Nicole Cushing is a Shirley Jackson Award finalist who's written a number of stand-alone novellas and dozens of short stories. Nicole has been referred to as the literary equivalent of the love child between Jack Ketchum and Poppy Z. Bright. Raised in rural Maryland and now living in southern Indiana, Nicole counts master storyteller Edgar Allen Poe as having had a big influence on her as a writer.
In recent weeks, I'd noticed a bit of a buzz about her debut novel and knew I had to check it out. I'm so glad I did. When I opened the book I right away noticed some very positive blurbs from authors I respect a great deal, including Ray Garton and the aforementioned Jack Ketchum.
After finishing Mr. Suicide, it's difficult to believe this is her first published novel. The kind words from so many of her contemporaries are certainly not mere hyperbole. Nicole Cushing delivers the goods in a compelling story told completely in the second person. A bit of an unusual style, but it works so well in this case as we hear the story of a boy who's had thoughts of suicide from the time he was ten until he leaves home at eighteen, and beyond.
Growing up in a mentally abusive family, with no real friends, bullied by kids at school, it's no wonder he's the way he is. Despite all this, the boy manages to deny Mr. Suicide over the years, until his brother introduces him to a low-budget pornographic magazine called Perfect Monsters. The cover features a geriatric, female amputee, naked, heavily wrinkled and doing unspeakable things with her detached artificial leg. That's when things take a marked turn, as Mr. Suicide takes a backseat to a new entity, Great Dark Mouth, who offers something more.
The protagonist in the story is definitely depraved, there are some very disturbing images here, but it's all right at home, in the context of the tale. Filled with richly demented and deformed characters, Mr. Suicide is dark storytelling at it's finest. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better (worse), it does. I loved the use of the Looney Tunes and other cartoon character voices at the end of the book.
By the way, kudos to Zack Mccain for his stunning artwork on the cover.
Mr. Suicide is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Word Horde Publishers.
I can't recommend this book enough. One of the best I've read this year.