mary still knew how to smile. And even when I gave her the bad news that myself and another tech would have to come back with all new equipment, new oil lines, and a new oil tank, she still found a way to feel good about it.
            Outside Flacco’s the roads broke away into an offbeat array of directions and one-lane roads cutting through the small, old town. Each building was colored a darker shade of some worn-out texture rather than an actual color; bricks were missing from the corners of many of them, giving the buildings an appearance that warned of impending collapse. All the window glass was faded, some cracked, some missing entirely and covered over with dull blue and beige tarps, their corners flapping in the breeze.
            Each road was lined with one to two feet of snow, not plowed but rather pushed to the side by anyone or anything that had to get through, and the people left behind after the winter storm who couldn’t dig their cars or trucks out were forced to walk everywhere if they wanted something or had to be somewhere.
            I stood outside for a moment before climbing back into my truck. I thought maybe I should come back here. Something about the place felt comforting. Comfort food, like comfort food is to the stomach and the soul and activities like breathing and thinking and absorption. This broken town, where winter apparently comes to stay, was a nice little surprise find.
            The rest of the day was shitty, though. As I was summoned by the boss to go help out the new guy who couldn’t figure out why the customer’s fryers weren’t adding fresh oil from the tanks. When I got there, though, I spent an hour and a half confused myself. The oil in the tank looked like whipped cream, and all I could do was shrug and tell the kitchen manager the unfortunate truth.
            “I just came from a place where I had to tell them the same thing,” I said to the new guy.
            “What?”
            “That all this equipment has to be replaced.”
            “Happen a lot?”
            “No, just a shitty day I guess.”
            “Get a lot of those?”
            “In the grand scheme of things? Sure. But it’s a pretty grand scheme so there’s the offshoot of good days too.”
            “What are those like?”
            “For me? Long drives and few service calls. Cold days and no one else on the road.”
            “I hate driving.”
            “You picked the wrong job, pal.”
            “Yea, maybe. I dunno. I think my wife might hate me.”
            “What in the hell does that have to do with what we were just talking about?”
            “Well she doesn’t see me much now that I work. She says it makes her feel useless. I can’t complain. The more I’m away from her the more useful I feel, if that sounds strange. I might not like this job too much but it keeps me away from her.”
            “Sounds like you got it all figured out,” I said.
            “Yea, sometimes I think maybe I do.”
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