Ginger Nuts of Horror
BY JOHN BODEN
Before going down the rabbit hole that is the collection, I had never read anything by Erik T. Johnson. And as much as I loved this book, I'm not entirely sure it's for everyone. I'm not at all certain as to how to sell it to the masses or even accurately try and explain what it holds.
Stories? Yes, around 20 (without looking) some long and some short--al of them worthy of your attention. "The Leaf" is a fantastic excursion, with an almost Appalachian feel to it, about a man on the run from ghosts, real and figurative. It was also my favorite of the bunch. "The Depopulation Syndrome" starts of as self-imposed Aspergery exposition that veers into terrifying science and bees. Yeah. This is weird fiction at its gonzo best. "Pool Day" is a bizarro story of a man who wakes in an empty pool, shrouded in mystery and pursued by even worse.
"The Purple Word" is one of the most original and strangely tragic stories that involve them what are not quite dead as I have ever read. It also has cats in it. Writers dig cats.
If I'm honest, I almost feel that a large portion of these stories were lost on me, that maybe I'm just not the kind of fellow to get things that deep, however the language and the way it is used is so gloriously beautiful that I forgot about that, nearly every time. There are stories about murder and motivations, sadness and sanity (varying degrees). Some have creatures and demons and some just have regular folks dealing with irregular scenarios.
Imagine a sober William Burroughs writing dark fiction. Almost. Or Mark Twain as possessed by the future spirit of Harlan Ellison. Those descriptors are both close to on the nose while also being as far away from what this is as I can confess. Johnson has an unmistakable voice and a keen eye for the off-kilter. He peoples his tales with realistic characters and earthy observations. A tree pulp road littered with the drying carcasses of pop culture references and literary hallmarks. By the light of the moon, he drags these things into the woods to erect massive altars to jabbering gods of book and tale. I imagine that is how these sorts of things come to be. Brilliance unfettered and unscarred by convention. I love things I don't understand, I love things that keep me coming back, like a scab that screams for a fingernail. Erik's book, while offering as sure an invitation as it can from the divine artwork (which is all encompassing, from the cover to the inner doodles and scribbles and notations) it clearing reminds you that what you're doing is indeed trespassing.
Yes Trespassing is available from Written Backwards Books