SKIN DREAMS by Bret McCormick
HellBound Books
October 25, 2019
Review by J.H. Rood

What author Bret McCormick has accomplished in SKIN DREAMS is to bring us a tale that is nearly equal parts endearing, terrifying, sensual, and surprisingly spiritual, that refuses to let us free from its grasp. In Sadie Richards, we find an unlikely heroine. Born into harsh circumstances, she is forced to grow up before her time, enduring things no child should.

As a young woman, she sets out to begin her life anew, throwing caution to the wind and embracing the open road. Armed with a perceptive wit and a survivor’s spirit, Sadie’s journey takes her to Austin, where the next chapter of her life unfolds. She is a young lady with extraordinary gifts who finds herself thrust not only into the “real world” we all live and breathe every day and take for granted, but also into a tangled conspiracy of evil that threatens her newfound happiness and, ultimately, the fate of many.

Longing for a “normal” life, Sadie can’t escape her tormented past. The sexual abuse, the institution she was forced to call home for so long, and the brutal death of her mother and stepfather continue to haunt her. The book starts out with the feel of a coming-of-age story, a young woman with a troubled past who is out to prove she has what it takes to make it. But like settling in to watch a prime-time crime drama, the reader senses things will get much darker before the dawn, and they do.

After befriending Thompson, an Austin tattoo artist, and his movie-buff roommate Jerry and moving in to their home, it seems things are going well for Sadie. Thompson takes her under his wing and begins to mentor her in the skin art business, and after a day in the studio, she kicks back for a night of B-movie binging with Jerry, a living encyclopedia of all things schlock and camp. But there are strange things happening all around her. Seeming like odd, isolated incidents at first, Sadie soon realizes that supernatural powers are gearing her up for a hell of a battle. Sadie is a fighter. She is Texas down to her marrow, as is this book. If you live in or are at least familiar with the Lone Star State, you can practically smell the locales. If you aren’t, fear not. Sadie’s story is universal. The trials and tests she is put through are elements of the human condition, ringing true to all people, regardless of location, age, ethnicity or gender. There is a little bit of Sadie in all of us. That is to say, a fighting spirit, a basic human desire to do right over wrong, and a burning inner need to connect with our spirituality. The overall pacing of the book is brisk but not hurried. You are introduced to each character as you would be introduced to a new acquaintance, and each person plays an important part in the tapestry McCormick has woven. There are twists and turns galore, plenty of OMG moments, and certainly no shortage of thrills. The book gaps genres and surpasses expectations, and certainly has the chops to appeal to a very wide and even discriminating audience.  All in all, a thoroughly captivating ride from start to finish!

About J. H. Rood

J.H. Rood is a no budget, DIY filmmaker responsible for the films THE ABODE OF MAD TALES, THE BITTER END and DON'T...! (A Tribute to S.F. Brownrigg) among others, and is a regular contributor to DRIVE-IN ASYLUM. He lives in El Paso, Texas.

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