I finished Candy and Cigarettes in three sittings, but not by choice. I would’ve rather read it all at once because it’s the type of work that deserves the attention, but Saturday got in the way with roaming children and shopping trips and trivialities. The first interruption came when my four-year-old daughter, clad only in water-color stained underwear, snuck up quiet as an air-raid siren and screamed for strawberries. I was lost in a dark world of death and honesty so the sight of her, a beaming little monster caring only for fruit and love, came as a shock and that’s when I first realized how much I loved this novella. Her beauty was perfect; the grimy wonder coming at me from my Kindle was dark. The contrast was like licking a lollypop after eating a grapefruit. DeWildt has created a story that’s so blindingly real in its depravity that the sight of something pure shocked me like a bitch-slap.

Of course we all gravitate towards the positive in life; we prefer bright and shiny trinkets and saccharine entertainment. Most of us do anyway. On a higher level, or at least one not so human, I don’t think that one side of the spectrum deserves any more attention than the other, and that’s why this novella is so damn valid. Happy endings and clichés and wholesome aphoristic sentiments have their places, and so does Candy and Cigarettes by CS DeWildt.

His hypnotic writing leaves you with a dirty feeling that’s fun to cradle in the safety of real life. I guess that’s why horror movies do so well, right? We flock to pay bloated admission fees and gorge on salt and sugar in front of an enormous screen with lambent atrocities coming at us through our new-tech 3D glasses while a ridiculous sound system spews profanity. We cringe and laugh at a hellish universe before driving back to the suburbs feeling as if the forty bucks were well spent. It’s fun. Remember Reservoir Dogs by Tarantino? That movie is to cinema what Candy and Cigarettes is to literature. Both stories leave you confused because the carnage was enjoyable, warm almost, but it shouldn’t have been.

And the guy’s style is ridiculously good. He turns phrases like “an amalgam of brain vomit” which left me stunned. Little parts of the whole stand out in striking beauty and at times, I wanted to set my kindle aside and start a slow clap for DeWildt’s prose (but I didn’t because people were watching me). The plot was novel, his characters were relatable on a visceral level, and I fucking loved this book. Finding DeWildt now is like finding Jackson Pollock before he started randomly splattering paint. CS is an artist on the precipice of discovery and someday I plan on pointing to this blog and shouting like an idiot that I found him first.

Death is omnipresent to small-town loner Lloyd Bizbang. Today proves no exception. After being attacked yet again by a pair of sociopaths who have targeted him since childhood, Lloyd stumbles upon a sight he wishes he could unsee in the town junkyard. Now as he just tries to live through another day, the bodies are stacking up in the town of Horton, and Lloyd finds himself connected to each of them via the drug-and-drink-addled, unhinging police chief, yet another person who has an old score to settle with Lloyd. A game of revenge and survival is underway, but will there be a winner at the day’s end?

You can buy Candy and Cigarettes here: http://www.amazon.com/Candy-and-Cigarettes-ebook/dp/B005D1T6QA/

You can find more on CS DeWildt here: http://csdewildt.com/

This is the fourth segment I’ve done on indie writers but it’s not really one I planned on writing; I’m a bit OCD and things feel more natural in threes. The other three featured women authors and I juxtaposed their works against some specific boon created by this burgeoning self-publishing industry; I suppose I should do the same here.

As it turns out, CS DeWildt is quite prolific and I found his writing by accident as I was trying to further promote my own writing. You see, I’m in need of validation (we all are, but I have the balls to say it). I’ve only been published once by a semi-professional market, and I still cling to the feeling I got when that ten dollar check came in the mail like a widow clings to love.  It’s been a year since I self-published Trailer Park Juggernauts and my second book, Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction, won’t be available for at least three more months so I’ve been looking for an outlet to carry me through the meantime.

I was skimming the insipid little posts generated by my Twitter feed when I saw something from “Martian Lit”. I Googled the name, and landed here: http://martianlit.com/. I’m a huge fan of independent presses and their writer oriented paradigms. Hell, Tales of the Talisman is an indie press and without that single morsel of vindication they gave me a few years back, I might’ve abandoned all of this. These wonderful little outlets of fiction and poetry are sprouting up all over and they often cater to specific and sometimes esoteric tastes. They’re like trendy little coffee shops, and when you find one that fits, you keep coming back for your fiction like an addled crack addict.

I’ve come across a few indie presses that look great but publish drivel so I wanted to peruse Martian Lit before submitting a story for consideration. I clicked on a random short story on the home page and ended up reading “One or the Other” by CS DeWildt here: http://martianlit.com/magazine/914/one-or-the-other/.  Martian Lit had just given me that first free hit on the street corner, that benevolent and tainted sample, and I’ve been back many times since. There’s just something organic about the stories they publish and I’ve found that their taste is almost identical to my own. I submitted a story a few weeks ago and I’m still waiting for a response. Of course, there’s a chance that if I’m rejected, I’ll redact the last portion of this blog while screaming at my computer monitor in a spittle flinging rage; you just never know.

My point in all of this is that the indie press is just as integral to this self publishing tableau as the indie author is. We go together like tattoos and pain. There are thousands of little presses all over the web that publish this or that without censorship or concern for the mainstream and without them, we’d be stuck in the bland little literary landscape that’s currently ruled by sparkly vampires. Please, stop by Martian Lit or search for your own little press because there are better things out there.

2 thoughts on “Candy and Cigarettes

  1. Great review of Candy and Cigarettes. You’re right. We do need reading that leaves us feeling glad we live in a better place.

    I also agree about indie and small press publishing. It’s come a long way and it’s so good to see authors taking the time to have their work editied and presented to readers in a more professional manner. That helps all writers!

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