Sunday, August 9, 2009


Absinthe is a chapbook from Bloodletting Press, containing two short stories, “Papa” by Jack Ketchum and “Bleeding Things” by Tim Lebbon. The two stories tie together by a common use of the titular drink.

At first thought, Jack Ketchum and Tim Lebbon seem unlikely authors to share a book. While both are well-respected, Ketchum is known for his grim and gritty realism, and Lebbon as someone who tends to stay closer to the fantasy side of dark horror. This does result in a jarring transition of tone between the two stories. “Papa” is a vignette about someone mistaken for the late Ernest Hemingway, and “Bleeding Things” is a surreal story set in World War II. “Bleeding Things” was the more interesting of the two, to me. In it, a protagonist who may or may not be a British spy makes his way through Berlin at the end of the war. Everything is disintegrating around and inside him, the internal troubles due to a piece of shrapnel working its way through his brain, destroying memory as it goes. When the story opens, he has already forgotten his name. He becomes fascinated with his discovery of a Jewish woman kept by a Nazi officer who has discovered if she drinks absinthe, she bleeds gold. Lebbon, as always has a most inventive mind.

Definitely recommended for fans of either author.

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