Bludgeon Tools, ed. K. Trap Jones (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)


Bludgeon Tools is an anthology with a straightforward premise: all of the stories involve violence inflicted by household tools. So, how did the assembled authors interpret their brief…?

In “To the Devil his Due” Sam Richard offers a tightly-packed slasher narrative in which the killer is a grown man who wears a child’s devil costume and, of course, uses tools as murder weapons. Brian Keene comes through with “Delivery”, a brief story about a delivery man handing a package to a resident who turns out to be a murderer – with further twists in store as someone else turns up on the scene. Taking no prisoners is “Jesus of Jim Beam” by Anton Cancre; the narrator here is a shock-rock singer who, tired of his lot in life, starts murdering his audience. The protagonist’s desolate worldview comes through as strongly as the brutal violence.

A number of the stories use the book’s premise to explore the more extreme ends of sexual fetishism. In “Drilldo” by Jonathan Butcher a woman uses the handle of a cordless drill as a vibrator, only to push the implement too far in and get it stuck; she calls for help, but this only makes things worse. Vic Kerry’s “Online Learning” is a black-humoured piece about a Zoom class being shown the best tools and techniques for mutilating a set of willing volunteers. Going over similar ground, but with a very different tone, is “Pastel Palette” by Dustin LaValley: this narrative of a torturer and a masochistic victim is a good example of delicate, sometimes medically-precise prose being used for visceral subject matter.

“Mustache Ride” by Gregory L. Norris introduces us to a serial killer with a taste for high culture. He dubs his enormous-cocked lover Medea in an allusion to Greek mythology, and nicknames his murder implements after Renaissance artists:

Wen da Vinci struck a man’s nose, it resounded with a musical note in counterpoint to that crack of bones being shattered and imploding backward into gray matter. The end result was a kind of human bas-relief. Beautiful. Until the nose, split open like rotten fruit, began to gout blood, and I was forced to deliver another blow, this one less elegant.

One of the strongest sex-horror stories in the book is Kristopher Triana’s “Hammer Time”. This author’s flare for brutal violence and sexual perversion is on full show as we meet an escort whose latest client, a wealthy artist, is obsessed with tools: his artwork depicts tools, and tools are the main theme of the tattoos and piercings that cover his body. She suspects that he has extreme S&M in mind – but the fact that he wants to be the sub rather than the dom comes as a surprise, as does his precise motive for the arrangement.

The nature of the anthology’s theme could easily have led to the stories becoming a trifle monotonous – just how many tool-based murders can be covered in one book? – but Bludgeon Tools avoids this fate. A number of the authors involved succeed in thinking outside the box and bringing variety to the narratives, one example being Stephen Kozeniewski’s “Tool Story”. As its title suggests, this is a riff on Toy Story, the twist being that the “toys” are tools used by their owner Andy as implements of torture and murder. Brutish hammer Bash, cowardly saw Sharptooth and bold leader Ply (a pair of pliers) are proud of their role as Andy’s partners in crime – but when they get separated from their owner, they turn out not to be wuite as tough as they liked to imagine.

Another story that takes a less-than-obvious angle, with a wildly different result, is “Sticks and Stones” by Christine Morgan: the characters here are primitive humans only just getting to grips with hunting tools. “The Screams in Bobby’s Eyes” by Wrath James White, meanwhile, is a narrative written in blank verse; the main character is a boy whose violent tendencies keep his friends safe from bullies. In “Threshing”, Wile E. Young brings a dash of folk horror to the anthology: a train crash in the middle of nowhere provides a rural community of pagans with an opportunity for sacrifice. The story offers both visceral horror and intriguing glimpses of the killers’ religion, which is focused on appeasing “the Mother in the Seed”.

The book concludes with “Smash It” by Matt Shaw. This is the surreal story of a man who wakes up from a bad trip to find a dead woman in his bed and a mouth on his penis:

There was a gash on her forehead. I fell out of the bed in horror, desperate to get away from her. I was naked. As I hit the floor, my penis slapped against my belly. It too was covered in dry blood. I glanced down her body and, between her legs, was a bloody mess of torn labia and a vagina seemingly pulled inside out. I screamed – course. Who wouldn’t. And that was the first time I heard it.
“Ssh. You’ll alert the neighbors,” it said.
I followed the sound of the voice downwards to where my flaccid cock rested back against my belly. It spoke. “You should see your face.” It laughed.

Tools – of the literal variety, at least – do not come into play until the very end of this story.

Editor K. Trap Jones has pulled together some big names from the contemporary extreme horror field to pen the stories, so anyone who keeps up with the genre should have a pretty good idea of what to expect. For newcomers, this will be a good introduction to the talents of today.

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