GUEST POST BY:
Daniel I. Russell
Author of CRITIQUE
Today is one of the hottest days we’ve had this year here in Western Australia. Rather than spend it writing in my metal garage (madness!), we decided to take the kids fishing to try out the new gear they got for Christmas. We loaded up on sunscreen, cold drinks and hats (even buying me a brand new leather cowboy hat) and headed out to a place called King Trout Restaurant in Pemberton. They have a nice lake and anything you catch the restaurant will clean and cook for you. Unfortunately we picked the wrong day.
The owner informed us that our chances of catching were nil, as the hot water makes the trout lethargic and unlikely to bite. Resilient, we went out anyway, and on my first cast, caught a nice trout. The day was a scorcher and we all had fun. Our final haul was three decent trout and a small marron that we threw back in. We returned to the restaurant and twenty minutes later, I’m sinking my teeth into the freshest fish I’ve ever tasted.
Sorry, hang on. This is supposed to be a post about my latest horror, and not an article for The Angler’s Blog?
Looking at those three chargrilled fish with the staring eyes on the plate, I got to wondering what their day had been like up until meeting my hook. Had they had a nice day? Had they been enjoying the hot climate without a care in the world? A few hours later they’re in my stomach. Sucks to be them.
I thought, again, about morality and food. Horror has often tackled the subject that man is not always at the top of the food chain. Sharks, snakes, wolves, cannibals, zombies…they’ve all made readers think about their own mortality through food. Is there anything more horrifying than not only being killed, but eaten alive?
Let me clear something up. Critique, my newest release from Dark Continents, isn’t a standard chase, kill, eat, repeat story. Far from it.
If you have an advance copy, or are reading this post after the book, avid and observant readers of horror might recognise the names to which this book is dedicated: Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan. I’ve spoken with Paul briefly online at times and enjoy his work. Why have I dedicated Critique to this lovely couple?
A few years ago, Paul and Marie released an anthology, Hellbound Hearts, wherein each story was rooted in the Hellraiser mythos created by Clive Barker. As a fan, I loved it, and admit to being a little jealous. I would have nailed a story for that book! Regardless, I was in the pub the night I finished it, and after a few beers I asked myself, what would I have written about if I was approached? I was stood in front of the menu board at the time and started to think about food. Food, especially meat, is a symbol of morality, of cycles, of life and death. Surely food had potential. Some of the stories had alternate puzzle boxes: a maze, a reel of film, etc. Could a meal be my puzzle box? The further down you probe and devour…the closer you get to hell?
And if morality, why not other feelings? After all, a meal can be sexy or depressing or fun or sickening. I felt I could really go somewhere with this…but it had too much meat, no pun intended, for a short story. It needed to be longer and not contain any of the Hellraiser mythos. It needed to be my mythos. It needed to be the mythos of chef Jacob Enfer and his complicated relationship with restaurant critic Sandy Devanche.
So thank you, Paul and Marie. My idea of a pastry construct being a puzzle box was the spark that birthed this story. However, sorry Hellraiser fans. There isn’t a pin or Lemarchand configuration in sight here.
What you do get is a dark piece about secrets, sexuality, religion, abuse, addiction and let’s be honest, damn good food. Every exceptional dish in Critique can be made…maybe not the way it is here, but it can definitely be made. You might want to try the vanilla floating island…or maybe not.
And I apologise to my regular readers expecting a fast-paced, action packed splatterfest. Critique, like the diners in the House of Jacob Restaurant, is more reserved, a little bit different and hopefully all the more darker for it.
Critique. It’s here to make your life better.