typicalreview – Miss Sally: And The Sinners That God Ignores by Robert Joe Stout

 

This is a bleak view of Texas in the 1930s offered by a young girl lost in a dust bowl of sin, confusion, and lust. Bleak may be a polite term as I am sure some readers would find Robert Joe Stout’s 1973 novel “Miss Sally” a trying read. Scenes of torture, rape, and blasphemy run throughout yet the young Sally begins innocently enough – her and her sister spy on an older sibling having sex. The conversations that ensue are enchanting and darling as the girls try to explain for themselves the ins and outs of adulthood. This fuels a dangerous and naïve plan to experiment with sex and local boys. After the domino effect of curiosity takes its toll, she finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Raped by several local boys and teens, Sally is ferried out to the countryside days later not only to recover but to allow the gossip to dry up for a few years. Things go from bad to worse as Sally barely reaches womanhood, but not without a roller coaster of joy and sorrow alike.

There are some very poignant scenes that take place in various revival services. While many around this little girl vacillate between heathen attitudes that do not practise religion at all – which are the most benign – and those who are dangerously enraptured with Christianity in one form or another who come across as the most dangerous and detrimental. The path to her saviour blocked by thorns, and even though she pursues religion right to the end, it would appear to be the cause of so many of her misconceptions and troubles. For a little girl who thinks herself dumb and ugly, she has some deeply philosophical reasons for her actions that keep one interested to see what she will do or say next. An example is when she first assumes she must look like a sinner since everyone at church looks at her as if she has sinned. Since she hasn’t sinned it makes her sad, and certain something must be wrong with her when the entire congregation agrees that everyone has sinned. A very confusing concept for a simple girl barely thirteen years old.

Sally shows no shame in what happened to her, proving to be a very tough little girl taking the world at face value. With the exception being her erstwhile brainwashing at the hands of religious fanatics of the time, she otherwise has a very balanced and non-judgemental core to her. At one point she compares her rape to animal husbandry she helps with on a cousins farm and the insight offered is simplistic but refreshing. Her philosophy is simple throughout and hence, incredibly thought-provoking for a reader brave enough to take “Miss Sally” herself at face value.

There are several scenes of sex in the book, most are not consensual. Some are alluded to but many happen as we are on our journey with this young girl, so the reader is given an unflinching view of brutal treatment by Stout. As a very dark coming of age tale, there is no way around it, so fans of stories like “Go Ask Alice”, “The Girl Next Door,” or the film “The Seasoning House” will understand the merits of being able to see into how much like beasts – or worse – humans can behave. While this is a fictional story it serves as a reminder that worse things happen in life, and anyone we stand beside could endure what little Sally winds up witnessing.

This is a sure four-and-a-half stars, as I was left with one small question that needed addressing.  Aside from the cover art being far too plain, through all of this learning and witnessing sex, rape, torture and confusing religion, fighting families and all – there is no mention of a woman or Sally herself menstruating. That was one point I was waiting to see addressed. Would it fill her with more questions, drive her deeper into her warped sense of righteousness, or had the trauma her body went through so young have damaged her to a point that it was impossible? That seemed to be missed given her age by the end of the novel. Being written in the mid-70s originally – this is a re-release by Robert Joe Stout and we are lucky for it – perhaps that sort of womanly medical truth was too racy a topic among all of the brutality surrounding this young girl.

 

I have taken a position reviewing books from independent authors. While not all are horror, there is a thread of darkness through them regardless of genre. As with honest paid reviews, there will be personal reaction as well as comparative and critical analysis. If you are an author that would like me to review your work, contact me for rates and a summary of your novel, short story, or collection. 

typicalreview – Truth and the Serpent by J. Rutledge

Have you ever imagined what life in the Garden of Eden was like for the snake? If you’ve ever wondered what it got up to after the fateful encounter with naked people and the fruit then J. Rutledge has your answers in “Truth and the Serpent”.

A shipwrecked man finds his way through a storm to a cave where he intends to seek shelter. Inside, there lies a massive serpent surrounded by untold riches with many tales to tell. Invited to stay awhile and listen, the man is regaled with stories of the old world and it isn’t long before he recognizes these stories and storyteller alike.

The serpent, in this case, is the forefather of dragonkind. A brilliant and very fun idea, so right off the top a reader’s mind would whirl with all dragon lore, half-forgotten woodcuts, and all manner of natural disaster blamed on dragons through early history. Now, it all somehow makes sense. When the dragon type creature here relays the first story of exile, it is hard to not be enchanted by the idea entirely. He runs through other stories up to the great exile and beyond, though using different names and a very breezy manner. Think of a long Sunday school lesson as taught by a barfly on a dreary afternoon, and it’s close to what being in a long conversation with the serpent from the Garden of Eden is like.

Christian or not, we know a lot of these stories by osmosis. Luckily, the author here retains a playful and blasphemous tone. Modernizing the feel entirely, the Serpent himself is more than ageless. All-knowing, and fairly well read, this creature also possesses a ribald sense of humour and much like the best jester, only learns from his mistakes half of the time.

Those who enjoy the dry jest of Monty Python or more comedic fantasy fare will enjoy this, especially if they have an interest in biblical times. The serpent himself has a taste for the here and now, so references like television shows, Clive Barker films, Oscar Wilde, political and philosophical figures are referenced by Rutledge heavily and often.

While written very well, the style can come across as loose at times. Between the serpent himself being a one-man vaudeville act, and wanting to know what the next story will be it does keep the reader turning pages, though some of the monologues get very long. The back and forth ceases to be engaging since the main character’s personality forces him to talk ‘at’ people as opposed to talk ‘with’ people. As a result, the relationship between the shipwrecked man and this divine creature is pushed to the recesses, making room for the grand fish tales. It is fitting as the parables retold here are in a similar style as the generally accepted versions though this time with a dark bent, a different point of view, curse words and very creative use of things an armchair theologian may amuse themselves with.

I would have to award this 3.5 stars, as this was an enjoyable concept that was a little top heavy for the idea. It’s not that these stories have been retold, and they are rarely told better than when in humour, but the girth of the book weighed down the mirth found within. It would make a good reading exercise for those with a solid base in comparative religion and can find humour in the premise of the snake who begat dragons living in a cave up until today from the start. An absurdist jaunt, “Truth and the Serpent” is not your typical Sunday school.

 


I have taken a position reviewing books from independent authors. While not all are horror, there is a thread of darkness through them regardless of genre. As with honest paid reviews, there will be personal reaction as well as comparative and critical analysis. If you are an author that would like me to review your work, contact me for rates and a summary of your novel, short story, or collection. 

Nightface – New art and a new price

Nightface by Lydia Peever - new coverNightface has been re-released with not only a new price but a new publisher. Now, my re-vamped vampire novel sits alongside my self-published fiction, such as Pray Lied Eve 1 and 2.

The Kindle edition is up right now on amazon.com and paperbacks will be available shortly.

At the moment, the price for the Kindle is about the same – though there will be a remarkably lower price for the paperback. Now that I can adjust pricing myself, these may change so do take advantage of this if you held off before! Even better, there is a match-price special where you can get the ebook along with the paperback for an additional 99 cents.

This comes part-and-parcel with the reversion of rights from my old publisher to me, so a very exciting thing! It has been a while but I must say this comes in good time for the future release of Nightface 2.

Wondering about the cover? That’s the constellation Draco – the great dragon of the north.  Very fitting for this particular ‘breed’ of a blood-drinking killer.

So, please share the link to Nightface , tell a friend, leave a review and let me know what you think! There will be a transition time while the Amazon robots link all of this to previous editions and my author page, but I wanted to share the news the moment I could!

Thank you!