The Portable Horrors Of C.J. Bow: C.J. Bow
Reviewed By Steve Stred
Sometime last year, while I navigated Twitter and started to use the platform more and more, I connected with CJ. We had mutual interests and chatted and a friendship was kindled. It took a bit before I realized he had a book out, funny how that goes, and I snagged it along the way at some point.
While reorganizing some of my TBR recently, I spotted the title and realized I hadn’t read it yet.
Having now read it, the usual remark of – “I wished I hadn’t waited so long,” sums this up nicely.
‘The Portable Horrors of CJ Bow’ features three sections or three books, as he has it laid out. Book One features some short stories, Book Two features some poems and Book Three features two novellas that are connected. The connection was purely through mentioning a character in both, but it worked well to give it a familiar feeling.
From the first story ‘We Are Acid 77,’ CJ lays out his objectives as to what he’s about to deliver. This is an unsettling story following two military soldiers assigned to guard a specific area. Oddness and creepiness ensue and CJ does a great job of keeping his cards close to his chest until the end.
‘Life is But a Dream’ keeps the atmosphere created in story one continuing. This is a simple story about an older man, dealing with the loss of his wife of many years. He goes out fishing at his normal spot, but when a strange fog arrives, things become tense. Really loved this story.
‘The Bone Clown’ should’ve been the most horrific story within. That was until I read the story following it. In ‘The Bone Clown’ we follow a coworker doing a quick wellness check on a colleague who hasn’t reported for work for some time. At his home, he finds a letter and after reading it things unravel and Bow takes things to fantastic levels. This one is a must-read.
As I said, ‘The Bone Clown’ should’ve been the story that creeped me out the most, but then along comes ‘Hells Half Acre.’ In this story, we hear about an urban legend of a man who lost his mind and buried his life savings in his back yard. This thing fired on all cylinders and between the creeping forest, the main characters and the crazy man, this was just an outstanding piece of writing.
Book Two contained a number of poems. While I enjoyed them all, none really stood heads or tails above any of the others. It made for a nice interlude between Book One and Book Three.
Book Three is made up of two interconnected novellas.
First up was ‘Meat Hook Mambo.’ In this we follow two detectives trying to track down a killer who has reappeared, leaving their signature calling card. As it progresses, Bow goes deeper and darker which worked really well, based off of just what the character likes to do.
The final story is ‘Plight of the Pitiful.’ This contains a reference to one of the detectives from ‘Meat Hook Mambo,’ which, while a loose connection, helped to ground the two stories and keep the setting familiar.
Overall, this was a truly fantastic story. Filled with great characters and stunning imagery. Seeing the lack of Goodreads reviews and the few reviews on Amazon are shocking, but I guess I’m also a bit guilty for having waited so long to read this.
This is one of the best collections I’ve read in some time and I really hope through this review more people will discover it and take a chance.
The Portable Horrors Of C.J. Bow
The Portable Horrors of C. J. Bow is the enthralling debut collection of terrors from a rising voice in dark fiction. Nightmares and muses forced this creature into existence and now it must roam among us all to fester in our fears and take root in our imaginations.
We are Acid 77 – Grant and Negron, two Army reservists forced on a pointless detail only to be placed in the center of an ancient battleground
Life is but a Dream – Gus, a year-long widow, itches to be out on the lake to cast a few lines in a familiar fog, but finds he isn’t out there alone.
The Bone Clown – Pretty self-explanatory
Hell’s Half-Acre – How far would you go to dig up the past?
It’s Beautiful Isn’t It – What happens when the first voice you hear does not belong to a physical form?
Meat Hook Mambo – Two gritty detectives attempt to solve a gruesome murder and learn the threat was never too far from the hook.
Plight of the Pitiful – An incendiary novella where two unlikely lovers take their miserable lot in life into their own hands.
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
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