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When I first purchased All Of Them To Burn I had no idea that it was a short story collection, I just wanted to support another indie writer and Beau Johnson came to my attention from a few BookTubers and I’d also seen the support he offers other indie writers (myself included), so for me it was a no-brainer. So I was delighted when I opened the cover to see that there was a plethora of short fiction and flash fiction to feast myself on, a fabulous amalgamation of crime and horror that merge wonderfully together to create brutal musings that keep hammering home like a fist to the face until all that was left was a bloodied gory crevice.
Brutal. Unflinching. Detailed.
Brutal – the tone of this book is brutal, time and time again we are treated to some fabulously brutal and bloody scenes. There is torture in this book, you have been warned. There is excessive body detail to these crimes against bone and flesh, some that will make you screw your toes up at reading. It works. I’m not going to lie to you, some of the work makes you wince, but you’ll always continue to read on, such is the captivating voice of our protagonist in many of these more brutal stories – that of Bishop Rider.
Unflinching – Sometimes a writer holds back, sometimes they go where you don’t want them to go – or sometimes they submit to censorship. This collection is brave writing at it’s very core, no holds barred, balls to the wall crazy and I have to applaud Johnson for going there, for taking us where we don’t want to go… some of these stories are fearless in their execution and bold in their stance on justice making them bitter (and to quote Alanis Morissette) jagged little pills to swallow.
Detailed – These stories are detailed in such a way that I no longer wonder how things might be, or how gruesome things happen. How one would separate a head from body with a shovel, how a claw hammer sticks in the skull after punching it’s way through bone, how a limb can be removed and the blood that follows, how a face can be hollowed and teeth be spit out in yellow shards. It’s detailed and if that is your thing (I know it’s mine) then this book is a damned fine addition to your collection
‘It was now only the face a mother could love, and only if she were blind.’
I’ll fess up to a little something here, I did start the book and then stop reading. Not because it was bad, quite the opposite in fact. The book has a huge proportion of it dedicated to Bishop Rider (stories denoted by A Bishop Rider Story) a character that Johnson has written about previously, and seeing as I came to this fresh, I didn’t really know anything about Bishop Rider – not that this should stop you reading this book.
So what I did was I read all the Bishop Rider stories first, saw how these linked to one another and got a real sense of this crazy sonofabitch that Johnson has crafted – and reading it this way made me want to read more about Bishop Rider and search out more of Johnson’s stories that focus on the man himself.
I then read the other stories in the collection back to back also – it gave me a unique reading experience as it was almost like reading two short story collections in one – and both collections brought the pain.
Some of my favourite stories in no particular order were…
Not dead yet – which really got me into the mindset of Bishop Rider and showcases Johnson’s amazing craft, making me want to discover more about this man.
My Kingdom for a Fence – this story was brilliant, I loved the whole thing, a fathers love, grief and an accident one can’t escape from however much they try. I personally think this was the best story in the collection, it really spoke to me and maybe that’s because I’m a father? Or maybe because its riddled with grief and showcases a tremendously talented writer at his best.
‘Like blades, the rocks below, they do not only take William from this world, they separate him as well.’
Reshoots – This was a dark story, one that many writers may have chickened out of writing but Johnson just dives straight in – it had a cool invasion of the body snatchers vibe but freakier and with a huge slice of horror chucked in to boot.
Tomorrow, now – To me this felt like it could have been a continuation of Reshoots – a trip further in time, where this body snatchers scenario has progressed and our protagonists are living through the eventual fallout. People are held up in a church whilst the world is going to hell around them, this had a real strong dystopian vibe about it.
Building Character – I enjoyed this one a lot. I’m a book guy and a writer and well I love books that talk about other books or the craft of writing and in this story we get protagonist talking to the author about themselves and where they felt the writer has gone wrong in writing them. It was a nice change-up from the brutality of the collection and for me came across very humorous.
Although I loved both of these offerings as in the Bishop Rider stories and the other selected stories I felt on a whole I did prefer the ones outside of the Bishop Rider universe, I couldn’t help but think that I was missing out of parts of Rider’s story that I really needed to know more about – although Johnson does a tremendous job at filling in these gaps. But that’s not a bad thing, the writing of the Bishop Rider stories are incredible and if anything I’ll be picking up more of Beau Johnson’s work in the future to discover it all for myself.
If you’re after something that is completely different to what is out there in the crime / horror world check out the brilliance and brutality of Beau Johnson – if you’re fans of Gabino Iglesias, John Bowie and Paul D. Brazill then this will be right up your dark alley.
All Of Them To Burn is published by Down & Out Books and is available here.
Beau Johnson lives in Canada with his wife and three boys. He has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Such fine establishments might include Out of the Gutter Online, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and the Molotov Cocktail. Besides writing, Beau enjoys golfing, pushing off Boats and certain Giant Tigers.
Find Beau Johnson online …
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Beau-Johnson/e/B079MHF7RG/
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17692442.Beau_Johnson
Review by Ross Jeffery
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