ALL OF THEM TO BURN by Beau Johnson - a review
'Darkness is an attribute most of us rally against. It can consume. It can achieve. But if we so choose, it can also be held at bay. Enter Bishop Rider and the evil he’s chosen to obliterate since his family is taken from him. Operating outside the law, circumventing a system beyond repair, Bishop stalks this darkness the only way he knows how. Not only because these men deserve what he’s become, but because of a message he attempted to create has come back to haunt him, now, after all these years. It’s this story, along with other, unconnected tales that populate All of them to Burn.
Come, meet Rider for the first time. Come, meet Rider for the last time.
Come, watch the darkness burn.'
'Hold on. Lemme get another chair. Yeah, this one’s much better. You good? Those overhead chains, they aren’t too tight? Fine. Let’s begin.
They never found April Rider’s body. Maggie Rider’s, yes, her corpse fully clothed and lying facedown in a dumpster behind a restaurant that I’m pretty sure is now a strip joint. But it’s Rider’s sister, that she’s never been found, that brings us together as it has—the last image anyone has of her being that film Marcel Abrum had made.'
All of them the Burn is a collection of thirty-nine stories - nineteen of which follow the exploits of Bishop Rider and his quest to rid the world of every piece of scum that ripped his world apart. The Bishop Rider stories in this collection - more vignettes of vengeance than stories- are not for the faint-hearted.
Brutal doesn't even come close.
Brutal they may be, but - and here's the big thing - they are absolutely brilliantly written. This is no fan fiction gore-fest. This is some of the best writing I have ever read. I tell my students they must have a very clear idea of what it is they are trying to describe and the impact they want those words to have on the reader. Writing is merely then finding the best words and putting them in the most effective order. But when you read someone of the quality of Johnson, you know something else is going on - something beyond the words on the page.
Good writing is using only the words you need to use. Johnson, of course, does that. Great writing - stops there. Great writing leaves the reader nothing to cling to. Nothing. Great writing leaves the reader glued to each word, eyes-wide, mouth open. No escape. And when what is being described by these words is that very thing - THAT VERY THING - the reader is there in that chair, bound and gagged, sweat pouring out of him, awaiting his doom.
The other stories in this collection are just as powerful - often exploring macho types and their inability to understand how those feelings deep inside hold such sway over them.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
If you want to learn how to write powerful prose, get this book. If you want to be reminded of how writing can leave you speechless, get this book.
Just get this book.