All of Them to Burn by Beau Johnson
By Tim O’Mara
According to author Beau Johnson, “Darkness is an attribute most of us rally against. It can consume. It can achieve. But if we so choose, it can also be held at bay.”
Enter Bishop Rider, antihero of Johnson’s latest short story collection ALL OF THEM TO BURN, and the evil he’s chosen to obliterate since his family has been violently taken from him. Operating outside the law and circumventing a system beyond repair, Bishop once again stalks this darkness the only way he knows how. Not only because these men deserve what’s coming to them, but because a message he attempted to deliver has come back to haunt him after many years. It’s this story, along with other, unconnected tales that populate ALL OF THEM TO BURN.
This short story collection is filled with references to films and television shows. The author discussed about their effect.
“Many shows have influenced my writing,” he says. “I could probably go as far back as my days of being a boy and my irrational fear of quicksand and how it was spawned by The Six Million Dollar Man. But I digress. Breaking Bad is in there somewhere for sure. Lost, too. Movies such as Heat and Goodfellas are classics, of course, and I’ll add Tombstone to the list, but Silence of the Lambs will always be my number one. The show as well as the movie, and just so we’re clear, and if pressed, and no offence to Hopkins, I would have to admit that Mads Mikkelsen who played the doctor in Hannibal, is the captain now.
“Further, I could even go so far as to say that Garth Ennis, writer of the Preacher TV series, and Brian Michael Bendis, writer of many of the Marvel TV series including Jessica Jones and The Defenders, have put a spell on me at times.”
Not that it’s needed to point this out, but ALL OF THEM TO BURN is noir. When asked what “noir” means to him and which writers have influenced him in this regard.
“Noir as hell!” Johnson says. “Love it. Perhaps you should trademark that line sooner rather than later. What does noir mean to me? Good question. Can’t really say I’ve thought about it at length before. Crime for one, I guess. A character who is down on their luck for another. Something which is bleak, slick, and has an edge to it, I suppose. I can’t say all my stuff qualifies, but I know it’s in there, most times coiled to strike. Someone who may in fact be their own worst enemy seems to play a role at times as well. Uncle Stevie, Stephen King, however, was the man I grew up on and started me on this journey.”
It’s always interesting how so many crime writers list King as an influence.
Author Nikki Dolson says, “Beau Johnson’s stories are hard tales of revenge and sorrow. Nothing can prepare you for the darkness in these stories…”
“Hello darkness, my old friend,” Johnson muses. “Mostly I think it’s my way of making people pay for their actions the only way I can. I’d question the point of view as to why some people, they just need killing. Sometimes a little more. In all seriousness, though, perhaps a through line? A means that somehow justifies the end. It can’t all be killing for killing’s sake, can it? Hmm…maybe I back away from this one. As for who could use a little ‘off the books’ punishment? Well, that’d be telling now, wouldn’t it?”
Never ask a crime writer to admit to a potential crime. Point taken.
With all the violence and darkness and vigilantism, what is it exactly that JJohnson wants the reader to take away from this collection?
“A good time is all I want them to have. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again—there is nothing that heavy about my fiction, and all I hope is that the readers have as good a time reading my stuff as I had writing it.”
We asked Johnson to fantasize a bit and put together a dream panel for ThrillerFest. Who’d be on it and what would the topic be?
“Don’t hold me to it,” he said, “but I’d probably go with Marietta Miles, Gabino Iglesias, Sarah M. Chen, Héctor Acosta, Paul D. Brazill, Nikki Dolson, Angel Luis Colón, E. A. Aymar, Nick Kolakowski, Jennifer Hillier, Shawn Cosby, and so many others. I mean, I’d pack the room, filling it with so many fantastic crime writers the place would glow. (Do crime writers make a room glow?) We’d have snacks as well, and beers that had ice in it, and the whole time our topic of discussion would be led by Ed, as we sat and listened to him go on about the Achilles, and how preventative measures will always be key. Lawn darts would follow.”
Crime writers, beer, and lawn darts. What could possibly go wrong?
Beau Johnson lives in Canada with his wife and three boys. He has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Such fine establishments might include Out of the Gutter Online, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and the Molotov Cocktail. Besides writing, Beau enjoys golfing, pushing off Boats and certain Giant Tigers.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.
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