Before I start with my thoughts on this tale, I feel the need to apologize. This review has been a long time coming. Obviously, I have no one to blame but myself, but naturally I will attempt to place it partly on something else entirely. My android’s Kindle Ap. updated, (what better way than to blame an inanimate object with no way to retort or defend itself) I believed everything lost, until I discovered that all I had to do was log back in (the rigmarole of setting up a new password, this is my idea of hell) to retrieve my reading materials. This took me a while but I finally did it and there it was, where I had left it previously. Thirty pages till the finale. Suffice it to say I finished these in the next hour while taking notes, adding them to another file I had to pluck from a dusty draft folder, thus entering another personal portal of hell and exiting unscathed (this time). Without further ado and another trek down the meandering diatribe path I often lose myself upon I will commence with my thoughts on the above-mentioned work. However, I must mention I do try my best to stick to my promises and although this is to be featured (fingers crossed) on another site than originally intended, here it is, at last. Thanks again for your patience (you know who you are).
Black Devil Spine starts out by introducing us, the reader, to Dan Gere. Dan is a journalist looking to score his next big story. And although his last cost him his marriage and damn near his sanity he is determined to please his publishing company, fulfill his contract and (fuck it) land an even bigger score. Dan happens upon Martin Springer, a local artist specializing in what many perceive as merely photographic/still life porn for the sake of shock value. These images far surpass what most would deem titillation. But as Martin, himself, is so fond of stating “one woman’s porn is another’s art” further adding that the pictures are often taken when women are at seen their most vulnerable, but are actually at their strongest. After much deliberation and money changing hands Martin finally succumbs to Dan’s badgering and relinquishes to a story on his reclusive lifestyle…though only on his own terms.
After warning Dan numerous times that he won’t be able to ‘handle the story’ and the overall nature of what he’s about to be letting himself in for Martin invites the story hungry writer into his house in a bid to have him learn more about his life and what drives him to produce the nefarious output he is most known for. Ignoring numerous warnings as merely “outs” Dan stumbles headlong into a lifestyle that balances precariously on the precipice of darkness and the unfathomable unknown depths of jaded depravity. As Dan plummets he finds his own vices returning full force to haunt him, acts he kept hidden away lest he be discovered to be not whom many thought him to be. Embracing this same darkness, mentored by Martin who all the while saw his potential, Dan transforms, the monstrosity develops, to consume Dan’s humanity as it matures. Meanwhile the writer continues to transcribe all he has witnessed and virtually nothing he has taken part in. Driven to the point of not knowing right from wrong Dan even goes so far as to ask for help as his thoughts do battle with each other for superiority. On the precipice of incriminating himself if he continues to write honestly, he becomes somewhat confused as to how to continue, but in his mind, he knows he must.
When Dan’s love interest, a close friend whom he has always pined over, is invited the narrative takes a nastier turn, “Physical pain is entertainment, mental pain is art” that showcases Martin at his most unfiltered dastardly (great word that!). The books finale shows Black Devil Spines authors writing ability at its shocking peak and drags the reader through a scenario that he/she would never wish upon even their worst enemy.
Reading this book is much like placing oneself in a carnival ride. From its description alone, you know you’re in for a wild ride. However, as the ride reaches its apex the realization hits that this isn’t the safest place to be ‘Carny’ attractions aren’t typically OSHA approved, are ‘tossed up’ in an instant and don’t comply to industry standards pertaining to the operation of heavy machinery. As the latch, the only thing holding you to your seat, lifts to your horror you cling on tighter. As it slides then plummets from your sweaty grasp you frantically search, cling onto anything to keep you from slipping into the abyss. A destination that when reached is assured to change your life forever. Yea, Black Devil Spine is much like that. It reads at a rollicking pace, widens the eyes with human based atrocity (universes apart from those covered in any Shades of Grey novel) and shatters preconceived notions of how the storyline should develop based on texts experienced before it.
Doug Brunell has crafted a tome that will stick around in the cortex for some time. Including fascinating viewpoints on what makes people tick, what drives individuals, the murky depths of depravity that a psyche can withstand and the unfathomable power an intriguing intellect can have over another wholly more impressionable, curious type. One who’s willing to learn, be taught and subject themselves to imagery and acts deplorable to most yet deliriously delicious to others. Of course, Gere falls into the ‘trap’ in the name of future success, the initial coming from his work based on the ‘saving’ of a youth entangled in the world of sex slavery, riches and ultimately greed under the banner of being the one to be able to face the darkness associated with absolute notoriety and being able to survive (relatively) unscathed.
The themes included in B.D.S are written with such blunt, though precise, prose that the reader might not look not just at art in a different light but also at those surrounding them (in everyday life) with lenses that aren’t at all rose tinted.
In conclusion, without offering numerous other spoilers, I give this tome my heartiest recommendation as if my ramblings above didn’t fully convey my opinion. In B.D.S Doug playfully hints at another of his other published works, Nothing Men, by mentioning the ‘Village of vampires’ and ‘Gimme’ burgers. another book I’ve greedily consumed and will also recommend.
Keep an eye out for Doug’s future printed works for if his comments, “…on his next novel, which he fears might land him in prison…”, are anything to go by then they’re going to be a fascinating, scintillating, shocking read indeed!