Hi and welcome to my review of Love Like Bleeding Out with an Empty Gun in Your Hand! Happy publication day to Stephen J. Golds!
Back in January I read Stephen’s Say Goodbye When I’m Gone and it became my first five-star read of the year. I’ll admit part of the attraction was that glorious cover, but the contents turned out to be equally powerful: a short book packing quite a punch, I loved it.
Fast forward to a few months later and Stephen asking me if I’d like to review his upcoming book Like Bleeding Out with an Empty Gun in Your Hand. Of course I was interested! Short stories? So there for that! But poems? Not my cup of tea. And so I told Stephen I didn’t think this was one for me but I’d be happy to do a spotlight post. He sent me a copy anyway, no strings, just a thank-you. And with the review stress gone, my curiosity got the upper hand.
I decided to “try a story”. Three stories later I looked up and thought well hey you’re on to something here. And that is what this book did to me. I usually dip into short story collections, I’ll read one and put the book away. That was impossible with Love Like Bleeding Out, it was simply too addictive. All the things I loved about Say Goodbye When I’m Gone were right there in every story.
I said it before and I’ll say it again: short stories are an underestimated form of art. Not every novelist, brilliant though they may be at writing novels, is good at writing short stories. Stephen J. Golds excels at it! He doesn’t need a lot of words to get his message across. Every story is a mini novel, and while I often felt a little bereft when I reached the end, it was always a proper ending, just like they all have a proper start, a proper body, proper characterisation and possibly a proper twist or two.
The short story collection kicks off with the story the book is named after, and it remained one of my favourites. I also have to mention Cold-hearted, as I love noir romance and I absolutely adored this Bonnie and Clyde inspired tale. Other favourites were A Short Story, told from the perspective of a serial killer, In an Unmarked Place, for its ending that I feel I should have seen coming but didn’t, and the truth and tragedy of That Kid.
The poetry section took me by surprise. As I said above: poetry isn’t my bag so I was fully prepared to dislike that part of Love Like Bleeding Out. But then I didn’t. At all. I actually found myself enjoying the poems, and even rereading some of them. Maybe it’s not poetry that’s not my bag, maybe I’ve been misjudging that entire form of literature based on a kind of poetry that was all wrong for me. October City, Social Media Baby, A Cold Sunday, Prescriptions (“being tense is better than being past tense”), I basked in their words.
Love Like Bleeding Out is about love, the criminal kind of love, the wrong kind of love, or the right kind of love gone wrong for any of a plethora of reasons, a pitch-black kind of love. It’s about war and crime, revenge and regret. Entertaining at face value, thought-provoking when you allow yourself to dig a little deeper.
Combining crime short stories with gritty poems, it’s a bold move. But it works. I’m so happy curiosity got the best of me and that it entertained the cat instead of killing it. Love Like Bleeding Out with an Empty Gun in Your Hand is hard-hitting, it’s often violent and gritty and very, very dark. But if noir is your bag, and you enjoy short stories and/or poetry, or want to give them a try, this is the one for you.
Love Like Bleeding Out with an Empty Gun in Your Hand is out now! Grab yourself a copy!
Huge thanks to Stephen J. Golds for the review copy! All opinions are still my own.