WTF Friday: Run to Ground by Jasper Bark

Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't always get a lot of press, and which rarely benefit from any prominent retail shelf space.

They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

Run to Ground is actually a collection of two tales from Jasper Bark, the title story (which is new to this collection), and 'How the Dark Bleeds' (which is taken from his Stuck On You and Other Prime Cuts collection).

I'll begin with the second tale, since it's the shorter of the two, and because it's already been well-reviewed by others lucky enough to discover Jasper before I did. 'How the Dark Bleeds' is a creepy tale of monsters, mythology, and madness, set in a hospital perched atop the blood-soaked earth of an asylum that burned to the ground over 200 years ago. It's a story of misdirection and deception, with Jasper leading us down one path, only to suddenly spin us around and shove us off the path into the darkness.

It's the story of two women, Jan and Stephanie, both of whom have their own suicidal secrets. Slowly, they begin unraveling one another, drawing us ever deeper into their madness. There's no outright gore or terror for most of the tale, just a growing sense of dread, along with increasing doubts regarding both of their stories. There is one particularly heart-breaking twist near the end (that I'm pleased to say I successfully guessed at), and a perfectly final unhappily-ever-after.

As for 'Run to Ground,' it's a story that shoves foul and grotesque in our faces from the very first scene, and then only gets worse from there. This is a truly disgusting tale, but so compelling that you cannot look away. Narrative, Jasper jumps back and forth in Jim's life, slowly revealing bits and pieces of who he truly is and how he came to be working as the groundskeeper of an old cemetery. What all just seems to be an awkward bit of building backstory, however, turns out to be carefully laid plans (and justifications) for the story's final line.

Jim is a coward, an immature man with serious mother-issues (and a perverse grave fetish) who has twice run away from parental responsibilities. For much of the tale, we actually feel sorry for him, until one of those narrative jumps reveals the dire consequences of his betrayals. It's at that point that Jasper drags us down with the young man, forcing us to watch as he's given exactly what he always wanted, and utterly betrayed by it. This is one of those stories that just gets darker, madder, and more grotesque as it goes, but the final payoff is worth it.

Kindle Edition, 26,000 words
Expected publication: May 2016 by Crystal Lake Publishing