Joe Knetter is a sick man. Of course, that much is easily discernable from a single glance at the cover of his newest collection of short stories, Twisted Loneliness. A blood-spattered toilet is usually an indicator of a demented mind. In this case, it doesn’t quite do the work within justice. Think of the most disturbing, disgusting, and depraved subjects, and Knetter surpasses them all. And while such things are not everyone’s cup of tea, there is no denying his writing has the desired effect on readers.
The seventeen stories contained revolve around the brutal – from necrophilia to bestiality, serial killers to revenge murderers. They focus on the common theme of loneliness, and the people around whom they revolve are most often as repulsive physically as they are emotionally. They delight in causing misery, often gratifying themselves sexually while doing so. Knetter does not shy away from graphic descriptions, making readers cringe. Like a bad auto accident, however, it’s impossible to turn away.
Knetter’s strengths lie in his own view of the horrendous. Spiders leak from a man’s private parts in one story, while in another a serial killer has a perverse sense of humor toward sex toys and explosives. Each of the stories seem to be custom made to draw on phobias, ensuring that at least one, if not more, title will give the reader at the least a case of the shivers. Among the best titles in this volume are “Author,” “Bad Vibrations,” and “After School Swim.”
However, there are some weaknesses that should see improvement over time. Occasionally the sex and violence seems gratuitous, thrown in just for shock value instead of being used to advance the story. While there’s nothing wrong with shocking readers, there comes a point when they become numb to surprises. Hairpin twists are great for stories, but when they come like clockwork, readers begin to expect them. Also, there were a few editing errors that are distracting.
Twisted Loneliness is not for the faint of heart. It caters to the same audience that loves splatter films and horror with gore a-plenty. While there are a few blemishes spotting the book, it is one of the most original works on the market today. As an added bonus, Twisted Loneliness features an introduction by Sid (House of 1000 Corpses, Devils Rejects) Haig. As Haig says, Knetter allows the reader to indulge in that little sick side of his own nature, however small that side may be.
Taken as a whole, Twisted Loneliness is a good effort by the author. It should not be read just after eating due to the risk of prolonged vomiting. Yes, Joe Knetter is a sick man. And I mean that as a compliment.
by Joe Knetter
KMB Press, 2005