Hot on the heels of novel ‘The Final Cut’, Jasper Bark and Crystal Lake publishing are also publishing ‘Run To Ground’, a novella backed up by ‘How The Dark Bleeds’ from ‘Stuck On You and other Prime Cuts’, and a supporting essay further exploring the underlying mythology called ‘The Qu’rm Saddic Heresy’.
Run To Ground is, at it’s heart, a story about fear - fear of responsibility, fear of commitment. Graveyard groundskeeper Jim Mcleod (and I mean, what kind of a name is that?) has a severe commitment phobia and a kink that would test the tolerance of the most open-minded fetishist (and it’s probably not what you think).
The story is in many ways vintage Bark - twisted humor, challenging adult content, gleeful splatterpunk, and lurking underneath it all, a genuinely original and disturbing mythology. As with ‘The Final Cut’, there’s a ton of elements at work, and the story swings between those different elements with pace, Bark’s characteristically wry, readable prose propelling the reader along. It’s a story that doesn’t compromise on either the comedy or horror elements, refusing to ‘pick a side’, and that tension creates some genuinely unsettling moments, especially as the narrative develops and the connection to the underlying mythos becomes apparent.
Overall I enjoyed my time with ‘Run To Ground’ - Bark has a dark, twisted, intelligent imagination, and Run To Ground is as good a jumping on point as any to see what all the fuss is about.
The backup story is was one of my favourites from ‘Stuck On You’ - a jet-black journey into the fractured mind of a very disturbed individual, with a heavy, no-holds-barred, Books Of Blood era Barker vibe. The academic essay at the end was also a lovely touch, showcasing Bark’s versatility and putting a little more meat on the bones of the mysterious Heresy that haunts these tales.
Run To Ground is a funny, but also surprisingly serious splatter-horror romp. I thoroughly enjoyed it.