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To Wallow in Ash, & Other Sorrows

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Written during the black-depths of early widowhood, To Wallow in Ash, & Other Sorrows explores grief, loss, and the alluring comforts found within the heart of oblivion. In the spirit of J.G. Ballard, Georges Bataille, and Kathe Koja, these nine Sorrows are a cross-section of literary splatterpunk, transgressive fiction, and weird horror, which seek to illuminate the terro Written during the black-depths of early widowhood, To Wallow in Ash, & Other Sorrows explores grief, loss, and the alluring comforts found within the heart of oblivion. In the spirit of J.G. Ballard, Georges Bataille, and Kathe Koja, these nine Sorrows are a cross-section of literary splatterpunk, transgressive fiction, and weird horror, which seek to illuminate the terror, dread, and discomfort of mourning through the black mirror of the grotesque. This book is full of pain. This book is full of tears. This book is full of ash.


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Written during the black-depths of early widowhood, To Wallow in Ash, & Other Sorrows explores grief, loss, and the alluring comforts found within the heart of oblivion. In the spirit of J.G. Ballard, Georges Bataille, and Kathe Koja, these nine Sorrows are a cross-section of literary splatterpunk, transgressive fiction, and weird horror, which seek to illuminate the terro Written during the black-depths of early widowhood, To Wallow in Ash, & Other Sorrows explores grief, loss, and the alluring comforts found within the heart of oblivion. In the spirit of J.G. Ballard, Georges Bataille, and Kathe Koja, these nine Sorrows are a cross-section of literary splatterpunk, transgressive fiction, and weird horror, which seek to illuminate the terror, dread, and discomfort of mourning through the black mirror of the grotesque. This book is full of pain. This book is full of tears. This book is full of ash.

38 review for To Wallow in Ash, & Other Sorrows

  1. 4 out of 5

    Janie C.

    These stories contain more truth than many of us can bear. They pay homage to the raw existence of loss and grief and the horrors that accompany the void of privation. The author's angst is palpable, and he molds each story around the empty shapes that are left behind by the death of a soul mate. Emotions, sexuality, and the depth of physical purgatory are explored in detail, leaving the reader feeling deeply moved and as emotionally purged as the author. Magick and hallucinatory offerings also These stories contain more truth than many of us can bear. They pay homage to the raw existence of loss and grief and the horrors that accompany the void of privation. The author's angst is palpable, and he molds each story around the empty shapes that are left behind by the death of a soul mate. Emotions, sexuality, and the depth of physical purgatory are explored in detail, leaving the reader feeling deeply moved and as emotionally purged as the author. Magick and hallucinatory offerings also have their places here, expanding the directions of imagination and the possibilities of redemption.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ben Fitts

    Horror might be a unique genre in that it is widely associated with one specific emotion rather than the variety of life that one otherwise tends to look for in storytelling. However, as any member of the initiated can tell you, horror can run the gambit of feelings and emotions. But if there was ever one book to prove that fact, it would be To Wallow In Ash and Other Sorrows. This collection would be deserving of a five star rating based on the strength of its opening title story alone, but it’s Horror might be a unique genre in that it is widely associated with one specific emotion rather than the variety of life that one otherwise tends to look for in storytelling. However, as any member of the initiated can tell you, horror can run the gambit of feelings and emotions. But if there was ever one book to prove that fact, it would be To Wallow In Ash and Other Sorrows. This collection would be deserving of a five star rating based on the strength of its opening title story alone, but it’s a strong collection through and through. The stories in this book use grief, loss, hope, memory, love, lust, regret and more to create one of the most chilling collections that I’ve encountered in a while.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Leo Robertson

    A harrowing, raw collection of what I suspect is the original definition of "grievances." (Just looked it up: from the French, grever, "to burden", combined with "grieve.") An excellent collection and a perfect fit for what NihilismRevised does best, which is to find the void and give it a good telling to. I've definitely found that chaos is best written about once you can look back at it. So I hope, in a weird way, that Richard has just begun to write about his grief, and suspect that this is a p A harrowing, raw collection of what I suspect is the original definition of "grievances." (Just looked it up: from the French, grever, "to burden", combined with "grieve.") An excellent collection and a perfect fit for what NihilismRevised does best, which is to find the void and give it a good telling to. I've definitely found that chaos is best written about once you can look back at it. So I hope, in a weird way, that Richard has just begun to write about his grief, and suspect that this is a promising step on the best yet to come.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Steve Stred

    5 star review coming to Kendall Reviews!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    At its core, To Wallow In Ash and Other Sorrows is a mediation on grief accomplished through a lens of horror. The collection is bookended by two of the most honest, heart wrenching, and emotionally disturbing pieces of short fiction I’ve read in years. Especially the final tale, Deathlike Love. It’s one of those rare horror stories that leaves you in a funk for hours or even days after reading it. Though the majority of the stories are metaphorical tales dealing with grief, loss and pain, some c At its core, To Wallow In Ash and Other Sorrows is a mediation on grief accomplished through a lens of horror. The collection is bookended by two of the most honest, heart wrenching, and emotionally disturbing pieces of short fiction I’ve read in years. Especially the final tale, Deathlike Love. It’s one of those rare horror stories that leaves you in a funk for hours or even days after reading it. Though the majority of the stories are metaphorical tales dealing with grief, loss and pain, some can be considered palate cleansers—short breaks from all that bleakness and callbacks to a better time. They’re all great, but my favourite is The Prince of Mars, an absolutely amazing pastiche of William S. Burroughs. Everyone who reads horror fiction is doing themselves a disservice by not picking up this collection. It’s destined to become a classic in the field and a prime example of the emotional richness of the horror genre.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Shayne

    I've had a hard time trying to write about this book. It's a great book, I can get that out of the way pretty fast, but when I try to say something, anything really, about it words just kind of break up into a runny alphabet soup. This is a book about grief, but not like any book about grief you'll ever read. There is no silver lining, there is no release from these dark chains at the very bottom of the deepest chasm. There is no "I got over it and am happy now." That's not really how grief work I've had a hard time trying to write about this book. It's a great book, I can get that out of the way pretty fast, but when I try to say something, anything really, about it words just kind of break up into a runny alphabet soup. This is a book about grief, but not like any book about grief you'll ever read. There is no silver lining, there is no release from these dark chains at the very bottom of the deepest chasm. There is no "I got over it and am happy now." That's not really how grief works, and Mr. Richard put himself out, flayed himself open, and showed us all of it just to let you know that whatever you think about true, heart searing, soul destroying grief (unless you have experienced it yourself) is probably wrong, romanticized, or otherwise just a fancy. These tales from beginning to end are harrowing with only one aside that could be considered lighter fare, notably written before the death of Mr. Richards's wife. This is a very bleak collection that explores some of the darkest fringes of the human experience in such an honest, vulnerable, yet mentally disturbing (in a good way!) manner that most people would probably have a time with it. Especially if you think things should always work out just fine. Sometimes they don't. For those looking for some really dank, dark human emotion, however, this book can fill you with something resembling joy or awe as you surpass each obstacle and each story, standing quite strongly on its own, weaves a much wider picture of grief and its power. I truly thank Mr. Richard for writing this collection and sharing it with the rest of us.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tim Murr

    I loved this book. I reviewed it for Biff Bam Pop and included the link below for a more detailed review. This book is a wrecking ball and stretches the boundaries of horror fiction. It should be on everyone's shelf. https://biffbampop.com/2019/10/16/31-... I loved this book. I reviewed it for Biff Bam Pop and included the link below for a more detailed review. This book is a wrecking ball and stretches the boundaries of horror fiction. It should be on everyone's shelf. https://biffbampop.com/2019/10/16/31-...

  8. 4 out of 5

    William Tea

    ***this review originally appeared on The Ginger Nuts of Horror website*** Sam Richard knows a thing or two about putting together literary tributes. As owner of Weirdpunk Books, he’s edited and published such anthologies as Blood for You: A Literary Tribute to GG Allin, Hybrid Moments: A Literary Tribute to the Misfits, and The New Flesh: A Literary Tribute to David Cronenberg. Now he’s released his own debut short story collection, To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows (published by NihilismRevised). ***this review originally appeared on The Ginger Nuts of Horror website*** Sam Richard knows a thing or two about putting together literary tributes. As owner of Weirdpunk Books, he’s edited and published such anthologies as Blood for You: A Literary Tribute to GG Allin, Hybrid Moments: A Literary Tribute to the Misfits, and The New Flesh: A Literary Tribute to David Cronenberg. Now he’s released his own debut short story collection, To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows (published by NihilismRevised). And though not formally marketed as such, this book is in many ways a tribute to Richard’s biggest influence of all: his wife. In his introduction, the author is upfront about the circumstances that led to this book’s creation. In 2017, Richard’s wife Mo died suddenly and without warning. Nevertheless, her presence is felt on every page here, every sentence and every word, every drop of blank ink and every empty white space. The book is dedicated to her and virtually every story selected for inclusion here has some connection to her, either by virtue of being a piece she herself enjoyed in life or, more often, being directly inspired by her loss. Knowing all that makes To Wallow in Ash a difficult book to read, and an even more difficult one to review. One can only imagine what it must have been like to write. To wit, the opening title story reads more like a confessional than a piece of fiction. Told from the first-person POV in a conversational style, the tale’s unnamed narrator finds himself a widower in a situation that is essentially a retelling of events from Richard’s own life. After cremating his spouse, the narrator returns home with an urn full of ashes and a determination to find some way of holding onto his lost love. The method he chooses is stomach-churning, and his spiraling descent into grief, desperation, and self-destruction is heart-wrenching. That the early half of the narrative sticks so closely to Richard’s own admitted experiences, to the point where the piece initially appears to be a non-fiction essay rather than a made-up story, makes the latter half all the more vivid and harrowing. Though the next tale is much more blatantly fictional it proves no less soul-crushing. “Love Like Blood” focuses on another widower, this one a man who searches fruitlessly for solace at the bottom of a bottle. One drunken night at a local bar leads to a surreal encounter with a woman who seems in every way his late wife’s double. When the man wakes up in bed the next morning, the doppelganger is gone, leaving the poor guy with nothing but a wicked hangover and an even wickeder VHS tape. “Love Like Blood” goes in a very different direction than one might first assume, and ultimately climaxes in a finale that is shocking, yes, but also disturbingly relatable. In any other book, “The Prince of Mars” would be solid piece of entertainment, but here it is more: A welcome mercy. A drink of water. A much-needed gasp of air following the suffocating blackness of “To Wallow in Ash” and “Love Like Blood.” Trading the intimately personal for something more high-concept, “The Prince of Mars” is an inspired mash-up of literature’s two great Burroughs, Edgar Rice and William S. Richard deftly evokes the voice of the latter as he drops the notorious beat author (or at least his thinly veiled alter ego “Bill Lee”) into a fairly straightforward retelling of the former’s first Barsoom novel. Much star-crossed romance, hot man-on-Thark action, and excessive drug use ensues. The juxtaposition of E.R.’s innocent swashbuckling pulp with W.S.’s debauched appetites and hallucinogenic language is riotous. It is also, somehow, surprisingly touching. Surprising in its own way is “I Know Not the Names of the Gods to Whom I Pray.” One of Richard’s shorter tales, this one nevertheless packs a lot of oomph into a small package with its sensual, lyrical, and grisly account of a pair of lovers locked in an endless cycle, killing one another only to resurrect and do it all over again, over and over for all eternity. It’s serves as a gory, gothic meditation on love and loss, on need and suffering. Following that is “The Verdant Holocaust,” the second of To Wallow in Ash’s two pieces written prior to the passing of Richard’s wife, alongside “The Prince of Mars.” However where “The Prince of Mars” sticks out like a sore thumb when compared to the rest of the collection’s material (in truth, that is part of its appeal), “The Verdant Holocaust” feels very much at home. With a plot concerning a pair of punk rockers struggling to revive their friendship after the suicide of a bandmate, it more overtly shares the same themes of death, mourning, fatalism, and attempted (though not necessarily successful) reconstruction that run throughout the collection. That said punk rockers soon run afoul of an apocalyptic backwoods cannibal cult does nothing to lessen the potency of those themes, but it does lighten the mood (in a sense) via a veritable blood-orgy of grisly b-movie splatter. Another cult is at the center of “Those Undone.” Instead of relishing in the excesses of the trope like “The Verdant Holocaust,” though, “Those Undone” soberly explores the emotional and psychological toll of a child growing up in such an environment. Little by little, piece by piece, the youthful narrator is orphaned, first from his parents, then from his faith, later from sister, and finally from himself. It’s a haunting reflection on survivor’s guilt, and on the directionless that comes when everything you knew disappears overnight. Guilt of a different kind features heavily in “We Feed This Muddy Creek,” a story about a member of a gang of serial killers who tries to leave the bloodshed behind when he meets a woman who fulfills a need in him that no body-count ever could. This tragic romance tastes bittersweet before it even begins, with an agonizing sense of inevitability looming large from the first line all the way to the fittingly cruel but strangely serene end. The final two stories in To Wallow in Ash somewhat mirror the first two, being among the most transparently autobiographical pieces in Richard’s oeuvre. In the alternately melancholy and absurd “Nature Unveiled” a married couple engrosses themselves in ancient magick and occult practices. When the wife dies her husband returns her ashes to nature. Soon enough, nature itself becomes a weapon against the living, with even the most unassuming woodland critter suddenly turning vicious and hungry, as if intent to spread the woman’s death to the rest of the world. Finally, in “Deathlike Love,” a grieving widower left alone in the morgue with his wife’s body seeks the comfort of carnal intimacy with his deceased lover one last time. What in another writer’s hands might come off as mere sleaze or shock value is instead imbued with sincere understanding and emotional intensity, and is all the more raw and corrosive because of it. Though it’s not hard to see where this tale is going, that doesn’t make the journey there any less brutal. Indeed, “Deathlike Love” might be the most upsetting piece in To Wallow in Ash since its titular opener. Knowing the truth behind them, even Richard’s most outrageous fictions become unforgivingly real. This collection is not the kind of book one should read all in one sitting, despite the modest page-count. This is a collection best digested in chunks, a story at a time. Anything more is almost unbearable. Nearly every page surges with confrontational energy, a kind of blunt honesty that rarely leaves room for reassurance in its single-minded pursuit of total, aching, human vulnerability. ​ In that way, however, the book does offer one subtle comfort, though it’s one that’s easy to miss. For all its heartbreak, pessimism, doom, and despair, that this collections exists at all is a testament not simply to death, but to survival as well. Simply put, as much as To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows stands as a tribute to a Richard’s late wife Mo, it is equally a tribute to Richard himself.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lucas Mangum

    I read this collection after an entire month of reading almost nothing but Richard Laymon and Bryan Smith. Amid all that bloody good pulp, it was nice to read something meditative, personal and moody. The collection opens with an introduction that contextualizes the stories and lets us know upfront that it won't be an easy read. Nearly all the pieces contained within this collection explore loss and its many dimensions. My favorite of the bunch is probably "Nature Unveiled," though they all punc I read this collection after an entire month of reading almost nothing but Richard Laymon and Bryan Smith. Amid all that bloody good pulp, it was nice to read something meditative, personal and moody. The collection opens with an introduction that contextualizes the stories and lets us know upfront that it won't be an easy read. Nearly all the pieces contained within this collection explore loss and its many dimensions. My favorite of the bunch is probably "Nature Unveiled," though they all punch pretty hard. The tales also veer into pulp territory--there's even a mash-up of Edgar Rice Burroughs and William S. Burroughs--and while a lesser author would let these genre trappings pull him away from his central theme, this isn't the case here. As someone who's time and again found solace in horror and transgressive art, I found these elements enhanced the narrative, existing as fantasies with which the narrator seeks to escape the true horrors of existence. Grief hovers over each paragraph. The too-huge void left in the wake of a deceased loved one dwarfs the antlered gods, Martians, and zombies found within these pages.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jo Quenell

    This is a short but very heavy collection that jumps between horror, crime and transgressive fiction, all emphasizing heavily on the theme of grief from a recent widowers' perspective. While there's not a bad story in here, the two standouts (for me) were 'Deathlike Love' and 'We Feed This Muddy Creek.' The former is one of the most viscerally upsetting stories I have read in a long while, while the latter evokes heavy Lansdale/Norman Partridge feels. Reading this in one sitting made for a rathe This is a short but very heavy collection that jumps between horror, crime and transgressive fiction, all emphasizing heavily on the theme of grief from a recent widowers' perspective. While there's not a bad story in here, the two standouts (for me) were 'Deathlike Love' and 'We Feed This Muddy Creek.' The former is one of the most viscerally upsetting stories I have read in a long while, while the latter evokes heavy Lansdale/Norman Partridge feels. Reading this in one sitting made for a rather bleak Thanksgiving.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Rader

    This one is not for the faint of heart. The author makes this painfully clear to you, the reader, from the start. Here is a collection of horror--both real life and fiction---centered around grief and loss, about what it means, really, really means to exist after one you loved has gone on. The stories run the gamut from darkly poetic to pulpy science fiction and there isn't a wasted word in the entire collection. Highly recommended.

  12. 4 out of 5

    John

    Very solid collection. Everything from grief and loss to humanity to joy and love.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica (Spooky KidLit & We Who Walk Here, Walk Alone)

    To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows is so visceral and intensely personal that part of me feels like reviewing it is an act of violation. Sam Richard’s stories are raw, his words laying bare his grieving, bloodied soul. Mostly written after his wife’s death, they explore the pain, sorrow, and guilt that rage through his widowhood. He grapples with faith and the cruel vagaries of the cosmos, exorcising demons while clinging to his lover’s ghost. This astonishing collection of weird, dark fiction wil To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows is so visceral and intensely personal that part of me feels like reviewing it is an act of violation. Sam Richard’s stories are raw, his words laying bare his grieving, bloodied soul. Mostly written after his wife’s death, they explore the pain, sorrow, and guilt that rage through his widowhood. He grapples with faith and the cruel vagaries of the cosmos, exorcising demons while clinging to his lover’s ghost. This astonishing collection of weird, dark fiction will leave you shattered, and I highly recommend that you let it tear you apart.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Zé Burns

    Written soon after the passing of his wife, this collection was Sam Richard’s way of coping with that loss. The product is powerful, well-crafted prose you can feel in your core. Knowing the truth behind the stories made it one of the most touching books I’ve read in a long time. And the fact that many stories were written à clef made it all too real. The collection starts off with the titular story, written sixteen days after his wife’s death. Not-fully-realized grief coats the story of a widowe Written soon after the passing of his wife, this collection was Sam Richard’s way of coping with that loss. The product is powerful, well-crafted prose you can feel in your core. Knowing the truth behind the stories made it one of the most touching books I’ve read in a long time. And the fact that many stories were written à clef made it all too real. The collection starts off with the titular story, written sixteen days after his wife’s death. Not-fully-realized grief coats the story of a widower grasping for the memory of his wife as she slowly fades away. Her ashes are all he has left and he will use them in any way possible to keep her a part of him. It is arresting to know that the author felt these raw emotions as he wrote it. “Love Like Blood” is the disturbing yet heartfelt story of a man encountering his deceased wife’s doppelganger in a bar. We feel ourselves in the main character’s mind, every emotion present, the conflict deep and palpable. In several stories, Richard combines splatterpunk and trangressive fiction with emotions like love and grief. Blood and viscera have never been more romantic as in “I Know Not the Names of the Gods to Whom I Pray.” While “We Feed This Muddy Creek” is the surprisingly beautiful story of a serial killer in love. We see the erotic side of grief in “Deathlike Love,” a story Richard himself describes as “harsh, unpleasant, ugly, and raw” yet somehow maintains a grace to it. “The Prince of Mars” combined two of my favorite (though unrelated) authors: Edgar Rice Burroughs and William S. Burroughs. I would love to see this perverted amalgam grow into a longer piece of fiction. One story, for me, tainted this otherwise amazing collection. “The Verdant Holocaust” is the nightmarish story of a violent cult, and though gore doesn’t bother me, the gallons of blood obscured the narrative as the characters and plot take back seat to the gruesome violence. Oddly enough, “The Verdant Holocaust” is immediately followed by another story of cults, “Those Undone.” This latter story has everything I felt missing from the former and does a much better job with it. There is not much else that I can find fault with. Awkward typos find their way into the most inconvenient locations, at times making it confusing or distracting. The story is not much of a page-turner, despite the excellent prose, but this may have been the author’s intent. I think anyone who wants to better understand the nature of grief should pick this book up. It’s a beautiful collection of well-written horror that may leave you in tears. And I feel I’ve gained something through reading it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany Morris

  16. 5 out of 5

    Selene

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Clifton

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matt Hill

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jon R. Meyers

  21. 4 out of 5

    KC Marie Pandell

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paige Guggemos

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tom Over

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sheldon Compton

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ire

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emily Sikes

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aiden Merchant

  28. 4 out of 5

    George Billions

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tabitha

  31. 5 out of 5

    Pamela Verardi Knutson

  32. 4 out of 5

    Rodney

  33. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Kulengowski

  34. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

  35. 5 out of 5

    Frances

  36. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

  37. 5 out of 5

    Zach

  38. 5 out of 5

    Emily

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