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A Good and Useful Hurt Paperback – February 21, 2012

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Editorial Reviews Review

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; 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.


"Aric Davis has done something wonderful. He's brought a new and unique perspective to the traditional ghost story, and it would be a shame to miss out."--John Rector author of The Grove, The Cold Kiss, and Already Gone

"Davis writes with passion and artistry - wielding his pen as skillfully as his protagonist wields his tattooist's needles. The layer of mystical and dream-state connections that emerges after the ashes have been injected take the narrative to a fascinating and metaphysical level." Al from White Rhino Report

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: 47North (February 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161218202X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612182025
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (298 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,290,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Aric Davis is married with one daughter and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he worked for sixteen years as a body piercer; he now writes full time. A punk rock aficionado, Davis does anything he can to increase awareness of a good band. He likes weather cold enough to need a sweatshirt but not a coat, and friends who wear their hearts on their sleeves. In addition to reading and writing, he also enjoys roller coasters, hockey, and a good cigar.

Aric is the author of seven books: From Ashes Rise: A Novel of Michigan, Nickel Plated, A Good and Useful Hurt, The Black Death: A Dead Man Novella, Rough Men, Breaking Point, The Fort and Tunnel Vision.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on March 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I am not a tattoo/body piercing kind of girl, and "A Good and Useful Hurt" is not a book that would typically appeal to me. However, I was intrigued by the summary and the very cool cover art, so I gave it a try. I'm glad I did.

The story is set in Michigan a tattoo parlor which is owned by a guy named Mike. He employs two other people at the shop and eventually hires Deb to be a new piercer. Mike doesn't expect to fall for Deb, especially because he's still haunted by the memory of his former girlfriend who killed herself in the apartment they shared together. But fall for Deb Mike does, and the two of them appear to be on the verge of something quite spectacular. Meanwhile, Mike has been getting some interesting clientele in his shop, who request that they be tattooed with the ashes of their dead loved ones. When tragedy strikes the tattoo shop once more, the ashes become much more significant to Mike that he ever thought possible.

This book isn't full of beautiful flowing prose by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a good story with very dynamic characters. There's a whole serial killer aspect to the book as well, which was a turn-off for me because I don't enjoy that kind of thing, but it was well done. I liked the first half of the book better than the second, which takes on a much more paranormal dimension after a shocking event that occurs at the halfway point of the novel. It's all a little out there, but still good. Again, not my usual type of reading material, but I am glad I gave it a try. There's some good stuff here.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Xina143 VINE VOICE on February 6, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ok, to be honest I wasn't sure what to expect, but the premise sounded interesting. I like tattoos, I have a number of them myself. I have enjoyed shows about tattoo artists, so I thought this would at least be an interesting read.

It was, and so much more. Aric Davis has two other books out, though I have not read them (just bought Nickel Plated for my kindle), but I enjoyed his writing style. There have been a few other authors I have read that I have felt were too simplistic (I almost felt as if I were reading an elementary school primer geared towards adults), and though Davis is, I didn't get the impression that I had from other authors. I felt that Davis was writing this way because he doesn't see a need for overly, pretentious descriptions. Where some authors take two pages to describe the scenery, Davis did it in half a page and used the other 1 1/2 pages to further the story.

Mike is a tattoo artist with a haunted past-his ex killed herself in their apartment. It has made him melancholy, able to function, but not really able to enjoy his life. And then Deb walks in and applies for the job of body piercer. Mike likes her sardonic wit, and her ability to get him out of his comfort zone. They fall in love, and move in together, which makes what happens next heartbreaking. Read the book, I won't spoil it for you.

There are elements of the supernatural in here, but I appreciate that Davis didn't waste time trying to think up some cheesy explanation. Mike simply accepted it for what it was-a chance for him to redeem himself in his own eyes.

But what I really liked was something I read at the end in the author's acknowledgments.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Ann P. VINE VOICE on February 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A Good and Useful Hurt is not a book I would normally have picked to read. Though I greatly admire tattoo artists because some of them are truly gifted artists, I tend to think their lifestyle is too different from mine for me to understand or enjoy reading about, but this book . . . . well, this book will go on my top five EVER list of books, because I truly loved it. The storyline was superb. The characters were . . . . . fascinating, and I learned a lot about that line of business. I likely will view tattoo artists in an entirely different light from now on.

I hope this book goes on to become a New York Times Bestseller, so I can say, "I told you so."

Buy it, read it, love it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 29, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Wow! What can you say about A GOOD AND USEFUL HURT? It's a book that flirts with being both a love story and a thriller. In reality it's both of these as well as a tale of the supernatural with a helping of contemporary horror, an unsettling journey into the twisted mind of a serial killer and a vivid exploration behind the scenes of a tattoo parlor that may well answer the question that some have pondered for quite a while, "What makes people want to tattoo and pierce their bodies and what significance do those tattoos/piercings hold for their wearers"? Particularly fascinating was the idea of clients mixing a portion of the ashes of a deceased loved one into the ink being used for a tattoo in order to feel nearer the dearly departed.

Davis has created a very unconventional protagonist in tattoo artist Mike and presents an unusual glimpse into a world that Stephen King would undoubtedly feel quite comfortable visiting. The fact that the only central character in the novel whose surname appears more than once is the killer is telling. Perhaps it was Davis's intent make the tattoo parlor group more relatable hence the reason they are referred to as just Mike, Deb, Lamar, Becky, Doc, etc. (as you would refer to a friend). While the lives of this group are just a bit south of what most folks consider normal and average, author Aric Davis manages to subtly draw you into their world and causes you to continually adjust your thinking ultimately seeing them not as weirdoes or outsiders, but as folks who possess a deep commitment to one another and whose lives are filled with love, laughter and friendship.
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