The second best thing about discovering a new author is discovering that they’re not. Author of over twenty-seven novels, Stephen Graham Jones is one such. And I’m giddy at the thought of working my way through his catalogue of twenty-sevenish novels. Yes, giddy.
After eyeing the provocative cover of THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS for months, I finally listened to the audiobook, narrated brilliantly by Shaun Taylor-Corbett. It’s a stunning read. Unpredictable, grounded, terrifying, and thoroughly satisfying. Do yourself a favor and read THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS.
I also listened to the audio version of MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW, narrated by CARA GEE, also brilliantly. Gee creates distinct characters with unique inflections in a way that makes them subtly but instantly discernible. (In fact, Gee and Taylor-Corbett narrate a book together called Black Sun, which I know nothing about but will check out on the strength of its kickass narrators. This is a great way to stumble upon new writers, BTW.)
MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW hurls us into the world of Jade Daniels, a high-school senior who copes with life’s horrors through her obsession with horror films, specifically slasher flicks. Reader be warned, if you consider yourself something of a connoisseur of slasher and horror films, Jade will likely reduce you to a quivering wreck contemplating your inadequacy in a dark corner of your mother’s closet. She is something of a savant when it comes to slashers (a valuable skillset, as it turns out, though not in the way we might expect). You can browse a list of the flicks Jade references over the course of the book on my Letterboxed page: https://letterboxd.com/paultaegel/list/flicks-jade-mentions-in-my-heart-is-a-chainsaw/edit/
The story goes something like this: When a couple of teens wind up dead, Jade becomes convinced there’s a slasher on the loose. She has a list of suspects regarding the slasher’s identity, but there’s one thing she knows for sure, and that’s the identity of final girl–and it’s not her. There will be times, gentle reader, when you think you have everything figured out. Then SGJ will every so lovingly pull the rug out from all your assumptions, something he does with uncanny skill, both dramatically and thematically.
There is nothing arbitrary or contrived in the worlds and characters Stephen Graham Jones creates. He is a master at making his most powerful statements in the empty, quiet moments between roars. If Jade’s inner landscape were on the wall of a museum, it would be a post-modern expressionist fever dream of the Inferno.