Ginger Nuts of Horror
BY GEORGE ILETT ANDERSON
There will be Blood
“Bleed” by Ed Kurtz is the second book of his that I’ve read. My first introduction to his writing was the wonderful “The Rib from which I Remake the World”; a dark novel that had this fantastically Bradbury tinged flavour running through it. By comparison, “Bleed” is an altogether different type of beast. Whereas the former felt like a dark fairytale about loss and redemption, “Bleed” is a brutal and bloody nightmare of madness, lust and obsession reminiscent of late 80s horror writing and, in particular, Clive Barker.
The novel is centred on Walt Blackmore and his fixation with a small red stain. Walt has recently relocated to the country and is determined to create his own little slice of rural bliss with his fiancée, Amanda. Unfortunately for Walt, the dilapidated property in his possession has a dark and troublesome history that will have far reaching consequences on the present, turning his heaven into hell. Initially resistant to Walt’s attempts to cleanse it, the stain’s true nature is exposed and Walt falls into a whirlpool of madness, betrayal and murder.
“Bleed” feels somewhat lean in places but the real meat of the novel is the dark and brutal tone of it. The book does feel like it is cut from the same cloth as horror books that I read in the late 80s, mainly those clubbed together under the sometimes erroneous “splatterpunk” moniker. I mentioned Barker earlier and his influence can be felt throughout but “Bleed” is an altogether harsher experience. This is a book that more than lives up to its title as Walt succumbs to the stain’s insatiable appetite and in doing so, sacrifices all connection to humanity. Bones are cracked, marrow is slurped and blood is copiously spattered across the page as Walt lures people into the clutches of the ravening beast within.
I have to admit that when I initially finished “Bleed” I was a bit ambivalent towards it. It’s definitely one of the more brutal novels that I’ve read recently but I felt that Walt felt somewhat sketched in and vaguely defined as a person. You are never really sure who he is and this is demonstrated when he inexplicably seems to change personality within the space of a few pages. It’s a very jarring moment that completely threw me but in retrospect the ambiguity surrounding him is kind of the point; Walt feels like a predator in disguise, a wolf in sheep’s clothing who wears his disposable humanity like a mask waiting to be shed. In “Bleed”, the sins of the past haunt the present and appearances can be very, very deceptive.
“Bleed” is a novel that gets under your skin and wears its influences well. It does feel almost like an American Hellraiser at times but that’s not to denigrate the quality of Kurtz’s writing, far from it. “Bleed” is a stark, brutal and unpredictable slice of extreme horror where the demons that lurk within can be ravenous and all consuming.
When Walt Blackmore moves into an old Gablefront house on the outskirts of a small town, things are really looking up for him—he has an adoring girlfriend, a new job, and an altogether bright future. But Walt's destiny is irreparably changed when a dark red spot appears on the ceiling in the hallway. Bit by bit the spot grows, first into a dripping blood stain and eventually into a grotesque, muttering creature.
As the creature thrives, Walt finds himself more and more interested in fostering its well-being. At first he only feeds it stray animals, but this soon fails to satisfy the monster's ghastly needs. It is gradually becoming something more, and for that to happen it requires human blood and human flesh. And once Walt has crossed the line from curiosity to murder, there is no going back.