Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words
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Born in New York, Jon now lives in Colorado. As well as being a writer Jon founded indie publisher, New Pulp Press.
You can learn more about the author on his website.
When Joseph Downs, a horribly scarred army veteran, enters the decaying town of Stratton nothing will be the same again for its residents.
Corrosion is unusual. Very unusual. There’s a bleak theme that runs throughout the book, which is split into three distinct parts. Pretty much everything that is described is in decay, whether that’s physical, mental or moral. If this book were a colour it would be black. If it were a smell, it would be that of putrefaction.
Here’s an example of the writing from the opening scene:
The town was called Stratton, and it wasn’t much. Just brick buildings and rotting bungalows and poorman shacks all dropped haphazardly by God after a two-week bender.
The story, written in the first person, starts well and immediately creates a strong interest. It’s clear we’re in the mind of a person who has a different outlook on life to the rest of us.
Joseph Downs, the protagonist, is heading towards his cabin, a solitary place miles from anywhere. But his truck breaks down twenty miles from Stratton. It’s immediately clear he’s an ex-soldier, injured somehow, perhaps in combat. He walks into town and has a drink. His arrival creates a stir, and not just because he’s a stranger. Downs is horribly scarred. To the point where it’s difficult to look at him, difficult to pull your eyes away.
Then Lilith enters the bar, a wild beauty. Her husband follows and starts to beat on her. No-one helps. Except Downs.
He’d only intended to stay in the run down town as long as it took to fix his truck, but he’s captivated by Lilith. She repays his kindness in her own way and Downs explains his story – he’d been injured by a roadside bomb whilst on patrol in Iraq and invalided out of the army. But Downs starts to fall for her as they spend the next few days together, waiting for the truck repair.
The only problem is the husband is in the way. So Lilith suggests Downs can fix the ‘problem’ for the both of them, perhaps collect some insurance money too. And that’s when it begins to go wrong for Downs. Throw in a mystery stranger who follows and watches Downs and there’s plenty of intrigue as well as suspense too.
The author steadily unfolds the story through the three parts, finally drawing it together in a conclusion that’s very satisfying and unexpected. Downs is not what he seems, but then neither are the other major characters in Corrosion.
From a technical perspective the author refuses to use speech marks to indicate dialogue. I don’t believe I’ve come across this before. Oddly, it works. What could have been painful, Bassoff uses neatly and serves to further emphasise the prose.
If you want a cheerful, perky read, this isn’t for you. Just the opposite. It’s gloomy and morose at best, dark and disturbing at times. Best read on a dark winter’s day. This is not a criticism, far from it, just remember the central theme is decay. I thoroughly enjoyed Corrosion, although I did feel a bit grubby afterwards...
Nothing of note.
Rating: **** Four Stars