Cows - Matthew Stokoe's fearless first novel set a benchmark in gritty urban horror
In a decaying apartment: a mother, a son and a paralysed dog. Monstrously fat and murderously driven, referred to only as The Hagbeast, the mother employs her own unique version of dinnertime cuisine as she attempts to bring about the demise of her only child.
Steven sickens slowly, holed up in his room, watching perfect lives on TV, dreaming of what it would be like to be safe, to be happy, to be loved.... Dreaming of Brady Bunch perfection. His only companion Dog, the loyal canine his mother crippled with a brick.
In the apartment upstairs Lucy spends her nights searching for the toxins she knows are collecting inside her body, desperate to rid herself of them. When she enlists Steven's help to manipulate a piece of invasive medical apparatus, he begins to see that a better life might indeed be possible. Lucy could be his partner, they could make a home together, they could have a baby. They could be just like the folks on TV.
But that would mean surviving his nightly poisonings. That would mean killing his mother - no mean feat after a lifetime of smack-downs. Fortunately, a new job at the local slaughterhouse introduces him to Cripps, an insane foreman who preaches the gospel of self-empowerment through killing. Steven figures the way ahead is clear, figures it's goodbye Mommy. But there are cows living under the city, and when they come for Steven, he sets his sights a whole lot higher.
"If you enjoy the sensation of your jaw dropping to the floor in a combination of stupefaction, hilarity, and shock, Cows is your book. Matthew Stokoe has written a novel like no other I've ever read--appalling, funny, and possessed of a sense of outre violence that makes Joris-Karl Huysmans read like Louisa May Alcott."
-Scott Phillips, author of The Ice Harvest
"The word is out that Cows is every bit as dark and deranged as Iain Banks' classic The Wasp Factory. It's not: it's even more so. Possibly the most visceral novel ever written."
"...enormously disturbing and transcendently clever, Cows, a literally eviscerating portrait of life among the British lower classes, is revered internationally as one of the most daring English-language novels of the past few decades."
"Forget Bret Easton Ellis, Poppy Z Brite, and Dennis Cooper. That's kids stuff. If you want something truly repellent, try this."
"Underground literary shock-rocker Stokoe slaps his readers in the face with this bloody, truly disgusting diatribe against normalcy. On the bright side, there’s absolutely no pretense about what the book is aiming for..."