31 Days of Horror 2019: ‘To Wallow in Ash and Other Sorrows’ by Sam Richard

Written during the black-depths of early widowhood, To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows explores grief, loss, and the alluring comforts found within the heart of oblivion. Written in the spirit of J.G. Ballard, Georges Bataille, and Kathe Koja, these nine Sorrows are a cross-section of literary splatterpunk, transgressive fiction, and weird horror, which seek to illuminate the terror, dread, and discomfort of mourning through the black mirror of the grotesque. This book is full of pain. This book is full of tears. This book is full of ash.

Author and publisher Sam Richard has a story to tell and it bears weight, a weight no one should have to carry on their own. Writing this collection and giving it to the world gives us all an opportunity to help him bear a little of that weight and carry his memories, at least for a little while. Works of art that speak so clearly, so personally, and so deeply to the soul come along oh so rarely-and this book wrecks me every time I open it. Henry Rollins once described Hubert Selby’s The Demon as a book that would burn a hole in your soul. I would say that Sam has achieved that level of literary power.

Sam has ushered in some great anthologies like Zombie Punks Fuck OffHybrid Moments; A Literary Tribute to the Misfits, and up next The New Flesh: A Literary Tribute to David Cronenberg through Weirdpunk Books. He’s also appeared in various lit zines and anthologies. To Wallow in Ash and Other Sorrows is his debut short story collection, and, right out of the gate, it’s one of the best books of the year.

The horror of these stories pushes well within the boundaries of literary fiction, into the territory of William Burroughs, Lydia Lunch, Kathy Acker, and the aforementioned Hubert Selby, authors who aren’t traditional horror authors, but were/are able to tap into the genre with devastating results. Sam wields terror like a surgeon with a scalpel. He lays bare his emotion and, in response, we do the same. That’s when moments of this book transcend the author/reader relationship and we get inappropriately honest, which is freeing and scary in equal measure. It’s easy to get to lost in the narrative, which can be a forest with no end, even within a 150 page book. I choked up at points, especially after the first story, “To Wallow in Ash.” “Nature Unveiled” has become one of my new favorite pure horror stories, which I’d already read in Nazi Punks Fuck Off, but gains power within this family of horror cum confessionals.

It will kick your ass. Personally, I was reading a chapter and walking away for a day or two, because the loss and the aftermath of that loss that Sam is dealing with happens to be the only thing in this world that actually scares me. I think, though, there’s a subtext of strength and hope, that out of devastating loss we find reasons and ways to keep going, no matter how hard, we keep getting up, we keep feeding the dog, we keep going to work, we keep creating art, etc. No matter how bad or dark it gets, we continue to matter. To Wallow in Ash and Other Sorrows is a work of art that matters and is important and we are blessed to have it available to us.

You can purchase To Wallow in Ash and Other Sorrows HERE.


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