James Ward Kirk Publishing
February 8, 2015
reviewed by Brian James Lewis
Hello there dear readers! I think it’s fair to say that most of us like weird and scary things, right? Heck, if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be reading book reviews here! With that thought in mind, today’s review is about a book that combines speculative poetry and short prose pieces to produce a feeling that the author likes to call “down and out.” While some of the pieces are chilling, others are more of a personal statement about the state of the world or Blake’s characters. He covers a lot of ground in Southpaw Nights, so we’d better get a move on if we want to see the sights!
Inverted-An Introduction of Sorts kicks things off and sets the tone of what’s to follow. The narrator wakes up in uncomfortable circumstances and finds that his home has been vandalized by an evil creature who inverted all his crucifixes. There’s something red on the walls, along with words, dates, and crude drawings of demonic creatures. In a nervous revelation the narrator wonders if there really was a creature. Could it have been himself who caused this chaos?
The story continues as we read poems that are like illuminated billboards on a dark road to the next piece of flash In The Beginning The vicar of a church calls its secretary to report something rather bad. All of this occurs in A Fictional Town where things are never what they seem to be. Look to the poems for clues because someone could be watching YOU. Here, have a cookie! Let’s pretend it’s not laced with arsenic. It’s a much nicer, and quieter way to go than taking a ride with Vincent. His hunger is only sated for a short while, but Little Miss Cheer Captain will be missed.
Leaving town won’t help him escape though, because the hotel holds The Phantom Scent of the Midnight Lady. One whiff is enough to drive any man mad with desire until he’s just a trembling mess. He’d better get the hell out of there before it’s too late! No matter which method of escape is chosen, the nightmares stay close. No matter if one is Ascending in a darkly sexual mass, or attempting to Drive, trouble follows until reaching The End of the Line.
Some never even try to leave this strange Necropolis and they are rewarded with strange sex Against Autumns Discarded Leaves where a lover cannot stay. In very rare cases, true love is forged and wraps you in unbreakable chains that dictate your actions. Spaceboy doesn’t want to leave his soulmate in a deep dark hole, so he rescues her. In Love, In Death, Our Love Stays True. There is no choice in that statement, just commands. Whiskey, pills, beer, wine, and some mighty unique lovemaking will keep Owen and Jean together. Forever.
Southpaw Nights’ combination of poetry and prose really works because things fit together well thematically. But the poems can certainly stand on their own just fine. The Ghost of a Smile is a chilly piece that puts us in a house with someone who could be alive, but it’s not definite. I like the ending:
Making long distance phone calls
and hanging up after the “hello”
How’s that for creepy? I also like the imagery of Bird Watcher. Somebody is watching the birds, but it’s not the lead character. He’s watching the watcher. Perhaps he’s the owner of a special Woodland Retreat that likes to hunt does wearing Daisy Dukes? It’s in one’s best interest to be somewhere safe when darkness falls and even that might not offer enough protection.
So what’s this reviewer’s verdict? I give Southpaw Nights FIVE STARS! This is the third book I’ve read by Benjamin Blake and I have to say that he consistently writes good stuff. His poetry is especially strong, like a double shot of espresso in your coffee drink of choice. Blake has created a unique style that blends together the grit of Bukowski with the grace of Poe. His work will stick with you and you’ll find yourself remembering certain lines that apply to your situation. I highly recommend Southpaw Nights, which is available from Amazon.com and other fine booksellers. Want to know more about Benjamin Blake and his other books? Then follow his page on Amazon or go to www.benjaminblake.com for more info. Be sure to mention that you heard about him from Damaged Skull Writer! Otherwise, I’ll have to send Vincent your way and you really don’t want that…