Along the Splintered Path


Life is a winding road. It turns and twists and forks and sometimes it comes to a dead end. It can narrow. It can widen. Sometimes, the road is short, while other times it goes on for miles. Sometimes the road is full of potholes. Other times it is smooth and the ride is joyful. The road might be paved, or maybe it is a dirt road or a barely visible footpath. 

Each road—each path—we take leads us further on our journey. One road can lead to fortune and fame and another one can lead to ruins. Which road you take doesn’t guarantee you reach the destination the way you intended.

What happens when you make a wrong turn? What happens when you follow the wrong path?

Along the Splintered Path takes you on a journey of right and wrong, of paths chosen and lives altered. Come along as A.J. Brown tells us three stories of souls splintered by the events of life. How do they overcome those events, or do they overcome them at all? The answers could be the difference between sanity and madness.

FIRST REVIEW OF A.J. BROWN’S ALONG THE SPLINTERED PATH

I liked all three stories in “Along The Splintered Path”. I liked “Phillip’s Story” the best. I really liked the way it was written. It was a little different from most of the stories I read. I would rate the stories as follows: “Phillips Story” first,”The Woodshed” second and “Round These Bones” third. I would really like to see Mr. Brown’s book in print so that I may get him to autograph it for me. I look forward to reading more by this author.

DARK AND EMOTIVE

AJ Brown has a gift for expressing the emotions of his characters. Within the three stories found in this collection, individual journeys are riddled with landmines of torment that lead to discovery. Sometimes the discovery is life afirming and sometimes it is life threatening, but never is it mundane. If you enjoy crawling into the skin of a character and seeing the world through their eyes, no matter how traumatic the view, you’ll enjoy the writing of AJ Brown.

PERSONAL, UPLIFTING TALES

AJ Brown certainly has his own voice on display with his three stories in Along the Splintered Path. I entered into this one expecting something completely different; tales of rednecks and zombie chickens and banjo-plucking cannibals. I was very, very wrong.

Phillip’s Story – A down-on-his luck bum, Phillip, finds a bag of money on the street. That’s the very simple plot, but in a series of flashbacks, we learn how the story arrived in Phillip’s hands and then to what end it meets.

‘Round These Bones – A man receives some bad news and driving upset out in the backwoods, he crashes his car and falls down an embankment. Severely injured and in worsening weather conditions, has he got what it takes to stay alive?

The Woodshed – Kyle’s past comes back to haunt him when his brother comes to stay and is plagued by nightmares. Together, they must face their demons at their childhood home…in the woodshed.

You know what I’m loving about the TALES OF DARKNESS AND DISMAY line up from Dark Continents? I’m reading either new authors to me or revisiting ones I’ve enjoyed before…and they’re so different in their execution. While Suzanne Robb had the bizarre dark humour down, AJ Brown is a different creature.

This is said by so many people on so many reviews about so many authors…and I think I’m going to say it. Yes, I am. AJ Brown reminds me of Stephen King. ‘Round These Bones especially reminded me of King’s stories of people trapped and simply trying to escape their fate. My favourite was Phillip’s Story. As a writer myself who tries to create completely evil bastards that the reader hates, AJ has the skills to do the opposite: characters that are uplifting and good despite the circumstances.

Along the Splintered Path has a more laid back pace but with plenty of meat on the bones, characters you actually care about and is steered with a confident hand. I can see big things for AJ Brown.

TALENT ON THE RISE

I read a lot of small-press books, and to be honest, I don’t set my expectations very high before digging in. The market is riddled with good attempts that just don’t have the writing quality to draw a solid fan base. However, after reading “Along The Splintered Path”, I immediately recognized that AJ Brown is not only skilled in the technicalities of writing, but also creates complex and relatable characters that are sure to pique some interest. These stories read exactly the way a story should, effortlessly. You’ll forget you’re reading & end up inside the tale, and isn’t that the point of fiction? This collection is an affordable price and an enjoyable addition to my Kindle library. Well done, Mr. Brown.

YOU COME TO A T-JUNCTION. RIGHT OR LEFT?

The first two stories in Along the Splintered Path are based on choices and the third is a full blown horror story. The first centers around a down and out failure Phillip Brown. The economy was bad – he lost his family – he’s homeless. In others’ eyes, Phillip Brown is a bum. However this bum gets the chance of a liftime, a bag of money and coins with the body of a dead man hanging over a side of a bridge and bleeding. Sirens sound with flashing cherry tops, he runs with the money. What I liked about the story is the switch off between Phillip and the Williams brothers Thad & Hollis. They held up a quickie store, a man is dead, and they’re on the run. Choices: Phillip has every right to be selfish, but he can he care? Hollis has anger issues: how will he deal with them? The second ‘Round These Bones’ is the sad end of a marriage, anger and a hasty decision, and James has a totaled car, a leg with a bone showing through and he finds shelter in a dark hut. Lighting the Zippo, he’s sharing it with dead men who are missing body parts. Is the owner coming home sometime? The third is ‘The Woodshed’ set in the North Carolina mountains and the home of an abusive father and the owner of a leather belt armed with sharp edges. Kyle and his younger brother Kenneth (Kenny) made a bid for freedom. Kenny isn’t sure if the old man is still alive. Kyle is sure his father is dead, isn’t he?

A.J. Brown shows an inventiveness in bringing out characters who act on who they are and they are believable, outside of some of the oddities of The Woodshed – which is a horror story par excellence.

GREAT LOOK AT THE DIFFERENT PATHS LIFE CAN TAKE

When I started reading this collection I had a vague idea of what to expect. I knew the stories were about normal people and the consequences, good or bad, of the decisions they make.

The first story, is about two brothers who seem to never do anything right, and Phillip the homeless man. A robbery gone wrong, money found when needed most, but what does someone do with that money? A wonderful story about the ability to do the right thing.

The second story is about a man who gets an unexpected response to his romantic overtures. He storms off, and chaos ensues, and bad luck prevails he finds himself in a cabin. This is one story I wish had been longer, which is a credit to Mr. Browns writing ability. When this story in particular was over, I wished there was more. The reason being there are so many things that could explain the cabin and what he finds in it, and my imagination went (and still is) in overdrive.

The last story is about a man recalling his abusive childhood. It speaks clearly to the fact there are somethings that no matter how hard we try to bury, they will always find a way to come back and haunt us – always.

A fantastic collection and all I can say is I want more from this writer.

REAL HORROR

The monsters we grew up with stopped being scary around thirteen, for most of us anyway. As we grow up we learn that true horror is not the boogeyman hiding in the closet, or that creaking floor board you’re sure is the resident ghost of your house, but the feelings we have to contend with as life goes forward. Desperation, madness, extreme loneliness, betrayal, and above all, the sense of being stuck in a life you can’t escape all become far more terrifying than any monster hiding in a closet. A.J. Brown taps into these very same feelings with an approach we can all relate to in three character driven tales.

In Phillip’s Story we are presented with a man who has lost everything but gains much with the help of very depressed and not too intelligent crook.

`Round Three Bones has us following a man running from his own anger at his wife’s request for a divorce, only to find madness in the end.

The Woodshed (my favorite in the collection) gives us a pain few can understand in the form of a tortured young man forced to endure terrible things as a child and unable to get away those things as an adult.

All in all, this is an amazing collection that shines as a presentation of what darkness truly is.

DARKNESS

Along the Splintered Path involves a descent into darkness, pure and simple. Some of the tales are too dark for my taste, but the clarity of writing, as well as the professional copyediting, make it an enjoyable and easy read–yet very disturbing. The writing style brings about an ambiance or mood–often creepy, always horrifying–that seeps into your mind as you continue reading, page by page, until you come to the final story The Woodshed. Once you’ve begun The Woodshed, there can be no going back, because by then you’re hooked. While the narrative hooks from the very beginning are solid and well placed (and paced), by the time you’re going strong in The Woodshed, there can be no going back, for your nightmare has begun. It’s almost like staring at a horrific accident, slowing down to get a better view. You know you should look away, but you can’t. And in staring at these horrific scenes, you teeter on the edge, remembering Nietzsche’s famous adage about the Abyss and the madness viewed.

There is madness contained in this book, and the insanity is interwoven with darkness. Trust me.

The first story entitled Phillip’s Story is actually my favorite. It involves a homeless man and two “wanna be” robbers. The story is just a teaser into this “darkness” I’ve been telling you about, a teaser intermingled with the soft heartedness of Phillip, a homeless man, as he struggles to come to grips with a sudden onslaught of wealth that has come into his possession. The reason I love this story is that it shows so much heart in the midst of terrible darkness.

The second story entitled `Round These bones entails a man’s journey after receiving very bad news from his wife. In fact, the news can’t get much worse than what she tells him. At a rented cabin intended to be their second honeymoon, the main character James is blinded by heartfelt pain. He leaves the cabin in his vehicle. What he doesn’t realize is that bad luck is coming in the form of cutting instruments, stalled car engines, and one heck of an appetite. I can’t say more without giving it away.

The Woodshed is a story that seems like an onion to me, in that it is multilayered. As you turn each page, a little more of the outer layer of onion is removed. You go through the usual layers of intrigue and plot and subplot, just like a good read is supposed to go.

Then something goes horribly wrong, but in a good way. Author AJ Brown doesn’t end this story when you think it’s going to; the layers just don’t stop. They just keep coming and coming, getting deeper and darker. As the story’s plot continues to open up, page by page, the darkness almost blossoms as the layers of petals unfold in your mind. It’s a creepy feeling.

The Woodshed is like that. It’s like an onion, as I’ve said. But it’s also like a multilayered flower exploding in slow-motion within your mind. You won’t know what I’m writing about until you think you near what you think is going to be the conclusion of The Woodshed. You’ll think you’re at the end, that they’ll be a nice and orderly bowtie-ending. But there isn’t. By the time you hit this part of the story, the nightmare is just beginning.

These three stories comprise an awesome descent into darkness! If you like to delve into horror from time to time, this is a must-read.

NOT TO BE READ LATE AT NIGHT

This book was a surprise, well written and a touch of Stephen King. Each story was quite different, and all were intriguing and at times disturbing. I enjoyed ‘Phillip’s story’ the most – a gentler although still sad story. Truth be told none of the stories will renew your faith in mankind, but all will draw you in and make you wonder.

All in all, a great read. Am glad I stumbled across it and bought it.

EXCELLENT START

Along the Splintered Path was an excellent read. The author has a unique styling and storytelling that keeps you engaged throughout. Despite feeling an obvious direction for the end of the stories, the journey there was captivating and entertaining. Looking forward to reading more.

AWESOME

The first story was a great tale of something good and something better coming out of something bad. The second story was a scary tale that could absolutely happen to any of us. That third story though….. wasn’t sure Jeff Brown could go there but he sure did and I loved it. A son’s revenge and a demonic father come to torment. Another fantastic book from the man A.J.BROWN !

VERY ENTERTAINING, VERY SUSPENSEFUL

AJ Brown’s “Along the Splintered Path” is one those collections that eats at you while reading it (no pun intended if you’ve read the second story.) He has created characters with enough emotion that you have to keep reading, knowing that it could be you in the horrific scenarios he paints. And horrific it is. The stories grow in suspense as you read – “Phillip’s Story” is suspense with heart, “‘Round These Bones” is a thriller that pulls no punches as Brown puts his character through hell, them pushes him deeper. And “The Woodshed”, well, Brown goes for the throat here, a horror story like no other I’ve read, with as much of a chance to bring tears to the reader’s eyes as a scream to their throats.

ALONG THE SPLINTERED PATH

I really enjoyed reading these 3 books. Very few books keep my interest, let alone keep me on the edge of my seat wanting to know what happens next. These 3 did just that. I also love the attention to detail. It was as If I was there watching everything unfold in front of me. “Around These Bones” & The Wood Shed” all had very clear endings. “Phillips Story” left me wonder what happened for a couple of the character & could very well leave A.J. Brown a chance to write other books & tie them into different parts of this on. All in all these are great reads that really, I feel like I got them for a still, at only $2.99. I hope that there’s more to come soon.

THE SPLINTERED PATH …

AJ Brown’s Along the Splintered Path is fast-paced, frenetic, graphic, and terrifying. Combine quick, clean prose with Stephen King like pacing, unreliable narrators, and a preying on the fears of the everyday man and you get AJ Browns “Along the Splintered Path”. AJ calls himself “a unique mixture of strawberry Kool-aid drinking redneck and traditional values,” and this collection definitely exemplifies this combination. My favorite story was “The Woodshed,” about two brothers who are haunted by the corpse of their abusive father. However all three stories in this collection are good. Definitely recommended.

THREE ENTERTAINING TALES

I had never read anything by AJ Brown until this small collection of stories, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The first tale was Phillip’s Story. The story began with an intro to Phillip, a man plagued by delusions, who has been left by his wife and child and who now finds himself in hard straits. He finds money, or rather the money found him, spoils of crime at the scene of a fatal accident. The story then switches to a couple of hard characters, Thad and Hollis, robbing a convenience store and botching the job, a prelude to Phillip finding the money. The story continues to alternate between Phillip, after finding the money, and the thieves during and after the incident-riddled robbery.

The first thing that struck me about this story was how brave the author must be to present a PoV character who is crazy – it is difficult to capture their mindset convincingly and draw sympathy from the reader to someone with such discordant thoughts. The second thing that struck me was that it wasn’t what I would describe as a horror story, and that was what I had been anticipating with all three stories.

The storyline was both entertaining and moving, but I would have preferred the two story threads to have run concurrently. Having to reverse gears back to an earlier point in time was a little disorienting, so that the story was a bit of an effort to follow.

The second story, “`Round These Bones”, presents the reader with James, a man down on his luck in more ways than one. When his marriage takes a turn for the worse, he races off recklessly in his car and an accident ensues. He then finds himself struggling for survival. This was a gripping thriller/horror with many twists and graphic moments, and I liked it better than the first tale. I particularly enjoyed the unusual ending.

In the third story, “The Woodshed,” the narrator describes events from his past involving his murderous and abusive father and the frightening woodshed associated with bad memories. This story is particularly gruesome and disturbing, with an old school, backwoods feel. More of a traditional horror tale, I think it was my favourite of the three.

Overall, the author had an inviting, casual writing style, shockingly so in some places, that made the stories an easy read. The styling was descriptive without being overly so and relaxed without being lazy. It captured my interest from the very beginning, with quaint phrases like: “Aisles of candy and chips and oils and other whatevers that all convenience stores seemed to carry lined out in front of them” and I didn’t have to work to get at the stories.

While I did enjoy the writing, I found the author used an excessive amount of sentence fragments and ellipses. It does mean the reader is spared from run-on sentences but it also gives the writing a “choppy” feel in places. Used on occasion, this can be a good way to accentuate portions of the story, but used to excess, it loses its impact and starts to hamper the story instead of giving it more flavour. I also found a couple of the sentences redundant or contradictory. These were minor irritations and they didn’t keep me from enjoying the stories.

Characterization seemed to be a strong point in the stories. The characters were flawed and believable, with plenty of personality. This was the most enjoyable aspect of the stories and the thing I value the most in a good read, making up for any negligible issues.

I’d rate this a four out of five stars, well worth a read if you can overlook the few minor detractions.

ALONG THE SPLINTERED PATH

A.J. Brown’s novella Along The Splintered Path is actually a collection of three long stories in one package. I’m a big fan of short horror fiction, so I was very pleased to find this collection, which is put out by Dark Continents Publishing as part of their Tales of Darkness and Dismay series, launched at the beginning of January 2012.

Brown is a writer who does a great job of exploring the reasons why his characters act the way they do. It’s character-driven fiction, and he does it beautifully– and he doesn’t spare the gore, either. My favorite was the first piece in the collection, “Phillip’s Story”. This is an interesting piece, as it moves back and forth between several very different characters. The titular character, Phillip, is a homeless man who suddenly finds a bag full of money. How he gets the money is soon explained with the introduction of the other main characters, Thad and Hollis, brothers who rob a convenience store. The story explores the motivation of the characters as they get their hands on the money, and what the result is of their new-found wealth. The ending, I hope, will surprise you.

The other two stories are equally entertaining, fast reads that leave you reeling. “‘Round These Bones” is the story of James, a guy whose day just goes from bad to worse. And just when you think James’ day CAN’T get any worse, believe me, it does. “The Woodshed” is a very effective piece, written in first person, about the horrors faced by a boy who tries to rescue his brother from their abusive father.

Brown’s Along The Splintered Path is a great collection of smoothly polished horror fiction. It’s well worth the read.

MUST READ!

Loved the book! If you are looking for something that will keep you on the edge of your seat this is it! A J is an amazing writer. I will be reading more stories!

ANOTHER HOME RUN FOR A.J. BROWN

This book contains three short stories from the imaginative mind of A. J. Brown. The first is Philip’s Story. Philip down on his luck has lost his job, home, wife and young daughter. He then comes into money because of a ill fated convenience store robbery and showing true compassion pays it forward. The next story is ‘Round These Bones and it is all about luck, good, bad and lack of it. James plans a romantic weekend with his wife and it certainly doesn’t go as planned. After a car accident he is stranded, injured and slowly going mad. The last story is The Woodshed and it is about the abuse two children suffer under the hands of a truly evil father. These well written stories have characters that you root for and others that make you really hope karma is real. These stories have you going through the gambit of emotions. Another great book that I would highly recommend to anyone who likes the horror/suspense genre. Well done Mr. Brown.

ALONG THE SPLINTERED PATH BY A.J. BROWN

Along the splintered path is a collection of three long stories in one book. The story lines are both moving and entertaining. My favorite was the wood shed the narrator describes events from his past involving an abusive father and the wood shed which is associated with bad memories. The story is gryesome and disturbing. It kind of reminded me of the the old western movies where the child is taken to the wood shed to be punished. I look forward to reading more books by A.J Brown

ENTERTAINING

I read the book in one sitting.

A lot different than what I was expecting. Phillip’s story was my favorite with ‘Round these Bones as a close second. I will be looking forward to more from this author.

ALONG THE SPLINTERED PATH REVIEW

This book was great, I loved the suspense and couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I loved it and can’t wait to read more books by A.J. Brown

WISH I COULD GIVE IT 4.5-GREAT STORIES

Great trio of stories, Round These Bones was my favorite, reminded me of Stephen King’s short story Survivor Type. I anxiously await the chance to read more by this talented writer.

KEPT ME ENTERTAINED

Description of setting and character building were good. Storyline built slowly on several levels to an unexpected yet logical end.

4 STARS

I enjoyed it.

FROM STARBURST MAGAZINE

AJ Brown’s debut novella presents three short stories of moralistic caution, human failings, and dark, unrelenting horror. He has a fresh, unique voice that brings the characters to life with a skill and experience that makes this a real page turner all the way to its deliciously macabre ending.

So, this guy knows how to write.

In Phillip’s Story, a tramp discovers a bag of money that changes his life, but in a series of flashbacks we learn that the money has a violent history littered with carnage and death. But in a wonderful twist we see seeds of hope spring from its bloodied past. Phillip’s Story is worth the cover price alone, which by the way is a modest £1.98.

Round these Bones is a grim survival story of a man who after a bitter split with his partner takes a plunge off a cliff in his car. He lives, although injured, and realises that he won’t be able to make it back to the road without help. Which is a problem, because it’s the grip of winter and it’s cold – oh, so cold. Then he notices the hut: his once slim chance to make it through the night. But the hut isn’t what it seems, and the horror is only just beginning…

The Woodshed. There’s something to be said about saving the best for last. This is the craft at its absolute best. An evil has infested the heart of a family, and can Karl break the cycle of violence and death? The answer may surprise you.

Along the Splintered Path is sold exclusively as an eBook, downloadable to the kindle, and it doesn’t make the transition smoothly – which in fairness is not the fault of the author. The cover is dark, almost black, and there is no table of contents for easy referral and chapter layout. The book has been released by Dark Continent publishing as part of their Tales of Darkness and Dismay series and really somebody in their marketing department should be taken outside, slapped and retrained. This however, does not derail the strength of AJ Brown’s work and remains a must for the discerning horror fan.

NOT BAD

The stories weren’t bad some were pretty interesting. It kept me entertained and I’ll definitely look out for other books from this author.