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Book Review: CANDLES, BULLETS, & DEAD SKIN by L. Stephenson

Let’s take a look at “Candles, Bullets, & Dead Skin” from L. Stephenson, a mini collection set to hit shelve in January of 2023.

We can look at this as a sampler, or even a teaser for bigger works to come. Here we have disturbing tales that include topics like skin disorders and finding true identities. I realize that sounds like a wide range, but none-the-less these stories are truly unsettling and disturbing.

The stories are accompanied with mini-quick jabs in-between. Similar to those of quick thoughts, or even random thoughts one may find in the pages of a journal. A journal of a psychopath planning his next strike.

First up we have “Early Morning Rain.” This is a story of one brother trying to get the other brother to change his life around. He’s trying to talk him into changing his ways, leave his lifestyle behind. When the events he creates to prove a point go tragically wrong, the lives of both brothers change forever. It’s a story of loving, caring, trying to do the right thing, and it changes to a story of emotional disturbances, it changes to a lot of regret. It plays with your heart strings.

Next up, we have “Itch.” I guarantee this one will have your skin crawling. You’ll have these phantom itches knowing they don’t exist. Be careful. You’re liable to scratch yourself raw with this one. It’s a story about Hayley, her boyfriend, parents, and of course her brother Sebastian. Hayley is obsessed and paranoid and freaked out about her brother's skin disorder. This story has a lot of dead skin floating around. Some flakes are hovering in the air like a snowflake that’s lost its way. Loads of dead skin clumps together enough to clog up a tub drain.

Hayley feels like her world is closing in on her and the culprit is her brother’s skin. She allows her paranoia to cause sleep deprivation and hallucinations. And it all comes to a head with an intense outcome. Stephenson thrives on painting a picture of grotesque body horror but disguised with sympathy.

And finally, we have “The Red Candle.” This may be Stephenson’s most graphic piece of work I’ve read. This was part of an anthology I read awhile back. I cringed then and I cringed again this time around with a gruesome bloody scene that will have every guy who reads the story letting out whimpers while their biggest nightmare plays out in their head.

It’s a story of a young teen who finds himself alone in this world after his caregiver, his grandmother, dies. But she leaves him a special message behind. Something that allows him to realize he has a way to become his true self. It’s a touching story if identity, of finding your inner-self, and body mutilation.

But let me emphasize, Stephenson writes it in a way that prevents it from becoming extreme. He’s a master of word manipulation, delivering the message without having to be overly descriptive.

These are the 3 stories you’ll find within “Candles, Bullets, & Dead Skin,” along with a few quick-jabs sharp enough to make you scratch your head in deep thought. Stephenson also throws in a piece of poetry, but I’m going to allow you to discover the poem and the quick jabs on your own.

Although just a sampler, this mini collection is a great representation of Stephenson’s style and voice. I’m excited for you to check out his writing, not just this collection, but the things he has in the works for the future, that I can only tease.

“Candles, Bullets, & Dead Skin” is an alarming, perplex, and painful at times short story collection touching on a number of topics squeezed in a handful of stories. It delivers a variety of feels, making you jump from one emotion to another in record time. It’s a collection of just some of Stephenson’s many voices just waiting, dormant, looking for the right opportunity to explode for the world to discover.

Title: Candles, Bullets, & Dead Skin

Author: L. Stephenson

Publisher: Independently Published

Publication Date: January 19, 2023

Pages: 46

Language: English

Format Reviewed: eBook


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