Thursday, December 18, 2008

Scars on the Face of God

C.G. Bauer has a gift for conjuring memorable characters and creating a subtly-textured sense of place. His new novel, Scars on the Face of God (Drollerie Press, 2008) is a first-class example of this skill. The narrator and protagonist, Johannes "Wump" Hozer, is an expert at all things menial. For example, he knows, among other things, that "Dog shit has a natural chemical in it that helps soften animal skins during the leather tanning process." Of course, Bauer doesn't just insert such bits of trivia for fun (though they are, in fact, fun). They serve a purpose -- they make Wump's world come alive for the reader. And come alive it does. The plot of Scars on the face of God kicks into gear when a brick wall unearthed at the site of a restaurant collapses and a flood of raw sewage carries forth hundreds of human bones. Drawing heavily on his knowledge of Catholic arcana, Wump takes it upon himself to solve the mystery of the bones... And to rid himself of the haunting childhood memories that plague him. Overall, Scars on the Face of God is a fast-moving, highly engaging paranormal mystery with spooky undertones and a haunting aftertaste -- the perfect read for a winter evening by the fire!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The good folks at Dogzplot have just published the latest title in their Achilles Chapbook Series (whose slogan is a quote from the wrathful one himself: "Let no man forget how menacing we are... we are lions.") It's a flash-fiction collection called Tomorrowland, it's by Howie Good, and it's the most fun to be had anywhere for the paltry sum of $4.00. Throughout the chapbook, Good envisions a chaotic world of lost jackets, pyromaniacs, insomniacs, secret police, and search dogs, but this isn't just a post-modern exercise in "weird for the sake of weird" (apologies to Moe Syzlak). Good seems to be grasping at something throughout this collection, feeling around in the maddening crush of texts, images, myths, legends, and other mysteries that make up our world to get at some larger truth about the human condition. One of his biggest concerns, it would seem, is the issue of identity. When asked for "some identification" in a piece titled "Late Innings," the narrator wonders whether the socket of a missing tooth trumps a driver's license. Likewise, in "Witness Box," the author notes that we never choose our own names, while in "Ancestors," a little girl asks her father who she looks like, only to elicit from the father a string of angst-ridden familial associations. We are what the world makes of us, this collection seems to say, even as we try desperately to make the world what we need it to be. Good stuff!