There are many different kinds of horror story and every reader has their own preference in reading matter. On the whole, I have to say that Paradigms of Suffering: Bloody Seconds is not for me. I liked a couple of the stories, but, in the main, I found the plots weak and the stories filled with pointless acts of violence and sexual depravity that I consider more disgusting than frightening. I believe, however, that there is niche readership that will love Greg Dixon’s stories for the very same reasons that I do not.
There are five stories in the book. The first on is called “Eye for an Eye” and it begins with the words of a prison officer: “Rise and shine, shit stain!” The ‘shit stain’ in question is a convict named Carlos and Officer Andrews is busy ‘fiercely’ booting him in the ribs. Please note the use of the adverb ‘fiercely’. A few sentences later he ‘furiously’ picks up Carlos and shoves him against the wall. A little further down the page poor Carlos is ‘completely’ defenceless and then, just fifty words later, Carlos has to suffer an ‘extremely’ bright fluorescent shining in his eyes. Carlos’ life may be torture, but the use of so many adverbs is torture for the reader. Carlos’ troubles will be over in nineteen pages, but the reader will have to endure an assault of adverbs all through the book.
The repeated overuse of adverbs is only one problem with Greg Dixon’s writing, but I am not an English teacher and, in general, try to concern myself more with the story than how it is written. As you may have gathered “Eye for an Eye” is a violent tale. Carlos is on death row and although he may have started his day as a ‘shit stain’ on somebody’s boot he won’t be one for much longer. The guards have come to take him to the execution chamber, but it is hard to feel sorry for Carlos because he murdered and raped a young girl (yes in that order). The reader learns all about the crime in a detailed flashback sequence. Her name was Maria and she died a nasty death. So does Carlos. Eye for an Eye is as pointless as it is violent, I did not enjoy reading it and, dreading more of the same, I was tempted to discard the book.
The second story is called “The Butcher of Midfield” and it is, perhaps, a little reminiscent of Psycho. In this case the psycho’s name is Edwin, not Norman, and Edwin’s behaviour makes his counterpart look benign by comparison. Like Norman, Edwin is a serial killer whose domineering mother is now dead. She cannot be said to be departed though because her corpse is suspended from a chain attached to the cellar ceiling. It is not normal behaviour—you know it and I know it—but at least Edwin tries to take care of his mother and sets aside one day each year to bleach her bones and iron her dress. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. One of Edwin’s favourite pastimes consists of cutting open his victims, pushing his head in among their internal organs, and drowning his face in the blood and guts. Edwin loves to gnaw on intestines, yank out hearts and caress lungs and livers. He is also partial to a spot of necrophilia. If you are thinking he is a sick puppy you are right and after I had finished reading this story I was no longer tempted to discard the book. I wanted to burn it and bury the unholy remains in salt. Ever the optimist, I gritted my teeth, read on, and got a pleasant surprise.
The next story is called “Send Them to God: Cross and the Axe” and to my mind it is the first real story in the book. Its two predecessors concentrate on trying to shock the reader, but in “Cross and the Axe” Dixon loses the shock tactics and concentrates more on the story; which is as it should be. The central character is a woman named Elizabeth and when the reader is first introduced to her she is sitting in a church and listening to a sermon. The priest giving the sermon is called Father O’Malley and right from the get-go there appears to be something sinister about him.
Elizabeth has a guilty secret and as she listens to O’Malley she becomes convinced that the Father knows all about it. “You shall not commit adultery,” he tells the congregation and as the words leave his lips his eyes lock on Elizabeth. Needless do say O’Malley does know more than he should. He also has some unusual ways of dealing with sinners. Elizabeth finds this out after her confession.
Story number four is called “Manual Labour” and a lot of the story is set on a construction site. The central character is a building contractor named Bill Dixon and it has to be said that poor old Bill has one of the laziest godamn work crews ever to set butt on a brick wall. These guys don’t have tea breaks they have work breaks. When they are not on one Bill has to do everything himself and he has developed a lousy attitude. His crew, however, have no idea just how bad Big Bill feels. They don’t discover the truth until it is too late and by then the blood is flying and Bill has found some new and nasty uses for his tools. This story has a few good points and is not by any means the worst in the book, but the plot is a little weak and, once again, blood and violence take precedence over storyline.
The final story is called “If Shadows Could Speak” and, although there are a few problems with its construction, Dixon has saved the best for last. There are a few nasty scenes, but they add to the story rather than overpowering it. This is as it should be and I would have liked to have seen more stories like this one. “If Shadows Could Speak” is set in an unnamed city where the problem is not congestion, but just the opposite. People are vanishing and the police have no idea how or why this is happening.
The real story starts at three o’clock in the morning, outside a tavern called Zook’s, where four friends are debating whether or not to walk over to Hyde and catch a taxi. “We’ll get one here,” Scott insists. Mike is not so sure about that and neither are Rick and George. Scott was right though, because before the gang have time to walk to Hyde a taxi arrives. Except it does not look like a taxi, it looks more like a minivan. Taxi or not the guy behind the wheel will take them to The Holiday Inn for just $20. Over at Hyde a taxi will cost them $50. Mike has a bad feeling about getting in the van, but Rick calms his fears by reminding him that they outnumber the driver by four to one. It’s good odds. It doesn’t make a difference, they should have walked; it would have been healthier.
Paradigms of Suffering: Bloody Seconds is 131 pages long and will probably appeal to any reader who has a greed for the gruesome and is willing to overlook the problems with Dixon’s writing. Bloody Seconds is a self published book though, and it seems unlikely that it had the advantage of an experienced editor’s input. But, having said that, most editors, like most publishers, have little regard for stories about characters that have sex with dead bodies. Necrophilia is a taboo subject and I cannot say that I enjoy reading about it, but that’s me, you may be different. If you are buy the book, do it now, and don’t waste another bloody second about it.