Wednesday, November 27, 2013

17 Shades of Gray

I knew I really liked the work of Glenn Gray. I was introduced to his stuff as it was published alongside my own pieces going back about five years, and I found his to be an exciting and disgusting voice in crimey/horrory fiction. I'd read most of the stories included in his collection The Little Boy Inside before the book came out, but nothing, not reading any one or three or five of them spread out over time, not meeting him in person or having a few close encounters of GGG kind, could prepare me for the impact of reading his collected work. I didn't realize just how sharp and precise a thing it is that he's got going for him until it was in front of me bound as a singular work.

Every story informs and bolsters the others and the swings from horrific to hilarious and heartbreaking are astonishing. Thematically, they resonate clearly and in spooky harmony. Dude's scope goes way past crime fiction, horror or shock. It's got heart. It's got brains. It's got balls.

And it's got shit. Lots of shit and bile and blood and about fifty shades of mucous. I once heard Glenn call his stuff 'medical thrillers' when asked by a publisher what he wrote. Don't worry, I slapped him hard right there and jumped in. I told that fucking middle of the road publisher that he couldn't handle Glenn, that what he was picturing when Glenn (hopefully fucking with him, right buddy?) told him he wrote 'medical thrillers' was not going to be anywhere near the reality of the delivered goods. The guy seemed intrigued, but I told him to go back to his Robin Cook and Michael Palmer stuff and call back if he digs Josh Bazell and David Cronenberg, but otherwise, hit the road.

So, I like to think that I single-handedly kept Glenn from a lucrative publishing deal with McBland & Dull. You're welcome, man.

But hey, that's where Stona Fitch and The Concord ePress stepped in. If you read this blog and you've never read Glenn Gray, you're depriving yourself of a memorable and unique reading experience. And even if you've read the good doctor in pieces, you owe it to yourself to read them collected and in stereo. Even long-time fans will be surprised at where this book takes them (there are several brand new stories included here - just wait). It'll blow your mind. Not just your chunks.

Which it will, definitely.

It's gross, but it's so much more than that. It's ornately gross. It's deliciously disturbing. There's a special skill set that Gray possesses to bring the most awful experiences of the human body to life in a way that goes beneath the flesh to the psyche and flicks your primal-fear bean like nothing. Extremes, yes, but with sleights of phrasing and a keen intuition which he applies for maximum wallop and lingering after-tastes that are sweet, sour and melancholic.

Did I mention that this edition is also illustrated? Beautifully, eerily, hauntingly illustrated by artist Stephen Fredette who has framed each story with images that suggest and tease and draw out the connections contained therein. The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone.

(Check out this episode of Booked where they discuss The Little Boy Inside)


David Cranmer said...

Arguably the best short story collection of the year.

jedidiah ayres said...

Been a good year for 'em... Jordan Harper, David James Keaton and some guy named Steve Wobble had notable collections.