Guest Blogger: Dane Jackson
In my previous life, I was the moderator for the Borders Sci-Fi Blog, Babel Clash. With Borders going under and my employment over, my venue for promoting the books and authors I love has been temporarily closed up. Until I get a new blog up and running, I’m happy to lend my services to any and all as a guest blogger. At the end of the day, I’ll always be a bookseller, so it’s in my blood to make sure I let everyone know about the books I’m passionate about.
Aside from working on Babel Clash, I was also the Horror Buyer for Borders, which means the horror genre is near and dear to my heart. The one good thing about being unemployed right now (aside from the extra time with my daughter of course) is that I have more time to read some of the books I never got a chance to read while working. One such book is by local Michigan author Joseph Williams. His latest is a book of short stories set in and around the metro Detroit area called Detroit Macabre (available now from Post Mortem Press). While reading through these stories, hints of Lovecraft, Poe, and Matheson came to mind. If Detroit Macabre is any indication of what we can expect from Joseph Williams in the future, I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us next.
I recently sat down with Joe to discuss a few things about the genre and his work. Below, find Joe’s answers to my five questions.
What is it about Detroit that lends itself so well to the horror genre? Why do you think the area hasn’t been exploited in the genre?
I think Detroit is a perfect setting for horror and am really surprised that the genre hasn’t really been tapped into in the city other than Thomas Ligotti. There’s such a gothic, creepy atmosphere around every corner, especially in the architecture. Not to mention the blocks upon blocks of abandoned houses and businesses that give it a sort of zombie apocalypse feel. I think being a Clive Barker fan and reading a lot of his stories that take place in New York (early stuff, mostly) and Liverpool made me look at the city differently. It seems to me that there is an inherent fear in outsiders who come into the city and a survivalist mentality from the people who’ve stayed there. Trevor Snyder communicates this perfectly in his introduction to Detroit Macabre.
I think the main reason people haven’t really explored horror in Detroit is because the city already has a reputation as a horrific place. The residents of Detroit don’t want to say anything that will reflect badly on the city even if it is the truth. There’s also this mentality among many Detroit citizens that they don’t want any outsiders to come in while in the same breath trying to convince people to visit. It’s troubling at times how much spite some of the population has for people coming into the suburbs (the very people who come down to pump money into their economy), but that is a different issue. Residents of Detroit want to remove the horror element from the city because they believe it makes a bad reputation worse, and since few people really visit Detroit from out of state, not many people get to see the landscapes of the city that lend themselves so much to horror. I also think that horror writers in Michigan (myself included to an extent) have a tendency to write about Northern Michigan where there is so much wilderness to work with, kind of like how so many horror writers, even ones who don’t live there, have started to use Maine as a setting for horror because of King.
I caught some flack from Mickey McCanham at WXYT Channel 7 because he says my book takes a ‘cheap shot’ at Detroit, even though he told me he loved the book and can’t wait for my next one to come out. People in Detroit these days are really sensitive about the city’s image. Other than the musings of a character that the reader is supposed to dislike, I don’t say anything particularly negative about the city throughout the book. It is merely a setting for stories. My biggest problem with Mick is that he didn’t say I was taking a ‘cheap shot’ at Northville, Grosse Pointe, Oscoda, Walled Lake, or anywhere else where I set my stories. Just Detroit, and only because people have a tendency to be oversensitive to what they deem as criticism, which is why no one seems to write horror there.
How would you describe Detroit Macabre to readers who may not be familiar with it?
Detroit Macabre is a book of short stories for fans of classic and modern horror alike. It has a little bit of everything: zombies, serial killers, witches, ghost trains, etc, plus illustrations by Benjamin DeFever and a great introduction by Trevor Snyder. I think fans of The Twilight Zone will really enjoy a few of the stories in particular. The book includes my Detroit zombie story “The Elevator”, which was recently released in a collection of zombie stories called Dead Souls with an introduction by Stoker Award winner Jonathan Maberry, and my novella Number Six which originally appeared in an anthology called The Road to Hell. I think the book covers a wide range of horror themes and devices that should appeal to just about anyone who has read within the genre in the past. But of course I think that.
Your book of short stories was put out by Post Mortem Press. Can you speak a bit about them and what it’s like being on an independent press?
Post Mortem Press is an indie press based out of Cincinnati, OH. They started off sticking specifically to the horror genre but have made an effort to branch out recently into all sorts of other topics, from science fiction to true crime. One thing in particular that I love about PMP is the dedication of Eric Beebe and his wife, Stephanie, to support the authors within their talent pool and really use every resource available to them (and some that aren’t) to promote the press. I can’t name a single convention within the horror/comic/science fiction fields that Eric hasn’t taken a booth at to promote the books. He also has driven up to Michigan and stayed in a hotel twice on his own dime to come to events for me, and that is the personal touch and dedication that many authors don’t feel with a major publishing house…or really, 98% of independent presses, either. There’s a real sense of community within the writers for PMP, too, that I have never felt anywhere else. I’ve never met any of them in person, and yet they are all quick to offer encouraging words at just the right time.
There are pros and cons to working with an independent press, just as there are pros and cons to working with a major publishing house. I’m responsible for doing a lot of my own promoting (though Eric has offered much more than any other independent press in that respect) and there isn’t really a budget for me to do any of it. Any review copies sent out come out of my pocket. But I also love having a personal relationship with Eric and a personal stake in PMP. It allows me to work on some projects that might not have tried before because they aren’t necessarily horror or won’t necessarily catch the eye of an agent/publisher who is only looking for the next Harry Potter or Twilight. All in all, I love it.
What five books should everyone who considers themselves horror fans have in their library and why?
Books of Blood – Clive Barker
The Shining – Stephen King
At the Mountains of Madness – HP Lovecraft
I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
Ghost Road Blues – Jonathan Maberry
It was really difficult to narrow it down to five (Ghost Story by Peter Straub should get honorable mention or something, as well as Off Season by Jack Ketchum because I still can’t go to a cabin up north without believing I will be eaten by cannibals).
Books of Blood is like nothing I’ve ever read before. Some of the stories in it are as close to perfect (in my opinion) as a horror writer can get. It isn’t just the visceral scenes in the book that can turn anyone’s stomach but the beauty and ease of Barker’s prose.
The Shining is the best haunted house (hotel) story ever, period, and Stephen King is my favorite writer.
At the Mountains of Madness is a classic by one of the greatest horror writers to ever live. You can tell that this book in particular inspired John Carpenter’s The Thing and The Terror by Dan Simmons, who is another amazing talent.
I Am Legend is the preeminent vampire story even though it has been butchered in several different film adaptations. Anything by Matheson is a safe bet, but this is my favorite.
Ghost Road Blues is the first book in the Pine Deep trilogy and I absolutely love that series. Maberry also has a great zombie series (Joe Ledger) starting with Patient Zero.
The Dark Tower series by Stephen King is my favorite collection of books ever, but it’s hard to confine them to horror because there are so many different genres used, otherwise they would be my numbers one through seven.
What can fans expect from you next?
Right now, I’m working on re-writes for a book of short story adaptations of Tea Leaf Green songs. TLG is one of the best American bands out there, period, and deserves a lot more attention than they seem to be getting. It’s a huge thrill for me because they’ve been my favorite band for a while now and it’s kind of surreal getting to work on a project that allows me to listen to hours and hours and hours of their songs and being able to say ‘I’m working’. The book has been progressing slowly but I’m hoping it will be released sometime in early 2012.
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