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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. Written 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 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. Written 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. "A punch to the soul. I mean you can really feel how difficult this was to write. ‘To Wallow in Ash’ is a bleakly profound - and on occasion uplifting - expedition through grief-induced mania (and without ever succumbing to mal du siècle). Richard offers us an authentic, raw document of depression and loss; and to have moulded the stages into artful monographs while staring the abyss right in the eye every step of the way is truly commendable." – Chris Kelso, author of The Black Dog Eats the City "This book is grief weaponized." – Emma Alice Johnson, Wonderland Book Award-winner "Witches and rituals and weird gods but most terrifying of all is a sense of deep grief that stalks the pages like a predatory beast. Sam Richard has gifted readers his private terrors but also his heart and soul. Violent, weird, and compelling work." – Nicholas Day, This Is Horror and Wonderland Award-nominated author of At the End of the Day I Burst into Flames and Now That We're Alone "With To Wallow in Ash and Other Sorrow, Sam Richard has crafted a book of stories that will rip your heart right out of your chest... and it's absolutely worth every moment. At turns brutally raw, incredibly beautiful, and always unexpected, this is an unforgettable ode to a love lost far too soon, and a collection that is absolutely worth seeking out." – Gwendolyn Kiste, author of The Rust Maidens and The Invention of Ghosts


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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. Written 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 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. Written 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. "A punch to the soul. I mean you can really feel how difficult this was to write. ‘To Wallow in Ash’ is a bleakly profound - and on occasion uplifting - expedition through grief-induced mania (and without ever succumbing to mal du siècle). Richard offers us an authentic, raw document of depression and loss; and to have moulded the stages into artful monographs while staring the abyss right in the eye every step of the way is truly commendable." – Chris Kelso, author of The Black Dog Eats the City "This book is grief weaponized." – Emma Alice Johnson, Wonderland Book Award-winner "Witches and rituals and weird gods but most terrifying of all is a sense of deep grief that stalks the pages like a predatory beast. Sam Richard has gifted readers his private terrors but also his heart and soul. Violent, weird, and compelling work." – Nicholas Day, This Is Horror and Wonderland Award-nominated author of At the End of the Day I Burst into Flames and Now That We're Alone "With To Wallow in Ash and Other Sorrow, Sam Richard has crafted a book of stories that will rip your heart right out of your chest... and it's absolutely worth every moment. At turns brutally raw, incredibly beautiful, and always unexpected, this is an unforgettable ode to a love lost far too soon, and a collection that is absolutely worth seeking out." – Gwendolyn Kiste, author of The Rust Maidens and The Invention of Ghosts

34 review for To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows

  1. 5 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. 5 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 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

    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-...

  5. 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 ***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.

  6. 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 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.

  7. 4 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 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.

  8. 4 out of 5

    John

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

  9. 4 out of 5

    Zé Burns

  10. 4 out of 5

    Selene

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matt Neil Hill

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sasha

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jon R. Meyers

  14. 5 out of 5

    KC Marie Pandell

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Clifton

  16. 5 out of 5

    Paige Guggemos

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tom Over

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sheldon Lee Compton

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ire

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emily Sikes

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aiden Merchant

  22. 4 out of 5

    George Billions

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tabitha

  25. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Verardi Knutson

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rodney

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Kulengowski

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

  29. 5 out of 5

    Frances

  30. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

  31. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Ropes

  32. 4 out of 5

    Emily Noel

  33. 5 out of 5

    AskingCrowd708

  34. 5 out of 5

    Sirensongs

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