Somebody needs to tell Bob they left the door unlocked. He’s letting the riff-raff take over. I’m Jason Sizemore--owner and publisher of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine. Thank you, Bob, for giving me this platform to soapbox about a very special person in my life. That person’s name is Douglas F. Warrick.
Back on Friday, May 3rd, in the year 2013 of our Lord, Bob reviewed Douglas F. Warrick’s new collection from Apex Publications: Plow the Bones. Bob said some nice things about the book. “These are stories to be savoured, considered, and sometimes even reread to uncover all of the layers.” I couldn’t agree more. Bob also stated that the collection is “Intellectually surreal and emotionally disturbing.”
You know what? Our friend Bob could be talking about Doug Warrick with that statement and not about Plow the Bones.
Doug Warrick is a guy with a rock star’s sense of fashion, likes to wear 70s porn star sideburns, and has this look that says to you “I can see right down to the very beating black heart of your soul, you sad, sad man.” He can smile at you, cigarette in the corner of his mouthing dipping downward, and you think you’re staring at the devil and his god-forsaken smoking cancer stick is pointing the direction you’re going after you die.
I accuse Doug Warrick of being the devil because he writes like a tortured genius, gives readings that would make Orson Welles stand up in attention, and he has the world-weary soul of a man who has lived for great periods of time overseas (and that he has, too).
Mix these together, create a collection of short fiction from the contents, and you’ll have a product that I compare with a high degree of confidence to such great works as Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners and Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts.
People will (rightfully) scoff at such a brash comparison. When that cloud of disbelief crosses their faces, I grab my copy of Plow the Bones and begin reading, my shaky hillbilly accent doing a poor job of translating Doug’s work into audio.
I start with the ending of a story titled “Come to My Arms, My Beamish Boy.” This is a story about a man whose mind is unraveling due to a terrible disease.
“In that simple white dress, her clavicle curving proudly above the neckline. She smiled at him with all of the love in the universe. She redefined love, and Cotton saw his whole life there. The children he would have with her, the grandchildren, the fights, the sex, the books they would read sitting side by side on the sofa, the medications they would remind each other to take, the smiles, the anniversaries, the whole universe of what they would build, and the end, the finality, the loss, and how wonderfully part of it all it was.
The church was gone. There was a profound nothing around them, a complete absence, a vacuum of any-ness, And in its center was Audrey, smiling, standing with her arms by her side, one foot in front of the other. Looking like an exclamation point.”
Even though I’ve read this passage at least two dozen times, it never fails to give me chills.
I switch gears, and I end by reading the beginning of a story called “Ballad of a Hot Air Balloon-Headed Girl.” This one is about the loss of love, the loss of morality, the loss of sense of individuality.
“I knew a girl who tied a hot air balloon envelope to her shoulders, just in case her head should ever burst into flames. It was homemade, sewn together from stolen scraps of Dacron, mottled and gaudy. It was as wide as her shoulders and it hung down to the small of her back like a pair of folded oil–slick dragonfly wings. She pierced the thin, tender skin of her shoulders with four strong surgical–steel rings, two just above the delicate cliff of her clavicle and two over the twin plateaus of her shoulder blades, and to these she anchored the envelope.
I used to sneak away from barracks to see her in the wide grey field outside of Courdray. I was nineteen and obsessed with climbing trees. I used to split my brain apart during drills, sink away into the recesses of daydreams to climb imagined redwoods that never ended, and in rare unsupervised moments I would climb the dry and dying cypress out in the field, with the grass twitching and the sky bruising over, and I would sit in the lowest crotch and dangle my arm down. And she would sit at the roots (she never climbed, afraid that she would tear open her precious envelope on a capricious branch, and that her head would explode before she could patch it up), and play with my fingers, never grabbing hold but always dancing across my fingertips with her own. And we would talk.”
Doug Warrick is the type of writer that makes you angry. You say, “I wish I was as nice as him.” You say, “I want to write like him.”
And I say, “I got to publish Doug’s book. Doug and I are close personal friends.” And to these two statements, I think, “I am one lucky guy.”
Douglas F. Warrick’s debut collection, Plow the Bones, is available now from science fiction, fantasy, and horror publishers Apex Publications.
http://www.jason-sizemore.com. He promises he usually doesn’t write blog posts in this style.