(From The Dream People, review by John Lawson)
For those of you who didn't notice, there's a madman with his fist in your slime-hole. His name is Michael Hemmingson and he's the Elvis of literary offensiveness, the Ghandi of intellectual rage. Don't you see him? The one right behind you, in the leather jacket and shades. He's just finished doing time for the mob and is ready to commit incestuous crimes because of the strange disease going around, all while wearing a cape and proclaiming himself "JizMan." No, no, he's the one masturbating with a pristine copy of Lord Byron's first edition, assassinating pimps and the jury that put him away even as he pimps out his own granddaughter (who happens to also be his daughter, if you know what I mean).
Oh, wait... those are his characters. Or are they? Hemmingson is as straight to the point, dead serious convincing as they come. Either he's done these things and needs to be locked away, or he's capable of doing these things and needs to be locked away. Far, far away. And so will you after reading Nice Little Stories. There's no excuse for not hunting this book down (other than preserving your sterility). Sure, it ain't new, but if you find a first edition you can use it for more than just reading, heheheh. Uh-oh -- I seem to have caught Hemmingon's "Beguiling Malady." Got to run before the "ass pirates of LaJolla" arrive, but you'll be able to find me in a dark place real soon. Sooner than you think. And when we meet you'd better pray you have a copy of Nice Little Stories on you!
Rating: ***** (out of 5)
(From Factsheet Five, review by Jerod Pore)
Ya know, the title alone should suffice. Just take out the word "Nice" and substitute "Six" and you have exactly what this book is. This is the first book published under the unholy influence of Jasmine Sailing of Cyber-Psychos AOD. This work is the yang to the yin of Star Bones Weep the Blood of Angels: full of anger, sex, violence, rage, sex, blood, pain, rape... I think you get the idea. This is a bloody car-crash of a book, with half-naked victims repellently fascinating in their torment. And for you long-time afficianados of the outre in the zine world, Full Force Frank wrote the introduction last Christmas.
(From The Review of Contemporary Fiction, review by Lance Olsen)
The Naughty Yard, Michael Hemmingson's unfairly neglected first book, is a violently raw and vibrantly menaced gem concerning a trio of baby busters who gather late one night on a couch in front of the television in a small apartment in southern California to tell each other stories about themselves, their families, their previous lovers, their fantasies, their deep sense of loneliness, and, above all else, their sexuality. It's a profoundly unsettling novella that explores the amoral fringe of our culture whose natives often lack compassion or affect as they coast for no particular reason from one fairly expensive drug to another, one kinky sexual position to the next.
Hemmingson's follow-up, a collection of half a dozen fictions packaged beautifully as the debut of a new micro press run by Jasmine Sailing (well-known along the radical fringe as editor and publisher of the gloriously crazed Cyber-Psychos AOD), is difficult to read, not for the formalistic investigations which were employed in The Naughty Yard, but for the intensity and depravity of its vision. Yet, reminiscent of John Shirley's New Noir, Nice Little Stories is as mesmerizing and dreadful as a bad accident on a Sunday afternoon Interstate. It's lush with surprising turns in plot, dangerous women, drastically unbalanced men, graphic disembowelments, necrophilia, incest, and an awareness of the viral persistence of evil, black-hearted and undying as Jason in Friday the 13th. In the opening story a nerdish deviant becomes interested in an artist who takes her S&M performances way too seriously, while in the second a librarian loves books like less print-oriented addicts might good cocaine and will do anything, anything, on their behalf. The third centers around a plague that takes over people's bodies and minds, the fourth around an intersecting plotline involving a sexual liaison between an ex-con and an underage girl, and that ex-con's quest for revenge on those who put him away. The penultimate piece is told from the point of view of a weirdly ethical hitman zeroing in on a pimp who sells his own granddaughter, and the finale involves a psychologist who leaves a hypnotized patient behind in his office as an alibi while he slips out to rape and murder his own teenage daughter.
The written text is interspersed by deliriously superb bad-trip collages featuring skulls, nude playing cards, hammers and knives by Jim Bob Cook and Paul Schiola, and prefaced by a genuinely mad introduction by self-proclaimed "soul dead psychopath" Full Force Frank that is too twisted, sickly funny, and appropriate (this reader dearly hopes) to be real. Like many of Hemmingson's alternative horrors, pure postmodern Poe, Frank's intro is so utterly insane its vision teeters on the comic yet simultaneously functions as a serious exercise in the aesthetics of the ugly, a potent literature of trespass and violation that reminds us what we must repress in order to remain functioning, whole, social individuals.
The title says it all...sort of. Michael Hemmingson is well known for his "avant-pop" writing style (see his novel The Naughty Yard (Permeable Press 1994) for an excellent example), but the stories in this collection are generally more on the straight-forward side. Don't misunderstand and suspect that this book is a collection of boring, over-worked mainstream prose. Not at all. The stories are violent and sexually explicit. Best (worst?) of all, they betray a startling madness that has its roots deep in us all. Most people seem to be able to keep their dark side hidden. Hemmingson shows us what happens when it breaks out.
The book begins with a couple of somewhat campy stories (Skull-Fuck and The Bibliophile), graphic tongue-in-cheek entertainment. You don't realize it at the time, but Hemmingson is setting you up, because once he has you relaxed and perhaps chuckling, he starts to move you toward more serious ground. The last story is the title piece. It leaves you shivering with a tight hard knot in your chest, wondering how you will ultimately be affected by it when the smoke clears. The progression is perfect. A horrible sense of unease rumbles inside you as you read your way through the book, grows stronger and stronger until the knock-out punch is delivered. Read the stories in order; it's important.
The artwork accompanying the stories is sinisterly appropriate. Jim Bob Cook and Paul Schiola offer twisted and thought-provoking collage slices that rival the highest standards of more well-known artists. The introduction to Nice Little Stories... is something you do not want to skip either. It is written by Full Force Frank. If you don't know who Frank is, well...leave it that Frank's essay is an introduction to both Hemmingson's book and Frank's peculiar world. It is enlightening, to say the least. Incidentally -- and this will mean more to you after you have read the essay -- the intro is not a joke.
You have been alerted: this collection is hard-core. Don't shy away from it. Instead, let it take you by the throat and rattle polite society's relentless programming from your sore and needing brain. Hemmingson's sharp and vicious prose is a wake-up call we all could use. Whether we wish to admit it or not, it is also one we probably (secretly) desire.
(From Year's Best in Fantasy & Horror, review by Ellen Datlow)
Michael Hemmingson's Nice Little Stories Jam-Packed With Depraved Sex & Violence is more or less truth in advertising. Some of the six stories (two are reprints) are simply ugly and gross set pieces -- for those looking at trends in horror I seem to notice necrophilia cropping up far too often. Skull-Fuck is the perfect companion piece to Edward Lee's Headers. But a couple of the pieces actually work as stories. An attractive little trade perfect bound book with illustrations by Jim Bob Cook and Paul Schiola. Introduction by someone called Full Force Frank (I kid you not). More varied and subtle is Sue Storm's collection of sf, fantasy, and horror called Star Bones Weep the Blood of Angels. Introduction by Edward Lee and illustrated by Karen Harris. Both have teeny tiny type.
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