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A Good and Useful Hurt by Aric Davis

A Good and Useful Hurt

by Aric Davis

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Why did I read it? It seemed like it could be an interesting story and it was recommended for those who appreciated Stieg Larsson, though, having read it, I am now trying to figure out why.

What's is about? Mike is a tattoo artist with his own shop, who is haunted by visions of Sid, his girlfriend who committed suicide. When he hires Debs to take on the piercing and body modification side of things, he starts to live again. Mike doesn't really question it when he receives a request from a customer to tattoo some of the ashes of his son as part of the tattoo of a baseball. When a serial rapist and murderer takes the niece of a friend, Mike has a decision to make.

What did I like? The writing style and very short chapters make it quick to read, but some of the subject matter made me a bit squeamish at times; a little less detail would have been fine with me, especially with the body modification, and the fate of one of the characters near the end. It's not an original storyline, but it approaches the hunt for a serial killer in an unusual way, exploring the spiritual aspects of tattooing and body modification along the way, in a manner I've not heard mention of before, making this book a curiosity for that alone.

What didn't I like? It cannot say why, but this story just didn't appeal to me, despite the promise of the synopsis and the reviews I'd read. I should like to make it clear, I read both positive and negative reviews, yet still thought A Good and Useful Hurt would be worth reading. Several times, I put the book down, as I just did not care about the resolution of the main plotline, or anything else pertaining to the story, so found other distractions. I can't say I was bored, just wholly disinterested at times.

The characterisations are a bit flat at times, though perhaps I was expected to sense a distance between the main character and his friends. Mike seemed such a loner really. Personally, I just couldn't connect with any of the characters in the book.

It's not a bad book, nor is it a great book, and Aric Davis adds a new gimmick to a done-to-death* genre, but, it just didn't grab, nor hold my attention.

Would I recommend it? Not really, no. I'm not sure to whom this book might appeal. ( )
  Sile | Mar 5, 2012 |
One of the best things about being an established blogger is that you get to read new books from authors you might not have known about otherwise. A Good and Useful Hurt was one of those kinds of books for me.

Honestly, it kind of blew me away and I didn't expect that. I accepted the book for review because Aric Davis is a body piercer and is covered with tattoos. Since I have many piercings and tattoos, I wanted to read what he'd written, particularly because of the body modification element. I wondered if he could write about what that's all about because it's not necessarily about getting a tattoo of a butterfly on your ass to make your boyfriend happy.

Happily, Mr. Davis does his best writing as he talks about the spiritual side of body modification - the memorial tattoos with ashes in them, the extreme piercings with a significance to the wearer and sometimes to a relationship, the energy exchange that occurs between client and artist, and the sharp difference between tattoos and art that happens to be on your body. For someone who's never been into these kinds of spiritual practices it should be an eyeopener.

Turns out the story is great, too! It manages to combine all sorts of unusual elements into a great story that I could not stop reading. I was very attached to the characters and I wanted to know how things turned out for them.

Mr. Davis has a great imagination and writes clear and honest prose, placing a tattoo shop at the center of his mystery. Best of all, the tattoo shop is a place you'd like to be filled with people you'd like to hang out with even though they might look weird and scary to you. For me it was a place I'd like to get tattooed.

Wonderful book and well worth reading even if (especially if) some of the subject matter is foreign to you. ( )
1 vote kraaivrouw | Feb 19, 2012 |
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"Fuck art this is war."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 161218202X, Paperback)

A Q&A with Aric Davis

Question: In A Good and Useful Hurt, Mike and those he tattoos can communicate with the dead by mixing ashes of those who have passed in ink and tattooing with it. You have worked as a professional body piercer for 16 years in various tattoo shops, so how much of this book is inspired from real life?  Can you tell us where the idea of communicating with the dead this way came from? 

Aric Davis: I have seen ashes tattooed in skin, I have pierced people with jewelry worn by a fallen partner, and I have seen countless memorial tattoos. Without sharing too much--this one isn't my story--we once had a seemingly endless stream of customers visiting us to be tattooed with an image of a kitchen appliance. A young man that they all knew had passed, and apparently he'd spoken at length about being tattooed with that very appliance. Those tattoos likely seem very silly to those who don't know their meaning. All that said, the idea came specifically from two customers who had lost a son in the war. Neither of them had ever considered being tattooed, and they came in for all of the right reasons, namely, to start recovering. They not only were clients, they became friends, and what was an inescapable tragedy for their family became a blessing to all of us, because the tattoos seemed to work. No ghost stories there, something even better. They chose to live.

Q: A Good and Useful Hurt starts out as a love story set in a tattoo shop, then evolves into a supernatural manhunt complete with ghosts and a serial killer. Was it always your intention to have the beginning of the book be such a stark juxtaposition to the end?

AD: Believe it or not, it was. The first hints to this are revealed in the first line of the book, and to be quite honest, all of the quirky build up with the customers is meant to ready the readers for some really out there stuff. The story as a concept was first written as sort of a tattoo ghost story to pass around the tattoo shop on a very slow Halloween back in 2008. It was called "Ink." The guys at work loved it, but to me it was too fast-paced. The idea was stuck in my head like a rotten tooth--it wouldn't stop screaming at me. Writing from a short was something I'd never done, I don't outline and rarely know exactly where I'm going with something, so to have a finish set in place was a new thing, and kind of nice.

Q: You chose to dedicate the book to the young women who were murdered near your home in Grand Rapids last year. What message do you have for those who have been the victims of terrible crimes?

AD: The message stated in the book by the character Doc, and later mentioned in the afterword, is that we as a society place far too much emphasis on those who commit horrible acts, rather than those who were destroyed by them. I would much prefer children be taught the names of ten people killed in the 9/11 attacks, than only learn the name of the man who is assumed to have planned them.

Q: Your catalogue includes a play, a YA mystery novel, regular appearances on "The Five Hundred" (a short story site); you’ve been published on the wsj.com; and now you've written a horror novel.  With such a diverse collection, how would you describe your style? Who would you recommend read A Good and Useful Hurt?

AD:  I think I write what makes sense--to me--at the time that I write it. For whatever reason that has worked out to be this unintentionally eclectic style of writing. I just love the hell out of it. I can't pick where my muse takes me, regrettably, but I do love the ride. I think a reader for A Good and Useful Hurt should be ready for a fairly rough voyage, and should also remember that as dark as things get, there is always some light left.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:04 -0400)

When tattoo artist Mike meets body piercer Deb, the last thing he expected was romance. That's what he finds though, as the two follow their off kilter careers and love life into disaster. A growing trend in the tattoo shop, customers getting tattooed with the ashes of deceased loved ones, could offer a solution. This isn't art, its war, and Mike and Deb will stop at nothing in their quest for revenge, even if it means stepping outside the known boundaries of life and death.… (more)

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