True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik

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‘My body was my mother’s unfortunate toy.’

I came to True Crime not knowing what to expect, all I knew was that it was a debut and that it was recommended by Sadie Hartmann (Mother Horror to many other people) – and that recommendation was all I needed. So I picked up my book and started reading and boy does Kolesnik weave a horrifically beautiful yarn, from page one I was under her spell and I would go wherever she would lead me… chapter one ends on a huge emotional waking nightmare, then chapter two takes off into some batshit crazy.

I can honestly say that I felt battered and abused by the time I’d finished this book, but shouldn’t that be what good fiction is all about, the pain and the suffering, the no holds barred urgentness of the prose – uncensored writing which makes us feel changed. Well that’s what good fiction is for me, I don’t know about you? For me I want a book to leave a mark, I want it to transform me in some way, and True Crime left me a quivering wreck – I still can’t believe that this is a debut story and I can honestly say that this book catapults Kolesnik to the top of a must read list of horror writers today – I for one will now be picking up all her future work, I just hope that she continues to write with her unflinching taking no prisoners approach, and doesn’t become censored in any way, because her approach is needed because we do need desperately to hear and see the horrors of life.

‘My flesh was a monument to bad things I wished I could forget.’

I couldn’t help but draw comparisons for her brave and unflinching prose, and this brought to mind the greats such as Cormac McCarthy and with particular reflection on his novel Child of God – with its scaling intensity and creeping depravity that runs throughout (with no subject off limits) with many taboo subjects being written about – there is no filter in True Crime  and Kolesnik ensures it’s all killer and no filler!

Then you have the brave writing of Chuck Palahniuk – who takes the reader where they don’t want to go, but instead of alienating the reader and having them switch off Kolesnik like Palahniuk drags us through the mire and shows us in blinding clarity the things we think we don’t want to see but in seeing these things she opens our eyes to the horrors that await us (there was one scene on a farm that I thought no don’t do it, don’t go there, but Kolesnik did and I wasn’t ready, but I’m glad she had the chops to do so, because it’s this unflinching brilliance that sets this book apart from the crowd!).

Then I was reminded of Bret Easton Ellis and his masterful book American Psycho in the way that he was able to get into the mind and the depravity of this escalating terror and the horrors of the human mind – something that Kolesnik also achieves with her masterful prose and unflinching storytelling.

Lastly I also would make comparisons to John Steinbeck and his novel Of Mice and Men, but Kolesnik writes it with huge rabid gnashing teeth – the comparisons to Steinbeck are because of our protagonists Suzy and Lim (brother and sister) as they reminded me of the brains and the brawn of George and Lennie – and although this is horror, it’s storytelling is very very astute and crisp.

We witness firsthand a childhood and a life robbed of anything safe and secure – we see the affects of abuse, child abuse at its worst, both emotional and physical abuse (it makes for painful reading but its believability is what haunts you, not the actual details – although these are hard hitting and no holds barred).

True Crime is brutal and it’s prose is shockingly astute, pulling the reader into the grime and depravity of child abuse and the lasting effects of trauma. I found it also very interesting that the person carrying our these atrocities was female (and the mother), as this is something seldom seen or written about – and in facing that head on it makes for a powerful (unconventional) read, because when you hear about child abuse it is almost always referred to as a male doing the crime (or that might be just what I have been conditioned to think or believe or have made the comparisons myself). True Crime is a torch in the darkness of such emotional and physical abuse which shines a much needed light on the way this type of abuse destroys lives and childhoods and like weeds it strangles all that is good before it can sprout and flourish – choking it out, with the victim a powder keg awaiting a loose spark.

True Crime is an unrelenting and urgent book. It is both brilliant and brutal – but it did have me asking the question ‘what is the true crime here’ – was the true crime the sordid details that Kolesnik has our main protagonists do? Or is it the abuse, the abuse suffered at the hands of their mother (the one person charged with keeping them safe), is this the catalyst that starts everything snowballing and like radiation slowly poisons and mutates the mind body and soul. Is the true crime here the robbing of innocence?

‘The memory raped long after the person stopped.’

True Crime is stunning and I couldn’t recommend a book more highly. If you are after a rabid version of Thelma and Louise, which is infused with the graphic horror of American Horror Story – but with masterfully written and deranged characters that could be from a McCarthy or Ellis book – then look no further… True Crime is horrific and I bloody loved it!

True Crime is published by Grindhouse Press and is available here.

Samantha Kolesnik

Samantha Kolesnik is an award-winning writer and director from Pennsylvania.

Her debut novel, TRUE CRIME, is available now from Grindhouse Press. Her screenplays have been recognized at top genre film festivals and her fiction has appeared in notable literary magazines including The Bitter Oleander, The William and Mary Review, and Barnstorm.

Samantha’s film, Mama’s Boy, world premiered at the Telluride Horror Show and has been a hit on the festival circuit, playing well-regarded events such as Boston Underground Film Festival, Ithaca Fantastik, Horrible Imaginings Film Festival, Nightmares Film Festival and more. Waylon Jordan from iHorror.com praised the short as “transgressive” and a “lesson in psychological horror”.

A community builder and supporter of other independent artists, Samantha is also one of the co-founders of the Women in Horror Film Festival and has served as a panelist, guest juror and volunteer at several independent genre events.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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