Perpetual Dread by Brian Bowyer

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Horror – an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust.

Perpetual Dread is the perfect title for this books as with each turn of the page I was unsure what would face me. It is one of the darkest and most depraved books I’ve ever read – it is full on extreme horror – this is the first of many warnings…

It had me living in a constant state of perpetual dread – whether this was due to the graphic drug taking depicted on the page, bloody gory horror, the depravity of man expertly rendered by Bowyer; animal abuse, child abuse, rape, murder or brutal butchery – the dread I felt whilst reading pumped through my veins forcing me on my quest to the journey’s end.

This book is hard hitting and comes with many, if not every trigger warning known to man or woman – it’s excessive, it’s graphic and for some readers this may be a step to far in their quest of all things horror (there is nothing pretty about this) – you’ve been warned – but if you are wanting to be horrified then this might just be the book for you – it’s depraved and desolate, devoid of anything good and hopeful.

There were a few stories and many times that I thought bloody hell I can’t do this, twisting my head away from the page, and wrinkling my face up as I read the horrors on the page – but the ease of the prose, the non frills style that Bowyer deploys goes some way to helping the reader get through the most macabre and sinister offerings. Bowyer’s prose is easy on the mind, I wouldn’t call it simplistic, I’d call it stripped back, bleached prose that just states the facts and the horrors with no finery necessary to get his point across, it’s needed and offers a tiny bit of comfort especially when the things your reading are heavy on the soul – trust me this is NOT a collection for the faint of heart (this is your fourth of fifth warning now!)

There were a couple of stories that I didn’t get on with – maybe because of the subject matter and maybe own hookups on those issues. One of the issues I had in particular was around heroin use – this ones personal, my aunty who disappeared when I was one returned to our lives when I was sixteen and she was an addict. Addicted to heroin. She was reaching out to make amends for her life, for leaving us, for disappearing all those years. What we didn’t know then, was that she would only be back in our lives for two years before she died of a heroin overdose. So many of these scenes with heroin brought me to the edge, I know what this life is like, I’ve witnessed it and I work alongside addicts day-in-day-out. Bowyer does a great job at showing this depravity but for me I feel that those wounds I’d experienced a while ago are still quite raw and I felt that Bowyer (no fault of his own) was fingering those festering wounds of old and I couldn’t help picturing my aunt’s face.

There is also a great deal of child abuse in this collection (appearing in several of the stories) – and again I should note that Bowyer doesn’t detail it in HD, we are more hearing about it rather than watching it, but nevertheless it still doesn’t make it palatable – it’s horrendous but Bowyer goes there, he showcases that whole abhorrent business and gets the anger, the injustice of it and the pain, it’s powerful but also sickening too.

I’ve tried to judge this collection on what it is and not my own hookups about these issues above, I read horror to be horrified and this does exactly that, and I’ll be checking out more of Bowyer’s work and have a novel of his to get around to soon.

Now on with the stories…

Terminal – This centres around a dysfunctional family. We have an alcoholic single mother who is the soul carer of two oddball sons and a daughter who’s been self mutilating. The family and daughter are dealt some bad news that is becomes the catalyst for their entire world to fall apart.
 
Death Valley – A road trip that is worthy of Donald Ray Pollock’s ‘The Devil All The Time’ our protagonist is trying to distance himself from a familial issue and picks up a hitchhiker and soon discover a Small Town America underground fight club. Brutal and disturbing.
 
Body Snatcher – Ghouls, grave robbers and necrophiliacs – this one goes there and you can’t escape the butchery on show.
 
Family Chapel – Wow this one is all kinds of messed up. Abuse, a crazed pastor, family torment and years of abuse – you need a strong mind and stomach to get through this. The pets in this story is one of the sickest and depraved things I’ve read.
 
Bath-Salt Zombie – Sex and Rohypnol and death and drugs and a tonne of blood – a late night meeting ends in a bloodbath and a friendship you’d never expect.
 
Tattoo Magic – A jilted lover decides to get a tattoo of her ex from a strange tattoo shop after getting her palm read, things are not as they seem.
 
Gift and a Curse – A soon to be mother writes a letter to her unborn child, detailing the horrors she’s witnessed and been a part of – the baby is almost here and so she must continue to write whatever the cost.
 
Like Father, Like Son – A familial tale of a son reflecting back on his recently deceased father, the strains that broke the family unit apart and the depths the son must go to to say one last goodbye.
 
Drago’s Crib – A daughter slowly comes to deal with the abuse inflicted on her by her father and grandfather – her father recently died and her grandfather is slowly turning to the grave too, but at least she’s getting his house, and the stuff that lurks in there too.
 
Teacher’s Pet – A bullied boy finds a companion within a book which was lodged in a crack in his house. His neglectful mother and abusive stepfather and his school bullies have no idea of the reckoning to come – this one had a very Lovecraftian vibe in its execution.
 
Black-Cat Bones – A mother and daughter escape from an ex-lover who was also a drug dealer – when getting to the safety of a cabin, life descends further and unravels around them, addiction and starvation lead to drastic actions that turn the stomach and mind alike.
 
Scorpio – An assassin attempts to kill a prostitutes pimp but bad news for the assassin is that he’s a scorpion… far out crazy story go into it with an open mind.
 
Spyder Queen – A murderous mother and daughter head to their late grandmothers house to clear out her regrets but what they find is one regret that needs righting. Great idea with regards to a physical representation of regret and how this manifests itself.
 
Night Parade – A husband and wife unwillingly get tangled up in a parade that is heading right into the gates of hell.
 
Countdown to Oblivion – The end of the world with strippers, murder and crystal meth. This one is deplorable – with a young girl smoking meth, there is blood, violence all shaped within the backdrop of an end of the world event.
 
Scarlett – A haunted painting that had been made with the blood of a murdered child speaks to its new owner and tells her that the artist is planning another painting.
 
Perpetual Dread is dark, macabre and horrific, if you want to be horrified, if you want to push the very boundaries of horror then this might be for you, just remember you can’t un-see the things that Bowyer paints vividly on the page. Right I need to go and wash my eyes out and watch some funny animal montage videos to rid myself of the horrors I’ve just witnessed.
 
Perpetual Dread is available on Amazon here.

Brian Bowyer

 
Brian Bowyer has been writing stories and music for most of his life. He has lived throughout the United States. He has worked as a janitor, a banker, a bartender, a bouncer, and a bomb maker for a coal-testing laboratory. He currently lives and writes in Ohio.
 

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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