All Things Lead To The End: Edward Lorn
Reviewed By Brian Bogart
Broken Bones, Dark Dreams and The Devils In-Between
Edward Lorn (E. to most people on the internet) is no stranger to the horror community. Whether it is his Twitter presence, his far-reaching knowledge and love of horror, his Stephen King theories on Youtube, or his generous promotion of authors (well-known and the up-and-comers alike)- E. definitely is someone worth reading. He has a genuine appreciation of writing and horror, and it shows on the page, as well.
But before we delve into this MONSTER of a collection….
WARNING: This collection contains graphic language and disturbing imagery. I cannot stress that enough for some future readers. There are themes and situations touched on and sometimes fully depicted here, that may cause some to put into a DNF category. Which is a shame to some degree but understandable, in the same way that someone not being able to finish Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door is completely warranted. But those of us who power through those moments, will find horrors both human and otherwise, lurking in every corner of small-town America.
Now that I’ve laid that out, let’s take a journey.
I can almost make out a sign in the distance, watching us from the thickening fog as we approach. A sign similar to all of the others that we pass by every day, not paying much attention. But this one is different. It beckons you with open arms and brings to mind simple, childhood memories…
WELCOME TO BAY’S END.
Bay’s End is the first novel, introducing us to not only the fictional town in a very natural way (two young boys becoming friends), but also the brutality and dark nature of many of the adults. When you’re a kid, the power and authority that adults hold over you can be frightening. It’s their world, and you just want to make your way through it without too much attention or trouble. Trey and Eddie just want to enjoy their youth. But a certain police officer has his eye on them, has his eyes on everyone. When a simple practical joke involving some cherry bombs sets the story into high gear, it is clear that Officer Mack is even deadlier than they first suspected.
This story, in particular, reads a lot like classic Stephen King. Given Lorn’s own appreciation of King’s library, it’s not surprising. Thankfully, his voice is all his own, while checking all of those Derry and Castle Rock boxes. Coming of age tales can be tricky to write, especially ones that set up the darkness of an entire town, one street at a time. I almost read this in one sitting, because I felt very invested in the kids. Even when the author sort of spoils some future scenes with some on the nose narration- it worked. I kept turning those pages. Well done.
Fog Warning describes the downward spiral and struggle of an Oxy-addicted doctor, haunted by his past in more ways than one. The cloudy haze of the protagonist’s addiction makes the encroaching fog seem less credible to the reader at first, but tragedy doesn’t give two shits whether you believe what you’re seeing. Ghosts are real, as Stephen King has said, and sometimes they win. And the dead girl in the fog is there, as not just a reminder, but a warning.
This is kind of on the short side, but as a man who battled addiction in my youth- Lorn tackles the subject matter perfectly. It may not be as brash and dark as some of the other tales in this collection, but it doesn’t need to be. The realism of the poor doctor’s race against time and his own past carries the weight of the horror on confident shoulders, to the bitter end.
Next up, a brutal tale of loss and revenge, wrapped inside the one thing that defines human existence inside the town of Bay’s End more than anything else: PAIN. The Sound of Broken Ribs is dark, ugly and satisfying. When a woman is scorned by her husband and her life falls apart, an obsession takes over her: to bring someone pain, so they could know not only what she feels, but to understand how someone could hurt someone, and maybe come to grips with her own loss. Now, most people might have this kind of passing thought when angry- but it usually lasts for a few brief seconds, then common sense and basic human decency kicks in. It’s a natural part of the grieving process, that furious, momentary anger. The need to lash out.
But, what if you allowed it to guide you? To pick a random, innocent bystander… just to see? Belinda picks her victim, jogging alongside the road. Oh, but she doesn’t die. And that’s when the supernatural aspects creep in. The breaking of bones is an open door, refusing to be shut. And Pain has a way of taking hold, wrapping its black hands around your shoulders and comforting you, while whispering secrets in your ear.
Lorn succeeds in so many ways in this novel. Told in an alternating perspective, you get to see victimhood and revenge from both sides. Everything builds and builds, more blood to be spilled- and all stemming from a moment of temporary insanity. I think it is one of my favourites.
The Bedding of Boys.
Okay. If you take one look at that title and wonder if this is where a good portion of my previous warning stems from… congrats. While there is horrible and graphic stuff touched upon in some of the other stories, I could easily see this turning off a few readers. It doesn’t pull punches, almost from page one.
Regina is a predator. Young Nevada is in her sights. Her infatuation with him drives a good portion of the ick factor, but it also opens up discussions about the hypocrisy of female predators and male predators, and the viewing lens society sometimes uses in their approach to that subject.
But this isn’t just a depraved recount of nasty shenanigans best left undiscussed. Regina has a partner, Ghost. You know, the childhood image of a bedsheeted spirit brought to life, watching in the shadows as Regina prowls, destroys and murders the innocents she comes in contact with. He waits, hungry. He cleans up their crime scenes, absorbing the bloody mess quietly.
What is it? Regina doesn’t know, but it has been with her for a long time. And if it wasn’t for her other-worldly, one-man clean-up crew she may have been caught ages ago. It’s a disquieting and creepy symbiotic relationship, connected in ways Nevada nor Regina could ever imagine.
But all relationships must end. And especially, those that should have never existed in the first place….
Like I said, due to the subject matter, this might not be not for everyone. But I will be damned if Lorn doesn’t draw you in if you let him. It also helps that here is where the connections of all of these tales of his fictional town start to weave together a bit more, setting the pieces in place to let the town of Bay’s End know that…
Everything Is Horrible Now.
My wife asked me one night what I was reading. That title was my response. Became a running joke over the next week, too. It’s a phrase uttered many times throughout the novel. Think of it as Lorn’s version of “Something happened” from Stephen King’s Revival, and it hints at the escalating madness threatening to spill forth into this fictional town.
This book opens with a pastor blowing his god-fearing brains out on his front porch, traces the roots of Bay’s End to a blood curse complete with the burning of its own founder and his “witchy” wife, and brings it all together into a surreal mishmash of small-town realism and cosmic weirdness. It also helps the readers to finally begin to piece the storylines together, one bit at a time. Bay’s End is a haunted place, built on the blood and fears of those who came before.
And in the spaces between the seen and unseen, an entity known as The Bastard watches and waits. Lorn loves this town, even if that love comes at the price of putting his protagonists through the wringer. And it is just going to get weirder. The prose drips with a hint of the unknowable future, while dwelling in the murky depth of its origins. And Lorn’s handling of a character’s homosexuality and the conversion therapy attempts to “normalize” him is well done, too. Deeply disturbing.
My only gripe is perhaps some readers might find too many threads being woven at once. Lorn likes the juggling act, though, and you can tell. And for readers who read the previous stories, the easter eggs and nods help to make up for that, to some degree. Really makes you wonder where all of this is leading…
Next, we have “Cinder Block”, which is a quick short story. Not much to say, but it does make a nice lead-in for the next novel.
No Home For Boys is where everything falls into place (as their world falls apart). Previous characters are reintroduced. A lot of time has passed since we saw them last, but as the people who work at Bay’s End Home for Boys will soon find out… Time is an entity all its own. A snake eating its own tail. Your participation is mostly negligible. But choices must be made, nonetheless.
Time. It’s a bitch.
It’s really hard to go into any amount of detail, so I’ve used the vague wording above to describe it instead. To say much more would cheapen all those connections and for the readers who read all the Bay’s End books, that should be enough.
I personally think this one steers too much into the conversational narrator, but it is for good reason. As someone who writes myself, I do appreciate the juggling of timelines and characters at play here, but I think I prefer Lorn tapped into the vein of the darkness within each of us, versus the cosmic outside of us. Even if those entities thrive on the ugliness that inhabits us. Maybe it’s just me. Just one man’s opinion. Still, some great scenes and writing despite all that.
Cruelty is up next.
Whatever quibbles I may have had about the previous novel, they did not continue to rear their ugly head here as much. Maybe it’s because I had read the majority of this omnibus in the span of a few weeks, back to back to back. I mean, that’s a lot of blood, dirt and grime to rest on the old cranium. Perhaps that’s why No Home For Boys felt “off” to me. You know, author burnout. Happens to readers, too.
Cruelty, I enjoyed more than the previous story. I had taken a week or so off between reading it, so maybe that helped. A whole lot of Hell can happen in less than 48 hours. Demons, whores, meth heads, drug dealers and law enforcement collide in a death ride of violence and depravity. It is unrelenting and many feel Cruelty’s wrath by the end. Awesome stuff.
Closing out this 1700+ page of broken bones and dark dreams is also a sneak preview of Cruelty and Joy. Needless to say, it whets the appetite for more Cruelty to come.
Overall, this is a great collection. E. has a highly-readable prose and a dark sense of humour, to boot. It serves as an example of Lorn’s diversity, while also stretching the limits of how far he is willing to go to tell the stories he wants to tell. Some of the themes may be a bit much for some, but the author handles the subject matter with brutal honesty, which is commendable.
Bay’s End is a dark and brutal place, it’s his job as narrator to expose the ugly truths that not only hide in the shadows where we refuse to look, but sometimes, in the hearts of those around us, as well.
After all, white picket fences might keep the neighbours out- but it does far less to keep the cruelty of the unknown at bay.
Welcome to Bay’s End.
All Things Lead To The End
All Things Lead to the End…
The Complete Bay’s End Collection!
This collection includes seven full-length novels, one novella, a short story, and an excerpt, all of which are listed below:
THE SOUND OF BROKEN RIBS
THE BEDDING OF BOYS
EVERYTHING IS HORRIBLE NOW
“Cinder Block” (a short story)
NO HOME FOR BOYS
A sneak peek of CRUELTY & JOY
Brian Bogart is an American author, residing in Northern Ireland. His love of genre fiction started at an early age, consuming every horror and fantasy book available. He has been published in various degrees online and contributed a short fiction piece, “TOCSIN”, to The One Million Project (OMP) Thriller Anthology in an effort to raise money for cancer research and the homeless. He loves to share his enthusiasm for the horror genre with others and help promote other authors.
His latest story, alongside many other authors, can be found in the pages of EPIC FANTASY SHORT STORIES, coming soon from Flame Tree Publishing.
Purchase OMP THRILLER here: Amazon UK
Preorder EPIC FANTASY SHORT STORIES anthology here: Flame Tree Press
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Official Blog https://www.dreamdarklyblog.wordpress.com