Cut by Adam Chushman: a Review

Cut by Adam Cushman4 out of 5 stars

When I first saw the trailer for Adam Cushman’s debut novel, Cut I knew I had to pick up a copy. In case you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it first. I’ll wait.

The novel follows a failed actor into the surprisingly brutal world of suburban knife fighting. The sub-culture Cushman develops over the course of the novel echoes some of the themes in Fight Club – people with nothing to lose finally figuring out how to live through violence.

The book is precarious in the best of ways – there are few books able to keep me uneasy and wondering which way things are going to fall for Gabriel, the main character. Whether he’s on the run or gripping the sweaty handle of a knife in someone’s living room, you’re always waiting for the next slice to come and start the bleeding. I’ve never been in a knife fight, but based on the picture Cushman paints, this book is one giant allegory. An adrenaline rush that’s plenty crazy and soaked in blood.

I have no idea of suburban knife fighting actually exists. I imagine it’s not the type of thing you can check into on Foursquare. The thing I enjoyed most about this book is how, in a relatively compressed amount of pages (the book is on the same order as Drive short and direct), Cushman has fabricated an entire subculture with words alone. You can taste the blood, feel your heart race and can’t help but wonder if your neighbor is hiding scars under his dress shirt.

Shop for Cut on Amazon

The New Black from Dark House Press – a Review

The New Black, Dark House Press4 out of 5 stars

The New Black (Dark House Press) is a shot of dark in the light, a strong anthology with razor sharp teeth. Most of the stories look into an abyss (not the Lovecraftian abyss, but the personal fissures and pits of despair we all find ourselves transfixed by on the worst of our days. For lovers of horror, crime, noir and the “dark” genres – you should put this book on your reading list.

Here’s a description of the collection from the publisher: The New Black is a collection of twenty neo-noir stories exemplifying the best authors currently writing in this dark sub-genre. A mixture of horror, crime, fantasy, science fiction, magical realism, and the grotesque—all with a literary bent—these stories are the future of genre-bending fiction.

The stories within live up to that description, and like any anthology, some are crazy good, some are solid, and some just weren’t my cup of tea. But even the stories that didn’t resonate with me were still excellently written and I’m sure someone with different tastes would find them enjoyable. The three stories that I liked the best came from Micaela Morrissette, Matt Bell and Lindsay Hunter.

If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, you’ve probably seen those lists titled, “The creepiest things kids have ever said.” Most are too perfectly terrifying to be true, but Micaela Morrissette’s story, “The Familiars,” is one of the items on this list brought to life. It’s unsettling enough to make you not want to go to sleep at night, especially if you have children of your own.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Matt Bell’s fiction (spoiler alert – there’s lot of things we’ve learned) is that he has the market cornered on steadily building uneasy dread and not flinching when it comes to pushing limits. That certainly remains the case in “Dredge,” his story about a drowned girl and her caretaker.

The last story that stood out from this collection was Lindsay Hunter’s “That Baby.” One of the shorter pieces in the anthology, it packs its fire into a small concentrated space that the mother in this story must find a way to escape from. For me, this story exemplifies my own personal definition of neo-noir – a tale that takes a raw emotion that’s common to the human experience, pushes its characters to act out in ways that people often stop themselves from doing, and tells it through the filter of the noir genre.

Shop for The New Black: A Neo-Noir Anthology on Amazon.