The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books) is OUT TODAY!

TSS

How many years has it been since we started this project? I think at least five, my section, Golden Geese, written at the Writers in the Heartland writing residency that I was awarded back in 2011. The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books) is a dark journey—four novellas written by four authors (myself, Nik Korpon, Caleb Ross and Axel Taiari) across for seasons in four different parts of The City. Think Sin City meets Memento. It was an honor to work on this with Nik, Caleb, and Axel—three very talented authors.

Here is what This is Horror had to say about it:

The Soul Standard is unlike anything else you’re likely to read this year, or this decade. Think Sin City meets Blade Runner meets David Lynch and you’ll begin to have an inkling of what’s in store for you, but only a very small one. These four brilliant authors have brought their collective genius together to paint this unflinchingly violent, oppressively bleak city with the adroitness of world class painters, drawing vivid images on your imagination in varying shades of gray and frequent splashes of red. Dzanc Books has a reputation for only publishing the very highest quality fiction and The Soul Standard does nothing to tarnish that rep.”

So if you enjoy my writing, and that of my esteemed peers (Nik is blowing up, with several books out, a new contract with Angry Robot books just announced and Axel Taiari one of the authors in the anthology I edited, Exigencies) then pick this up today.

Here’s the official description:

Across four different districts of a city that has torn itself to shreds, four different interweaving tales (each written by a different author) play out. In “Four Corners,” a morally dubious banker must keep his employer happy at any cost. The next story, “Punhos Sagrados,” concerns a boxer who finds himself torn between honor and the woman he loves. “Golden Geese” follows a hardened criminal with a terrifying condition who must come to terms with the life he’s led. Finally, “Jamais Vu” provides a stunning denouement as a man searches endlessly for his missing daughter, a task which is complicated by a peculiar condition: his inability to recognize faces. Told in rugged, bare-knuckled prose, The Soul Standard is a nonstop thrill-ride down the darkened avenues and through the shadowed alleys of a nightmare town.

Thanks for your continued support!

BOOKED Podcast Interview about The Soul Standard

BookedTSS

I finally had a moment to sit down with Robb and Livius to discuss The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books), my latest project, a novel-in-novellas, written with Nik Korpon, Axel Taiari, and Caleb Ross. We talk about how the book came to be, my novella, Golden Geese, how the stories linked up and our process for that overlap, and much more. Stop by and give it a listen. Axel Taiari shares this episode with me, to give us his stories.

To hear Nik and Caleb talk about their stories and process, GO HERE.

To hear the original review by BOOKED, GO HERE.

This is Horror also put up an excellent review, read that HERE, and here’s a quick excerpt:

The Soul Standard is unlike anything else you’re likely to read this year, or this decade. Think Sin City meets Blade Runner meets David Lynch and you’ll begin to have an inkling of what’s in store for you, but only a very small one. These four brilliant authors have brought their collective genius together to paint this unflinchingly violent, oppressively bleak city with the adroitness of world class painters, drawing vivid images on your imagination in varying shades of gray and frequent splashes of red. Dzanc Books has a reputation for only publishing the very highest quality fiction and The Soul Standard does nothing to tarnish that rep.”

Description:

Across four different districts of a city that has torn itself to shreds, four different interweaving tales (each written by a different author) play out. In “Four Corners,” a morally dubious banker must keep his employer happy at any cost. The next story, “Punhos Sagrados,” concerns a boxer who finds himself torn between honor and the woman he loves. “Golden Geese” follows a hardened criminal with a terrifying condition who must come to terms with the life he’s led. Finally, “Jamais Vu” provides a stunning denouement as a man searches endlessly for his missing daughter, a task which is complicated by a peculiar condition: his inability to recognize faces. Told in rugged, bare-knuckled prose, The Soul Standard is a nonstop thrill-ride down the darkened avenues and through the shadowed alleys of a nightmare town.

Excellent Review of THE SOUL STANDARD at This is Horror

soul standard cover(1)

Had to take a moment to share a new review of The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books) which is officially out on July 26th. Not only does This is Horror love the entire novel, but they had some kind words about my novella, Golden Geese. Order you copy today!

Check this out:

The Soul Standard is unlike anything else you’re likely to read this year, or this decade. Think Sin City meets Blade Runner meets David Lynch and you’ll begin to have an inkling of what’s in store for you, but only a very small one. These four brilliant authors have brought their collective genius together to paint this unflinchingly violent, oppressively bleak city with the adroitness of world class painters, drawing vivid images on your imagination in varying shades of gray and frequent splashes of red. Dzanc Books has a reputation for only publishing the very highest quality fiction and The Soul Standard does nothing to tarnish that rep.”

And for Golden Geese:

“The shining star in a collection comprised of shining stars, [Golden Geese] introduces us to a sick man trying to come to some kind of terms with the sins he’s committed. The story is dark, bloody, surreal, and heartbreaking and not one that you’ll soon forget. Thomas’ creative genius lies partly in his ability to build incredibly emotional, beautifully broken characters that you find yourself committed to, living with them for the duration of the story and deeply caring about their fates.”

I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that, right?

The Soul Standard is a TOP TEN pick for July at Chicago Review of Books!

july
Chicago Review of Books has The Soul Standard as one of the TEN BEST SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY NOVELS TO READ THIS JULY. How exciting. In great company, too.
Forget the flippant summer beach read. Ring in the dog days with these 10 science fiction, fantasy, and speculative novels picked as July’s best by the Chicago Review of Books. From dark, masterfully constructed plots to stories that probe the human condition, the following books will keep you perplexed—and bewildered—until the leaves begin to change.
Told in rugged, bare-knuckled prose, The Soul Standard is a nonstop thrill-ride down the darkened avenues and through the shadowed alleys of a nightmare town.

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Booked Podcast Reviews THE SOUL STANDARD

BookedTSS

Excited to get one of the first early reviews of The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books) a novel-in-novellas that I wrote with Axel Taiari, Nik Korpon, and Caleb Ross over at Booked Podcast. This has been a long time coming—so thrilled that Dzanc Books believed in this project and that it’ll be out soon. It’s Sin City meets Raging Bull with a hint of The Machinist.

FULL DESCRIPTION: Across four different districts of a city that has torn itself to shreds, four different interweaving tales (each written by a different author) play out. In”Four Corners,” a morally dubious banker must keep his employer happy at any cost. The next story, “Punhos Sagrados,” concerns a boxer who finds himself torn between honor and the woman he loves. “Golden Geese”follows a hardened criminal with a terrifying condition who must come to terms with the life he’s led. Finally, “Jamais Vu” provides a stunning denouement as a man searches endless for his missing daughter, a task which is complicated by a peculiar condition: his inability to recognize faces. Told in rugged, bare-knuckled prose, The Soul Standard is a nonstop thrill-ride down the darkened avenues and through the shadowed alleys of a nightmare town.

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Cover Reveal for The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books)!

soul standard cover(1)

Exciting cover reveal for The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books) out this July. Written by myself, Nik Korpon, Axel Taiari, and Caleb Ross. It’s four linked novellas over four seasons in four different parts of the City by four different authors! Kind of a Sin City vibe. Thrilled to be working with Guy Intoci and Dan Wickett, two of my heroes.

DESCRIPTION: The economy has fallen, and flesh is worth more than dollars. Across four different districts of the City, a desperate banker must keep his employer happy at any cost, a boxer must choose between honor and the woman he loves, a criminal must atone for his past, and a man with a terrifying condition searches desperately for his missing daughter.

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Gamut Magazine: What’s This Website All About?

Gamut Idea-001(Art by Luke Spooner)

“Now that short fiction has become as standardized as the SATs and Common Core—all in order to ‘judge’ and ‘rank’ writers—I’m excited to see what Richard Thomas brings to the game. Gamut will be the new magazine not written for the little old lady in Dubuque.”
—Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club

Gamut will be cool, and it will be out there, right on the edges of fiction. I can’t wait.”
—Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting

“As publishing venues grow ever more polarized—niche market over here,
stadium rock over there—the need for passionate, thoughtful, unafraid publishing
space is crucial. Enter Gamut.”
—Marcus Sakey, author of Brilliance

“I beg to differ with Mr. Palahniuk: There’s a fabulous indie bookstore in Dubuque, and little old ladies have been known to write some astonishing speculative fiction. Some of it might even end up in this magazine, which promises to bring together the fresh and the dark and the extraordinary. Look for great, weird things from [Gamut].”
—Rebecca Makkai, author of The Hundred-Year House

“A killer lineup of creators.”
—Rose O’Keefe, Publisher, Eraserhead Press

“The heavyweight talent behind Gamut is a promise of great things to come.”
—K. Allen Wood, Publisher, Shock Totem Publications

“It doesn’t matter if a writer has a big name, a pen name, or no name, if they’re writing excellent and edgy fiction, Richard Thomas has probably read their work. But Richard’s a busy guy—seriously, read his bio—and doesn’t have time to meet for coffee or martinis or bowling anytime someone wants to talk about what they should be reading next. Thankfully, now there is Gamut, which is sure to become an index of some of the best fiction writers working today.”
—Diane Goettel, Executive Editor, Black Lawrence Press

GAMUT (Updated 1/29/2016)

So what’s all of this talk about Gamut? For a long time I’ve wanted to start a magazine. I crunched the numbers for years, but in the end couldn’t make it work. Why? PRINT COSTS. So, over the past year I’ve been looking at it again, and decided the way to go would be to Kickstart it, and have it exist online. I hope to do the Kickstarter in February of 2016, and launch the website on 1/1/2017, if we are successful. For the past several months I’ve been getting things lined up—authors, website, costs, content, the Kickstarter page, etc. We will offer subscriptions via the special Kickstarter for $25-30, with the regular annual price being $50-60. That’s only $5 a month, at the most expensive price point. (Gamut just means a wide range, and it’s usually applied to emotions, but here, it refers to fiction, and more specifically, dark fiction.)

CONTENT

It will include mostly fiction (some original, some reprints) but also columns, non-fiction, art, and maybe even a serial memoir or novella. I have a word count per month in mind, based on my budget, and I’m looking to release new content several times a week. I will start off by publishing work via solicitations and will then open it up to submissions. We will pay 10 cents per word for original fiction, and 3 cents per word for reprints.

GENRES

Well, if you’ve read any of the anthologies I’ve edited (The New Black, Burnt Tongues, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, or Exigencies) then you know what my aesthetic is, for sure. Also, you can see the work (and authors) I’ve published at Dark House Press. And of course, my own writing (and YES, I will be publishing some of my own work at Gamut as well, new and reprint). So I’m open to fantasy, science fiction, horror, neo-noir, crime, magical realism, transgressive, Southern gothic, and literary—anything done with innovation, heart and emotion. Everything I enjoy reading and writing typically leans toward the dark side, but I have been known to embrace lighter work, and humor, now and then. It just has to MOVE me. And I like to be surprised.

AUTHORS

To date, here are the people that have given me a verbal commitment to publish original and/or reprint fiction at Gamut: Stephen Graham Jones, Laird Barron, Brian Evenson, Usman T. Malik, Matt Bell, Damien Angelica Walters, Letitia Trent, Mercedes M. Yardley, Alyssa Wong, Benjamin Percy, Lindsay Hunter, Axel Taiari, Amanda Gowin, Laura Benedict, Nathan Ballingrud, Dino Parenti, Ted E. Grau, Rebecca Jones-Howe, Sarah Read, Paula Bomer, Kelly Luce, Livia Llewellyn, Josh Malerman, Carmen Machado, Peter Tieryas, Kevin Catalano, Paul Tremblay, John Langan, Nina McConigley, Nik Korpon, Craig Wallwork, Steve Himmer, Antonia Crane, Steve Rasnic Tem, Kristi DeMeester, Tara Ison, David James Keaton, Cassandra Khaw, Nikki Guerlain, Lucy A. Snyder, JS Breukelaar, Helen Marshall, Amelia Gray, H. L. Nelson, Craig Davidson, Jacklyn Dre Marceau, and Lincoln Michel. Poets will include Jeffrey Skinner, Nickole Brown, Cate Marvin, Paul Guest, Blas Falconer, Carrie Jerrell, Gary Jackson, Erica Dawson, Laura Van Prooyen, Simone Muench, Charles Jensen, Ace Boggess, and Jeannine Hall Gailey.

ART

I’ve asked the following artists to be a part of Gamut: Luke Spooner, George C. Cotronis, Daniele Serra, and Bob Crum, as well as photographer Jennifer Moore.

COLUMNISTS

As of right now, I’m excited to have non-fiction, reviews and commentary from Keith Rawson, Max Booth, and RK Arceneaux.

POETRY

Even though poetry is not my strength, I want there to be a place for it at Gamut, so I’m putting Heather Foster (one of my favorite poets) in charge. She’ll be assisted by Whittney Jones.

STAFF

Speaking of which, Dino Parenti, Mercedes M. Yardley, and Casey Frechette are going to be my fiction editors, and first readers. They all understand my aesthetic and are excellent writers as well. They’re really going to help shape the voice and look of Gamut.

IN CONCLUSION

I’m sure this doesn’t answer all of your questions, some things are still being ironed out, but I’m very excited to see if we can make this work. I love Tor, as well as Nightmare, Shimmer, Apex, Clarkesworld, Black Static, Shock Totem, Cemetery Dance and so many other publications. I hope that Gamut can become a part of the landscape and continue to provide opportunities for authors to share their work, get paid a decent rate, and maybe even get discovered. There is no shortage of talent out there, I can tell you that much. Thanks for reading, and wish us luck! I hope you’ll be a part of this.

Exigencies, which I edited for Dark House Press, is out NOW!

ExigenciesMalerman
Exigencies_Heirloom_KWC

Edited by Richard Thomas, Foreword by Chuck Wendig, cover art by Daniele Serra, and interior illustrations by Luke Spooner. Includes “Wilderness” by Letitia Trent, “Monster Season” by Joshua Blair,“Cat Calls” by Rebecca Jones-Howe, “Ceremony of the White Dog” by Kevin Catalano, “The Armadillo” by Heather Foster, “The Last Manuscript” by Usman T. Malik, “Single Lens Reflection” by Jason Metz, “The Mother” by Nathan Beauchamp, “Everything in Its Place” by Adam Peterson, “When We Taste of Death” by Damien Angelica Walters, “Figure Eight” by Brendan Detzner, “My Mother’s Condition” by Faith Gardner, “Fragile Magic” by Alex Kane, “The Eye Liars” by Sarah Read, “Searching for Gloria” by W. P. Johnson, “And All Night Long We Have Not Stirred” by Barbara Duffey, “A Dull Boy” by David James Keaton, “Brujeria for Beginners” by Marytza Rubio, “Heirloom” by Kenneth Cain, “The Owl and the Cigarette” by Amanda Gowin, “Desert Ghosts” by Mark Jaskowski and “Blood Price” by Axel Taiari.

Exigencies has been a real pleasure to put together. When we opened the door for submissions, I didn’t know what to expect, but I can honestly say that 800 stories later, these are the best neo-noir submissions that I got, and each of these authors is amazing, unique, and going to blow up soon (if they haven’t already, like Usman winning the Bram Stoker Award for his short story recently, and other authors getting book deals, like Letitia at ChiZine, etc.). These stories cover a wide range of neo-noir—leaning toward the horrific, the fantastic, and everything in-between. Pick up your copy today. Here’s a snippet from Chuck Wendig’s brilliant foreword:

“Certainly the world we live in is a dank, fucked-up circus. Watching the news for 45 seconds will crush the spirit of even the most stalwart viewer in ways the stories you’ll find in this anthology never would or could. (Because at least the stories in this anthology possess beauty, too. They are told with great care, the narrative given shape and grace, the darkness given form and face and motive. The news is just noise; the stories here are all signal.) Maybe reading these stories helps us give context to the news we see during the 24-hour cycle. Not just a litany of horrific events, but characters and stories—a sense not only of what, but of who and why.”

BLURBS:

“From the shadows that dwell in some of the most creative, and gifted minds around, emerges a collection of short stories that will skulk across the footplate of literature for many years to come. Exigencies is the cloak thrown over the world, to show us that in darkness we can still find beauty, and will forever serve as a keepsake to great writing.”
—CRAIG WALLWORK, author of The Sound of Loneliness

“Ah, do you feel it? That’s the spectrum of neo-noir passing over you. It’s wide, wider than you are It’s tall, taller than you are. And it’s got colors we haven’t exactly named yet. Its source is a book, the book you hold in your hands. Exigencies has it all. Some of it’s cold, some of it’s funny. Some of it’s strange, a lot of it’s possible. We’ve all heard of the type of man who ‘can get you things.’ Richard Thomas can get you things. And his specialty is short, scary stories. Just like the addict in the alley searches for voices he can trust, I listen when Richard Thomas says it’s a good story. ‘Here,’ he says, ‘you’re going to like this one…’ And I listen.”
—JOSH MALERMAN, author of the Bram Stoker-nominated Bird Box

“These pages house some of the most exciting writers you’ve never heard of—yet. They make the mundane terrifying, the poignant macabre, the violent touching. The only thing you won’t find is the expected, because these stories will move the ground beneath your feet. Brace yourself.”
—NIK KORPON, author of Stay God

 

Book Covers: Work Edited and/or Published by Richard Thomas

I wanted to start a list of the beautiful book covers that I’ve either edited or published or both. I hope you enjoy the art and if you want more information, I’ve included links to Amazon, for those books that are already on the website. They are in reverse chronological order.

UPDATED: July, 2016

ScratchScratch by Steve Himmer
Publisher: Dark House Press
Cover Art: Alban Fischer
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Release Date: October 11, 2016

PaperTigersPaper Tigers by Damien Angelica Walters
Publisher: Dark House Press Cover
Cover Art: Alban Fischer
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Release Date: February 29, 2016

VileMen Vile Men by Rebecca Jones-Howe
Publisher: Dark House Press
Cover Art: Alban Fischer
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Release Date: September 8, 2015

ExigenciesCover_FinalExigencies, edited by Richard Thomas (anthology)
Publisher: Dark House Press
Cover Art: Daniele Serra
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Release Date: June 9, 2015
Stories by David James Keaton, Letitia Trent, Kevin Catalano, Usman Malik, Faith Gardner, Axel Taiari, Damien Angelica Walters, Kenneth Cain, Amanda Gowin, Jason Metz, Joshua Blair, Rebecca-Jones Howe, Brendan Detzner, Sarah Read, Bill Johnson, Barbara Duffey, Adam Peterson, Marytza Rubio, Nathan Beauchamp, Heather Foster, Alex Kane, and Mark Jaskowski.

DoorsFinalCoverThe Doors You Mark Are Your Own by Okla Elliott and Raul Clement (novel, trilogy)
Publisher: Dark House Press
Cover Art: George C. Cotronis
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Release Date: April 28, 2015

ThomascThe Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, edited by Richard Thomas (anthology)
Publisher: Black Lawrence Press
Cover Photo: Jennifer Moore
Foreword: Alissa Nutting
Release Date: November 1, 2015
Stories by Laura Benedict, Paula Bomer, Karen Brown, Shannon Cain, Kim Chinquee, Monica Drake, Kathy Fish, Amina Gautier, Tina May Hall, Nancy Hightower, Jessica Hollander, Holly Goddard Jones, Stacey Levine, Kelly Luce, Nina McConigley, Janet Mitchell, Ethel Rohan, Karin Tidbeck, Damien Angelica Walters, and Claire Vaye Watkins.

After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones (stories)
Publisher: Dark House Press
Introduction: Joe R. Lansdale
Cover Art: George C. Cotronis
Interior Illustrations: Luke Spooner
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Release Date: September 30, 2014
WINNER: Best Short Story Collection of the Year, This is Horror
NOMINATED: Best Short Story Collection of the Year, Bram Stoker Awards
NOMINATED: Best Short Story Collection of the Year, Shirley Jackson Awards

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00001]US Version (Medallion)

BTUK_TitanUK Version (Titan)

Burnt Tongues, edited by Chuck Palahniuk, Richard Thomas, and Dennis Widmyer (anthology)
US Publisher: Medallion Press / UK Publisher: Titan UK
Introduction: Chuck Palahniuk
Cover Design: US – Jay Shaw
Release Date: US August 12, 2014 / UK September 5, 2014
Stories by Neil Krolicki, Chris Lewis Carter, Gayle Towell, Tony Liebhard, Michael De Vito, Jr., Tyler Jones, Phil Jourdan, Richard Lemmer, Amanda Gowin, Matt Egan, Fred Venturini, Brandon Tietz, Adam Skorupskas, Bryan Howie, Brien Piechos, Jason M. Fylan, Terence James Eeles, Keith Buie, Gus Moreno, and Daniel W. Broallt.
WINNER: Best Anthology of the Year, This is Horror
GOD MEDAL WINNER: Best Anthology of the Year, INDIEFAB
NOMINATED: Best Anthology of the Year, Bram Stoker Awards

Cover_ECHOLAKEEcho Lake by Letitia Trent (novel)
Publisher: Dark House Press
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Photography: Helena Kvarnstrom
Release Date: July 22, 2014

Cover_TNBThe New Black, edited by Richard Thomas (anthology)
Foreword: Laird Barron
Publisher: Dark House Press
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Interior Illustrations: Luke Spooner
Date: May 13, 2014
Stories by: Brian Evenson, Stephen Graham Jones, Craig Clevenger, Paul Tremblay, Lindsay Hunter, Roxane Gay, Kyle Minor, Benjamin Percy, Roy Kesey, Craig Davidson, Matt Bell, Richard Lange, Micaela Morrissette, Joe Meno, Vanessa Veselka, Nik Korpon, Antonia Crane, Rebecca Jones-Howe, Tara Laskowski, and Craig Wallwork.
NOMINATED: Best Anthology of the Year, This is Horror (2nd Place)

Bar Scars by Nik Korpon

When I think back to when and where my writing career really started, about five years ago, one of the first names that pops into my head is Nik Korpon. He was there when I discovered what neo-noir was all about, and he’s been a brother-in-arms ever since. With the release of Bar Scars (Snubnose Press) he puts together a compelling collection of neo-noir fiction that is always entertaining, thought provoking, and unexpected. Since we both have collections coming out with Snubnose this month, I’m going to talk about Bar Scars, and he’s going to talk about my collection, Herniated Roots, over at his blog. So check out both posts, it’ll definitely be worth your time.

“This Will All End Well”
SYNOPSIS: A man walks in on his girl with another guy. Or does he?
COMMENTS: With a title like “This Will All End Well,” you know it can only be the opposite. What Nik does so well here is set you up, again and again. First, it’s the cheating wife, the politician tossing money on the floor, begging for forgiveness, caught in the act. Then, it’s the fact that she hasn’t been cheating at all, this is all a set up, they’re in on this caper together. But there’s more here. And that’s what I love about Nik’s work, it just goes deeper. Adding in his usual lyrical voice and ability to turn a phrase, set the stage, and you have a great opening story to his collection.

“A Sparrow With White Scars”
SYNOPSIS: A man in a bar has an ongoing relationship with a young girl.
COMMENTS: Tension is another thing that Nik does really well. I was nervous throughout this whole story. An underage girl, a man who is spending time with her when he shouldn’t, love that knows no rules. The violence fans out in every direction, and in the end, it’s a brutal story, one that cause you to shift loyalties several times.
QUOTE: “Darla straddled a stool, listening to a man in a white polyester suit tell a joke. He looked like a Messiah Elvis. Her pockets peeked below the frayed edge of her jean shorts, a bikini strap caressing her neck underneath a tank top the color of a fresh bruise. She threw her head back when she laughed, tender breasts rocking, slender throat pale and exposed and I could taste the salt on her neck, smell the hot sweat on her thighs. When the troll turned to order drinks for them, she glanced over to me, licked her teeth and winked. My stomach filled with moths and metal shards.”

“Intersections”
SYNOPSIS: A man prepares to propose to his girl, but an accident ruins everything.
COMMENTS: Of course the title gives you the first clue, “Intersections.” This story moves along at nice clip—we see the seedy underbelly of Baltimore, a guy trying to get out from under a rock, no more working for Mr. Harry. And in one evening things take a dark turn. I thought I knew where this one was going, too, and the tension, that beautiful moment when you get a shock through your system, muttering to yourself, “No, no…it can’t be.” And then you think, he’s going to get away with it, it’s okay, you realize there is a tape, and there is proof now, and everything spins out of control. Nik is very adept at creating these situations, things get bad, and then they get worse, and then there’s no way out.

“That Pale Light in the West”
SYNOPSIS: A confrontation in a bar does not go well.
COMMENTS: In a very short period of time, two pages here, we get the whole story. It doesn’t feel like a set-up from the beginning, but at some point you know it’s going to go wrong. The last line is heavy. It’s nice to know that psychopaths have rules.

“Alex and the Music Box”
SYNOPSIS: A man sneaks into an ex-girlfriend’s apartment to get something turns out bad.
COMMENTS: The tension of not only sneaking back into an ex-girlfriend’s apartment but then her coming home with a guy? Man, that’s tough. Poetic at times this story, like much of Nik’s work, has layers, and we keep getting into it deeper and deeper until there’s no way out. I like that he leaves it open, the ending. We’re left with that anxiety of what to do.
QUOTE: “I lay listening to breath drift from my mouth for minutes or hours. Rub my palms over my cheeks. I blow on her hand, and when she doesn’t move, I slide around it and stand. Naked, sweaty and flushed, she’s sprawled over her bed like a gunshot victim. Red phantom fingers wrap around her neck. I want to lay my hands on them, pretend they’re mine again. No smell of latex and I hope she doesn’t regret this tomorrow. I kneel beside her, penitent.”

“She Sleeps Beneath Clouds of Embers”
SYNOPSIS: Foggy memories and a strange hotel room lead to some very strange moments.
COMMENTS: “This is one of Nik’s more atmospheric pieces, and really, doesn’t a foggy memory, bruises and a dildo always lead to trouble? There is a sadness that permeates this story, the last line echoing desperation and loss. And somehow in the midst of this Baer inspired madness he made me laugh twice.”

“Haymaker”
SYNOPSIS: A fighter runs into a bit of bad luck.
COMMENTS: “This one kind of breaks my heart. I hate it when the good guy gets screwed over by a crooked cop, some palooka trying to work his way out of the gutter with his fists, or some straight blue collar job, but the man keeps pushing him down. The ending just makes me sad.”

“His Footsteps are Made of Soot”
SYNOPSIS: When his mother’s memories and bruised love can’t be ignored any longer, our protagonist opts for a risky surgery.
COMMENTS: “This might be the best story in the collection. It’s the back and forth between the basement surgeries he assists and the broken body and mind (and heart) of his mother that really pulls you in. The final scene, and the final words (or lack thereof) are so powerful, they just echo out into the silence. Classic Korpon.”
EXCERPT #1: “Sometimes things happen in home surgery, and it’s easier to be objective when the body doesn’t have a name, an address, a way
they take their coffee. Everything’s easier when history is malleable.”
EXCERPT #2: “I just nod and lay down, close my eyes. A muted rainbow of dots float across the flesh inside my eyelids. I focus, try to rearrange them into a halftone print of a family portrait with only two people. Inhale. The smell of damp smoke floods my nostrils, and Marcel gave up cigarettes years ago when his wife died of cancer. Exhale. The sound of game-show audiences drowns out scratchy country guitars. Inhale. A fist of cheap cologne, vodka and the burnt baby laxative used to cut dope crushes my nose. Exhale. A whiff of ash, of baby powder, of Mom’s shampoo from when I was younger that always reminded me of cut grass. Inhale. Nitrous oxide and Marcel’s liquid voice telling me to count to ten. Somewhere beyond my ears, past bloody eyelids and clenched fists and bruised legs and pipe-burnt chests, Hank Williams drags his voice over broken glass in the darkness.”

“Glass Bubbles”
SYNOPSIS: Hanging out in a local bar you can only get yourself in trouble.
COMMENTS: “This story touches on those lost moments, things you can’t get back, better days. I love the way he doesn’t tell this story in chronological order, it makes it much more powerful.”

This is a great collection of Nik’s work. Chuck Palahniuk said something like “Teach me something, make me laugh, and then break my heart.” And that’s what Nik does. Whether it’s educating me about Baltimore or basement surgeries, boxing or drug dealing, his stories always resonate with authority. He also has a way of turning a phrase, juxtaposing words in a way that is totally unique, his own language. And he also creates plots that aren’t what you expect, layers and turns that keep you guessing. He’s one of my favorite neo-noir authors going, and if you haven’t read his work before, this is a great place to start.

Also, keep an eye out for a future project we’re doing together entitled Four Corners, a series of four novellas that Nik and I, along with Caleb J. Ross and Axel Taiari have written and are currently shopping. It’s some of his best work to date, I think. You can find more of his work on Amazon, of course. I suggest Stay God as well as By the Nails of the Warpriest.

READ HIS COMMENTS ON MY COLLECTION, HERNIATED ROOTS, HERE.