I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Candles, Bullets & Dead Skin by L. Stephenson
Published by Self Published on 19 Jan 2023
Genres: Horror, Horror Short Stories
Format: ARC, eBook
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From the author of The Goners comes a pocket-sized collection, featuring the best of his previously published works so far.
Outside of Stephenson's debut slasher novella, his stories tackled subjects such as ableism, gender identity, and shockingly true acts of violence.
Candles, Bullets & Dead Skin is a testament to the skill of Stephenson. Stories that seep into your nightmares in the wee small hours and make your brain bleed with the incessant itching his imagination produces.
Candles, Bullets & Dead Skin is an absolute tease of a collection. Three tales that tackle hard-hitting themes such as gender identity and skin disorders. It left me wanting more and more and I know from reading L. Stephenson’s The Boatmore Butcher series that this is only the first rung on the ladder on the way to the heights of shockingly visceral horror writing that he consistently pulls out of his magician’s bag.
If there’s one thing that I love about reading is when the authors manage to get me to feel. I love having those buttons pushed, to the point that they are stuck in the on position. I’m not going to mess around – although the stories are few, they are unsettling and disconcerting.
If you think you’ve read all about the evil of humanity, think again because Stephenson manifests a black hole in your world, sucks the good from it, and leaves you face-to-face with a horror so potent you’re left wondering if you’ll ever see the light shine again. This author is an auto-buy for me – he creates characters and places that feature people just trying to do their best, characters that are easy to connect to for one reason or another. This collection brought everything to the table, it is a monster banging on the gates of hell to be released. Be prepared to be stuck in the fires of purgatory – you relish in the writing of such a masterpiece and yet you tear off your nails in a bloody show of trying to escape its vivid imagery.
Early morning rain is the story about a brother’s need to make his brother see that his actions cannot continue – he needs a new direction and to leave his misdeeds behind him. How often have you been in that position with a friend or a family member? You can see how it’s going to end up really if they aren’t ready to change then what can you do? A story of pain, regret, and love.
Itch…wow this one packed a devastating punch. Body horror is one of my favourite subgenres. You don’t need to fear serial killers or monsters hiding in the dark – a skin condition can have your imagination doing a number on you, and it certainly did for me. The story features Hayley, her boyfriend, her parents, and her brother, Sebastian. Hayley’s mental health is poor – it all stems from her brother’s skin disorder. She is completely freaked out; her paranoia is constantly fraying at the edges.
The Red Candle is by far my favourite of the three stories, but I am by all accounts a purveyor of all things dark and depraved. Stephenson doesn’t add elements for shock value, no, he explores the very human reactions to it. That’s what I love about his brand of horror – it’s still human at its blackened core. He investigates the scars that are left behind after the act, after the trauma. The Red Candle makes all of that the Centrepoint.