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My Dead and Blackened Heart

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14 stories of terror, dread and fatherhood.

From the isolation of space, to the ever-watchful eyes in a darkening wood, Andrew Freudenberg takes us on a journey exploring the themes of friendship, fatherhood and loss, as we pick through the remains of his dead and blackened heart.

“Overhead the lighting operator switched everything to green, just as two enormous mortars fired shredded silver paper in a plume over the crowd. Sarge blinked, attempting to clear the salt lacing his eyes.

For a moment he thought he saw paratroopers descending from above, but shook off the hallucination and turned his attention to the stalls. A group of youngsters were caught by Doc’s spotlight for a split second, their eyes wide with wonderment and a touch of fear.

It was enough to send Sarge back to the jungle, back to the children in the village. Their eyes had been the same, gazing up at him intently, even after he had slaughtered them with his bayonet and laid them all out in a row. At the time it had seemed the kind thing to do, a mercy killing of sorts. After all they had executed everyone else, so who would have looked after them?

There was something complete about leaving them lying peacefully amongst the burning buildings.

It had been a Zen moment.”

Featuring the stories: Something Akin To Despair, A Bitter Parliament, Charlie’s Turn, Pater in Tenebris, Milkshake, Nose to the Window, The Cardiac Ordeal, Meat Sweets, Scorch, The Teppenyaki of Truth, Before The Meat Time, Hope Eternal, The Last Patrol & Beyond The Book.

137 pages, Kindle Edition

Published October 25, 2019

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Andrew Freudenberg

22 books15 followers

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Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Ross Warren.
133 reviews4 followers
March 8, 2020
An eclectic mix to this debut collection. Case in point is opening story ‘Something Akin to Despair’ which is an entertaining slice of sci-fi but sadly there’s no further stories of this type to be found in the book. What we do get are some deftly handled slices of the macabre mixed with tales of a broader horror style. Stand outs included ‘Milkshake’ and it’s sequel ‘Meat Sweets’, ‘Nose to the Window’, ‘Scorch’, ‘The Last Patrol’ and my personal favourite’The Teppenyaki of Truth’. Special mention due also to the fantastic cover art by one of the author’s sons. One of the most interesting and eye catching covers I’ve seen in a long while.
Profile Image for Patrick R. McDonough.
124 reviews14 followers
November 3, 2019
Andrew Freudenberg’s first-ever collection contains fourteen stories, published through Sinister Horror Company. One story didn’t work for me. Not due to the writing, not due to the character development, but due to the story ending sooner than I would have liked. That’s a personal preference, and others will disagree with me. That being said, Freudenberg knocks it out of the park with quite a few stories. This book comes out October 26th, so as usual, I’ll be brief and spoiler-free. These are my favorites:

Something Akin To Despair shows a future of space exploration through Warminster’s eyes. It tackles a few questions that many of us wonder about: space exploration and colonization, and robotics. This story is like vodka, you know what you’re getting into, but the impact of its effects sneak up on you with a bite.

Next up, A Bitter Parliament. A couple travels get away to a wooded area, away from modern tech and constant distractions. Just for a weekend. This isn’t a romantic getaway, however. Soon, our protagonists find themselves in a vortex of shit.

Milkshake is where Freudenberg ups the ante. I’m still in shock from what I read. It’s one of those stories that, when you play them back in your mind (it won’t leave mine, this one or it’s sequel Meat Sweats) it’s cut deepens.

It’s the story about a young man who is taken in by unfamiliar blood family. He discovers a jarring reality that sets him down a downward spiral.

The Cardiac Ordeal: Shane and Linda are your run-of-the-mill couple, husband and wife with a young one. A single phone call turns Shane’s world into a chaotic, confused, hell. When he hits rock bottom, he discovers lower layers of damnation.

Meat Sweats, the sequel to Milkshake. Starring Moses and Marylyn. Two familiar names that we learn a little bit more about. Since the events of Milkshake Moses has acquired a new facility, new equipment, and more knowledge about his craft.

But what happens when he puts all of those book-learning to good use? That’s exactly what you’ll find out.

Scorch is a pretty great title to sum up its events. It’s exactly what a title should do. Intrigue the reader. Define the tone. And sum up the story. It’s done with a single word. What rests in the hands of Toby and Lisa is up to fate. So far, they’ve gotten themselves tossed aside by their parents, stole a car, and found themselves living on the streets…until they come across a bricked-and-boarded house.

In The Teppenyaki of Truth, Turner is a bad guy. You know the type. Not a gangster, but not your normal civilian. He’s someone who messes with people, free of consequences…that is until he meets Koboyashi. He teaches Turner the points of fine cuisine and the ways of how the world truly works.

Hope Eternal stars Derek Chambers—an English soldier, surely with PTSD. Who wouldn’t be after the crazy shit he and his men are forced to deal with on a daily basis. He gets some horrible news, compelling him to find his little girl. What he finds instead opens his eyes to one certain answer. His path in life.

Beyond The Book had to be a strong story because it’s the last story of the collection. If it didn’t do a good job, then that’s the last thing the readers will remember. Luckily, Freudenberg nailed it. It was SO good! It raised questions, as the first tale did, about humanity, friends, family, and one question that never really crossed my mind. Will Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media matter or even be around when we’re old and gray? Even if it is, will any of it mater?

I’d read this book if it had another seven stories in it. I’d read it if it had thirty. Freudenberg has an interesting way of telling stories. Whether it be about military, underground bad guys, supernatural beings, and crazy backwood rednecks, he always writes a good story.

When I first approached Freudenberg to review this book, he offered it to me because he knew I’m a soon-to-be father. He knew that it would speak to me on that level (it can most certainly be appreciated by any and all that love horror, though). There were some stories that made me wonder how I’d handle the situation with Philip (my son). Freudenberg’s debut collection deserves a place on your (digital or physical) bookshelf. The more time that passes and the more I reflect on this book, I only come back to one conclusion. I smile and think: That was a good book.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
201 reviews3 followers
November 22, 2019
This is not Mr Freudenberg’s first published work, but it is my first experience with him. He has appeared in anthologies such as How to Cook a Baby, The Black Room Manuscripts, Dark Satanic Mills and The Sinister Horror Anthology so there’s plenty for you to get your teeth into already but this one is a collection of his stories alone and I really appreciate the opportunity to get a book of horror shorts by just one person.

The reason I like the opportunity to get my hands on shorts by one particular author over anthologies is simply that it’s easier for me to gauge their style, I find that sometimes when it’s one author after another it’s difficult to follow the different writing styles. They are however a brilliant way to get some variety and to discover new authors you might have previously overlooked, or certainly from the author’s point of view, that anthology might be their gateway into the published world.

So, the book itself is wonderfully simple, the artwork has enough simplicity that paired with the stories in the book that in itself becomes kind of creepy, normally you’d see this sort of artwork and think of a child’s drawing but immediately when paired with horror it becomes something more.

The stories themselves are very well written, Freudenberg draws us in immediately with a heart wrenching story “Something Akin to Despair” now, because they’re shorts I don’t want to say too much so I’m just going to outline the basics of how I felt about them and then you can read them yourselves. This story has a scifi theme and is about isolation, honestly it’s the best way I’ve seen this situation explored, and the title suits it down to the ground. It’s a beautifully put together story and the imagery within it is strong. What I like about it is the strength it starts the book off with, like a gut punch when you’ve just answered the door, you know it’s time to sit down and listen.

The next story, “A Bitter Parliament is another very interesting story. I guess if I was to aliken it to anything it would be The Birds, don’t worry though, it’s not The Birds. What I like about this story is the setting of it and the way the author has carried out the telling of the tale, it’s just so effortlessly carries the imagery over and that’s my favourite thing about reading.

Now, even though I’d like to I’m not going to write about every story, usually I just choose a selection and in this book’s case it’s really difficult because I actually enjoyed every one of the stories in this book.

So the next one is “Milkshake” and pay attention when you read it because there are two stories in this book which link up, and this is one of them. I really liked this one, the portrayal of confusion, revulsion and panic are clear in this story. I like the contrast between the characters and once again the imagery is key.

My favourite story in this book has to be “The Teppenyaki of Truth” I loved this one, I know I’m droning on about imagery but the theme of this story IS imagery. The way the author ties everything together nurturing a feeling of horror whilst keeping it artistic is fantastic, almost effortless. If you pick up this book for nothing else, pick it up to read this story. I loved it!

These stories are short enough that you can squeeze them in travelling to work, during a lunch break or before bed, you’re not going to be tied down for hours trying to get to a point where you can leave it, although you’ll probably want to read the next story and the next once you’ve started. It’s definitely a page turner and it should definitely be read. I’ll definitely be looking for more by Mr Freudenberg!
Profile Image for Priya Sharma.
Author 106 books197 followers
November 22, 2019
Andrew Freudenberg's collection is his own spin on classic horror tropes such as vampires, zombies, cannibals and hauntings.
The more restrained, emotional stories like "Pater in Tenebris" and "Nose to the Window", which explore fatherhood in the most extreme of circumstances, are my favourites here. The latter demonstrating his skill for endings. "The more graphic tales - "Milkshake" and "Meet Sweets" - aren't to my taste (pun intended), but will please fans of more extreme horror.
I was particularly intrigued by the bonkers energy of "The Last Patrol". This crazy mash-up of gladiatorial clowns featured three disenfranchised, damaged men. I wanted more of their relationship with other, not just their past, and also to see the whole of that crazy circus. That could be a whole collection in itself.
Profile Image for Leonie.
Author 6 books8 followers
June 25, 2021

This is where I would post that gif of the dude leaning out of a cubicle in an office, chewing a sandwich and giving the thumbs up. (If I could figure out how.)
Profile Image for Tony.
565 reviews18 followers
December 1, 2019
I find reviewing anthologies take up more time than I can spare, so often avoid them unless it is something I genuinely want to read. Occasionally Andrew Freudenberg and I cross paths in the online horror reviewing community, so I approached his debut anthology My Dead and Blackened Heart with some interest, curious to see how a fellow reviewer handled himself on the other side of the literary fence. A number of the inclusions had previously been published in well-respected anthologies including Great British Horror 2: Dark Satanic Mills (Black Shuck Books, 2017), Splatterpunk Saints (2013), and The Black Room Manuscripts Volume Three by the Sinister Horror Company (2018) a popular collection which genre authors are always delighted to feature in. The Sinister Horror Company is also responsible for My Dead and Blackened Heart.

I normally read anthologies slowly, often rotating with a novel of two, I broke that habit with this collection and Andrew Freudenberg should take that as a major compliment. I whizzed through the 137-pages featuring fourteen stories, completing it in a couple of sittings. My Dead and Blackened Heart’s major strength lies within the sheer breadth of the content matter, when one story concludes the reader has little idea of what treat awaits within the next. That was an unexpected and unpredictable pleasure to read. Because the majority were relatively short it was very easy to start “just one more” and the stories were rapidly eaten up and the collection sadly finished. The occasional sequence was slightly rough around the edges, but this is part of the charm anthologies often offer. Ultimately was an exceptionally engaging and very easy to read mix which wore its (blackened) heart on its sleeve. Be aware though, some stories are incredibly dark, with bleak and uncompromising endings.

I’m going to pick out some of my favourites (which were many) and start with the deliciously unpleasant Milkshake and its sequel Meat Sweets which pops up later in the collection. Reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s Pig, Joseph D’Lacey’s Meat and even a taste of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, after the death of a parent Louis is sent to live with his extended family in the countryside. Life on the farm is far from what he expected; Louis is shocked when he finds out this is not a normal family business and his cousin Gideon and uncle Moses do not farm sheep. These were two of the gorier inclusions in the collection but were topped by the decidedly brutal Teppenyaki of Truth in which the reader needs to be prepared for torture and gleeful dismemberment in a splatterpunk style story. Turner, a dodgy gangster with a shady past, is invited to an establishment in the middle of nowhere believing a new job awaits. However, what lurks inside is much more unsavoury and Turner’s indiscretions are just about to catch up with him. Combined, these were probably the most gruesome entries in the anthology.

The theme of family and the disintegration of the family unit links many of the entries, often with children playing a key role, Pater in Tenebris was a powerful example of this. Like several of the other stories, the reader is dropped into a dicey situation and little explanation is given into how circumstances arrived at that moment, in fact none is required, and we can use our own imagination. A father and his family hide in a fortified house after a zombie holocaust and when the story opens the main character has been scratched and is slowly becoming infected, what follows deals with the fallout. This is a moving meditation on the lengths the father goes to save his wife and kids, concluding with both a knock-out and heart-breaking ending.

Similarly, in Nose to the Window proceedings open with an unexplained environmental catastrophe with Greg and his young daughter Zoe escaping the burning city, making an odd detour to visit the grave of his late wife. Along the way they meet early signs of civilisation beginning to collapse in what was a moving road-trip which never gave any indication there was going to be gold or a silver lining at the end of the rainbow. Both Pater in Tenebris and Nose to the Window have similar themes of fathers struggling to defend their families in tragic circumstances which are beyond their control.

Many of the stories make very effective use of children; none better that The Cardiac Ordeal which deals with the nightmare parents dread the most, the disappearance of a child. Once it gets going the tale has all the hallmarks of a pulp horror story, but it also expresses perfectly the horrible helplessness individuals feel in such a terrifying situation and the blame-game which might follow. Shane and Linda are happily married, with financial difficulties and a two-year old daughter, out of the blue she disappears from their flat whilst Shane is at work. Linda is distraught and the police are flummoxed. Then, unexpectedly, a neighbour who Shane has never seen before offers to help, but at a terrible price. This was an outstanding story with another haunting ending. In a complete change of pace, Charlie’s Turn, two little boys discover an injured German soldier trapped in a tree after his plane crashed in a local forest with peer pressure as a background theme. This was one of the shortest entries in the collection and might have been spun out further as the reader is left dangling with the poor German, on the other hand let your imagination do the work.

Sticking with the Second World War period and returning to the theme of missing children, Hope Eternal features an invalided soldier searching the ruins of a blitzed London of his missing daughter after being informed that his wife was dead, but perhaps even worse, was provided no information on his daughter’s fate or whereabouts, but like the parents in The Cardiac Ordeal, will go to any lengths to find her. Something Akin to Despair abandons the war and time-warps into space with a low-key study of loneliness, the sole survivor of a disaster on a spaceship wanders the empty corridors, realising he many never talk to another human being ever again. In A Bitter Parliament Dan and Maria are looking for a quiet weekend away in a rented cottage with their dog Shark when they realise things are quite not right, before long they will be wishing they were anywhere but there, even the spaceship in Hope Eternal, would be preferable than the fate which awaits them.

The final two I will name-check are the only inclusions which might be regarded as anything close to the traditional ghost story. The very short, Beyond the Book, concerns a 92-year-old man who has been using Facebook for forty years and the online friendship he has with Bob, whom he has corresponded with for many years, but never met. Us early users of Facebook have been using the system since the early days of 2007, so perhaps this sad fate awaits us! Finally, in Scorch we have a good, old fashioned, haunted house story. Toby and Lisa are a young homeless couple who have been living on the streets for a few weeks when they discover an, invitingly empty, house. There might be no other people, but they are by no means alone.

Overall My Dead and Blackened Heart is a very fine debut collection brimming with great stories and clever ideas which are very easy to read, some meditating on parenthood and the threat to the family. This excellent anthology highlights the beauty of the short story; they play by their own rules and you can make them as dark and as uncompromising as you choose, with endings which tread the boards between bleak and nihilistic. This collection has a number of these and no smiley happy people. Along the way My Dead and Blackened Heart covers considerable ground, from traditional horror through splatterpunk, zombies, war, gangsters and dark science fiction. It is well worth checking out.
Profile Image for Robert Holt.
Author 4 books13 followers
July 17, 2022
Great collection of stories, several of which I have read previously, sharing a few Table of Contents with Mr. Freudenberg. The story telling is powerful and the content is extreme and grotesque. If that is the type of read you are looking for, then you have found it.
Profile Image for Kelly Rickard.
378 reviews9 followers
July 22, 2022
Enjoyable and horrific at the same time. Lots of short stories here to really get your teeth into. This is the first book I've read by Andrew Freudenberg and won't be the last.
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

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