Savage Saturday: Genital Grinder by Ryan Harding

Do you like to be scared? Maybe you’ve worked your way through the back-catalogs of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and now you want to read from a different letter of the alphabet for a while. Or maybe you’re feeling jaded and numb, because all those other horror lists have the same damn books by the same damn authors on them and you’d really appreciate a little variety. Since we’ve entered the witching month of October, why not let us take you on a guided tour of hell? Keep your hands and feet inside the article at all times, and if you feel faint, just tell yourself: “It’s only a book…it’s only a book…” This week’s entry is “Genital Grinder” by Ryan Harding.

We’ve covered some extreme examples of horror so far for this Halloween, but we’re not dicking around today. Seriously, before you dive into Ryan Harding’s short story compilation, make sure you haven’t eaten for the past twelve hours and there’s plenty of hot water because you’re going to need a long shower after the literary torture session you’re about to subject yourself to. The horror genre is filled with books that make you think, “Man, they couldn’t make a film like that if they tried!” Then you find out Edward Lee’s ‘Header’ actually happened, A Serbian Film was totally a thing, and Tom Six has been paid to write and direct three goddamn movies where exponentially larger numbers of people’s mouths are surgically attached to other people’s assholes for no good reason. Surely, surely we have reached the point as a society where there are no extremes left to explore? “Genital Grinder” is 168 pages of Ryan Harding explaining in vivid and revolting detail how wrong you are, circa 2012.

“Genital Grinder” isn’t a novel, but a collection of short stories that share a loose affiliation with one another by virtue of taking place in the same town and featuring several of the same characters, and you will not want to attempt it unless you have a cast-iron stomach. I cannot stress this enough: if any of the previous books on the list were a challenge to get through, steer clear of this one. We good? OK then.

Harding is a splatterpunk’s splatterpunk, unafraid to throw every bodily fluid imaginable and then some right in your face, but if you dig below all the blood and puke, there’s competent writing and a feverishly diseased imagination awaiting. The stories all have different subject matter, and each is its own self-contained nightmare. The book’s title comes from two of the most revolting pieces within, ‘Genital Grinder: A Snuff Act in 5 Acts’ and ‘Genital Grinder II: Dis-Membered’. No hyperbole, the first ‘Genital Grinder’ story with Von and Greg is the only thing I’ve ever read in my life that damn near made me barf. The second, while extremely disturbing, is played much more for laughs than anything else, as is ‘Damaged Goods’ (which also features the duo of idiots trying to get rich quick in the most deplorable ways imaginable). Other stories include ‘Bottom Feeder’ where a guy visiting a bar at last call goes home with the wrong gal, ‘Development’ where a kid working the local film department finds himself printing off an unimaginable series of photographs, ‘Emissary’ which is a love(?) letter to those shockumentaries like “Faces of Death” or “Banned In America”, and ‘Sharing Needles’ which sees either the return of a serial killer from two decades earlier or the rise of a copycat who knows everything the original does and then some.

None of this would work if Harding wasn’t such a competent storyteller, and it’s tempting to claim this is the first case of a writer using his gift for evil I’ve ever come across. What makes it so impressive is hard to put into words, but if I may digress into Dungeons & Dragons terms: if Edward Lee is Chaotic Evil (brutalizing everyone in his books for the sake of sheer perversion) and Wrath James White is Lawful Evil (brutalizing everyone in his books for the sake of making a point for the reader to ponder), then Ryan Harding is Neutral Evil (brutalizing everyone in his books because of the demands of the story). Harding’s a slave to narrative here, he will capitulate to any request it makes of him, and that renders his type of writing the most disturbing of all.

Most disturbing scene: It happens in ‘Genital Grinder: A Snuff Act in 5 Acts’. Von and Greg have kidnapped beautiful local news anchor Geisha Hammond and porn actress Lolita Ream with plans to create the first legit snuff film ever released to the public. Hammond has a perfectly good reason why she’s not ready for her close-up, but as far as the two would-be directors are concerned, it’s no excuse to waste a perfectly good tub of bath water. I’m not saying any more. You’ll understand if you get there.

Michael Crisman

In 1979, Michael Crisman was mauled by a radioactive Gorgar pinball machine. After the wounds healed, doctors discovered his DNA had been re-coded. No longer fully human, Michael requires regular infusions of video games in order to continue living among you. If you see him, he can see you. Make no sudden moves, but instead bribe him with old issues of computer and video game magazines or a mint-in-box copy of Dragon Warrior IV. If he made you laugh, drop a tip in his jar at http://paypal.me/modernzorker (If he didn't make you laugh, donate to cure his compulsion to bang keyboards by sending an absurdly huge amount of money to his tip jar instead. That'll show him!)

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