Crystal Lake Publishing
(Not yet released).
Reviewed by Matthew Tait
Crystal Lake Publishing is a small South African outfit that has (in a very short period of time) established themselves at the forefront of timely and quality dark fiction. With a still-building resume that includes authors such as Gary McMahon and Daniel I. Russell, I was more than happy to peruse a small novelette by one Jasper Bark … a writer who has escaped my attention until now. Initially, I was informed that Stuck On You was ‘A twisted erotic horror tale, not for the faint at heart.’ Fair enough. But all too often I see these kinds of descriptions flaunted in a myriad of genres, so I had no pre-conceived expectations that this was indeed the case.
What I didn’t expect was the publisher’s description to be almost self-deprecating.
For Stuck On You is one of the most harrowing and entertaining pieces of dark fiction any of you are likely to encounter.
First of all, this isn’t the kind of story where one requires a blurb. For this reviewer personally, going in completely blind added to the overall dark surprise. However, for the purpose of any pre-release appraisal, the bare bones need to be laid out. (Though if surprises are what you seek in the shorter form, I believe you can skip this next part without missing a beat).
Ricardo is over the border in Mexico on a buying trip for his artisan-trader wife. On the return journey, he meets Consuela – a drug mule seductress who requests his help making the border jaunt. Before making the drop, Ricardo and Consuela decide to consummate their taboo tryst in a forest … a forest inhabited by nothing but black bears and an incoming storm.
Without giving away the crux of the narrative, this is really all the fundamentals one needs. Suffice to say in a very brief stanza of prose Jasper gives us intense eroticism, gore, and a medical affliction seldom (if ever) tackled in the annals of fiction before. Within each small chapter, horror is piled upon horror … so that just when you feel safe again Jasper decides to throw on yet another dark layer to the maelstrom. The writing – brutal and unapologetic at times – is also competent. And hovering under the surface is always a welcome modicum of droll humor.
Stuck On You will soon be available as a stand-alone eBook novelette in late March. Two months later, Crystal Lake Publishing will present Jasper Bark’s Stuck On You and Other Prime Cuts – an entire collection of similar themed stories available in both paperback and eBook.