Book Review: Bleed by Ed Kurtz

Bleed is a nostalgic nod to 1980s horror viewed through a prism of twenty first century ideas that drag the reader into the pages like a fly into a spider’s web.”

Bleed begins with a tone edging towards folksy American, almost Stephen King like horror. A couple figuring out life in the sticks, a new house in disrepair, a new job for an English teacher, and a tenacious horror lurking within. These are staples in horror from the 1970s and 80s. But Ed Kurtz quickly shifts the tenor of the story to a more modern and faster paced thriller.

What begins as an innocuous ceiling stain in a shambling house soon presents a deeper terror. The stain refuses to go away, no matter what methods protagonist Walt Blackmore tries. Before long the stain of blood becomes sentient. A fact that horrifies Walt’s girlfriend Amanda enough to flee in disgust, but obsesses the protagonist in an ambiguous manner.

We don’t really know why Walt is abandoning everything for this developing monstrosity. This vagueness of obsession weakens the plot.  There is a development near the end of the novel that does attempt an explanation, but until the reader reaches that point, the relationship between Walt and the monster never really grips or seems believable. Perhaps Kurtz is asking the reader to ponder who is the real monster of the story. The lack of depth in the relationship and explanation of Walt’s spiral into madness never really brings that question to the forefront. There is a giddy feeling throughout the novel that it’s speeding towards a grizzly and thrilling ending, only to fall short or slip into another thread which dilutes that exhilaration. These false endings happen too often and may ultimately frustrate the reader. This also makes the novel seem like it could have been edited tighter and been cut by at least a third, possibly even by half. Finally, when the book does come to the real ending, it’s sadly through a Deus ex machina device, while the previous times Kurtz teased us into false climatic conclusions, he did so with organic and taut writing.

As the novel develops, a lot of these worries are set aside as the reader is assaulted by some of the best gore scenes they’ll have witnessed in a long while. If Kurtz has faults in depth of plot, he certainly doesn’t display any in writing horrific scenes. These are the stand out parts of the novel. The deaths, monster development, and abandonment of humanity show Ed Kurtz is a real student of the genre.

Some readers may compare these scenes to Clive Barker, in fact they may even draw the conclusion Bleed is a homage to The Books of Blood. Yet there is more of a Richard Laymon tone throughout the novel that makes more sense as a literary influence. While Bleed does suffer from some faults there is no denying the scenes of gore are astounding. Kurtz may just be a diamond that needs polishing to become a big name in the genre. It’s not often passages shock, terrify and disturb as much as those in Bleed. They are the real gems here. If the reader can overlook these things they will find a tense horror novel packed with soon to be classic scenes and ideas lurking inside. Bleed is a nostalgic nod to 1980s horror viewed through a prism of twenty first century ideas that drag the reader into the pages like a fly into a spider’s web.

ANTHONY COWIN

Publisher: Trepidatio Publishing – JournalStone
Paperback: (430 pp)
Release Date: 24 March 2017

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