Let me start off by hazarding a guess and suggest that most of you have never heard of A.J. Brown (that’s Jeff to his friends). If I’m right, I certainly won’t hold that against you. And if I’m wrong, then advantage goes to you. A.J. stems from that rare and special corner of the writer’s universe, that place with the shadows which is all but invisible to the unsuspecting eye. I first got to know AJ about twenty years ago (whoa…) in a small news group where people who loved to read and write horror stories communed for constructive feedback, for love of the genre, and to be among their chosen family of weirdos and fellow miscreants. Many of us, like myself, cut our teeth and honed our skills in that little place we called the Horror Library. The little news group buried deep within Zoetrope, forged friendships and connections for many of us.
Although mostly disbanded with its members scattered over the globe to live their lives, many of whom carried the torch ignited in that place and went on to keep writing stories with various degrees of success plus a few who managed to shape a career out of it. One such member of the old Horror Library was, of course, AJ Brown, a guy who offered a piece of his soul through his stories. Along with the rest of the HL crew, AJ helped everyone who asked for it to be better writers, including me. Oh, and it turned out the man could fucking write.
Many years and a few lifetimes later, I got reacquainted with AJ/Jeff in the usual way most of us do these days – via Facebook – and he was kind enough to let me read some of the stuff he’d written over the years. Closing the Wound was the one I first read, but I assure you it won’t be the last.
Here’s what I had to say about it.
Closing the Wound
By AJ Brown
Independently published (December 2, 2018)
Closing the Wound is a story about ghosts, both living and long since deceased. It’s a story about the type of scars which, while faded over time, remain a stark reminder of what’s been lost and what may never be fully understood. It acts as a brief history of sadness about a life cut far too short and the kind of questions which can only be answered by those no longer here.
Closing the Wound doesn’t come across so much as a coming of age story as it does a coming to terms story. The story clearly provides a cathartic path on which the author has set himself upon while simultaneously creating a outlet for honoring a childhood friend murdered on Halloween night several years past. This story seems to be for both the writer, and his lost friend and is sure to hit several emotional chords for readers along the way.
AJ Brown recalls the painful memories of his past in the same vein as any classic ghost story best told around a campfire long after the kids have gone to sleep when scary monsters get to play with our conscience mind a while. Except, in this case, the monsters are as real as the story told and everything you’re about to read happened as recollected by the author in a bare-bones, journalistic style.
As much as this story of about 15,000 words was written as a method for healing, it’s hard not to relate with at least some of the author’s mournful experiences which speak volumes to anyone who’s ever lost something they cared deeply for at some point in their life. As the author warns up front, don’t expect a happy ending. Happy endings don’t often belong in the real world.
While Closing the Wound may leave readers with more questions than answers, I feel it will also imbed within its readers a sense that it’s okay to not understand everything we think we need to no matter how desperate that need may so often feel. If AJ’s book has taught at least this reader anything, it’s to remember that while it seems ideal to find answers as a way of closure, it may be important to find a way to accept what little we’re willing and able to remember – and understand – of a painful experience from even the most haunting moments of our lives.
And with that I urge you to do yourself a favour and grab a copy of Closing the Wound for yourself and put aside a few hours of reflective reading. You’ll be glad you did because there’s a lot more where that came from.