I received a message this morning about Tortured Dreams. The person expressed their interest in the series, they even claimed to have been enjoying it, right up to the part where the gore kicked in.
I am aware that the Cain novels are not for everyone. I am also aware that there are some very gory scenes. It isn’t gratuitous gore, but it’s gore none the less (my favorite comparison is “they’re like reading a slasher flick with a plot.”). However, I don’t believe Tortured is that gory. As a matter of fact, the goriest scene I have ever written was in Explosive Dreams when Aislinn tosses a severed hand to Lucas. This was a case of psychological gore, not written gore. I didn’t put that the hand was dripping blood or that pieces of bone were sticking out the ends, both of which I could have done and were considered. Instead, I just let the scene speak for itself, a young child holding the severed hand of her mother, while both lie unconscious on the ground. And then Aislinn comes along, plucks it from the child like it was nothing worse than a candy bar and tosses it to Lucas, who catches it without a second thought about it being a severed hand.
The most physical gore came in Elysium Dreams, as I describe the killer heating the knife and sliding it through the flesh of his victim, intent (and content) to watch her die of shock and pain. The skinning lacks the hallmarks of gore; no blood, no brain matter, no oozing wounds or fluids that aren’t blood. But the very act of skinning something alive is gruesome. Actually, now that I think of it, this is also a matter of psychological gore. I didn’t point out that when you slice through the skin, as the killer did in Elysium Dreams, that a sticky clear fluid drips out. I know, I’ve shoved a wood burner into my thumb and while it didn’t bleed, it did seep that clear liquid that is trapped between the layers of skin. Actually, I’ve done this twice, both times accidents (burns hurt like nothing else on the planet and I’m not a huge fan of pain). The first time, it went deep enough that I could see the middle knuckle when I flexed my thumb. The second time (on the opposite thumb), it didn’t go as deep. There was no bone visible, no ligaments or nerves to watch move. It was superficial… this was the one that oozed that sticky clear fluid that made my mom turn green. Needless to say, I gave up my attempts at learning the art of wood burning, but both thumbs still bear the scars of the misadventure.
So perhaps, Cannibal Dreams is the goriest book I’ve written to date, at least with physical gore. The Butcher’s visit to Aislinn’s stalker was violent and I didn’t pull any punches. There was indeed buckets of blood. The first two chapters of Butchered Dreams, written as The Butcher, were also blood-soaked nightmares. The third isn’t, but I’m sure the trail of blood will resume in the fourth.
It does provide an interesting observation though… In a world where brain matter can be visible and drug dealers can chop off body parts on basic cable, the written word is still more powerful. It’s nice to know some people can still use their imagination to fill in the blanks and make any “gory scene” I write, that much worse.