I read a lot of horror fiction, but the scariest book I’ve read is a work of non-fiction titled, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat. This book relates several rare psychiatric cases, including cases of extreme amnesia where individuals have lost all ties to the past and live in a perpetual state of the present, uncertain of who they are or their place in a confusing world that lacks context.
Goddamn that gives me goosebumps. The thought of waking to a state of consciousness that lacks identity, recognizes nothing, and has no idea where it is or what it’s supposed to be doing. As Desirina puts it in her novella, “To live in this nightmare without a story would be too much to bear.”
My grandparents have all passed on, but while they were alive I used to visit their homes and file through their old photo albums, marveling at all the grainy, black and white images of men and women from a different era. Try as I might, I couldn’t place myself in those pictures. I couldn’t imagine what their life must have been like all those years ago.
I read Paul Tremblay’s highly acclaimed novel, A Head Full of Ghosts, a few weeks ago and still find myself thinking about it. That’s high grade voodoo right there. Book is straight up haunting me.
Therefore, I’m not only writing this in an attempt to explain what’s causing it to linger, I want to get this shit out of my head.
On the surface, Tremblay’s book is a fun, entertaining story about a family dealing with a daughter who is either possessed or mentally ill. It’s told through the adult recollections of the possessed girl’s younger sister. Recollections that appear to be somewhat confused, and almost certainly unreliable. This woman is traumatized by what she experienced as a child, even if she doesn’t realize it. Pay attention to the way the woman she’s narrating her story to is reacting and you can see how strange and damaged she’s become. For me, that’s the most horrific part.
You hear people say: write fearlessly. I never knew what that meant.
What, write like someone is holding a gun to the back of your head?
Write like you’ll die if you don’t?
Sure, do those things. But that’s not what writing fearlessly means. It means writing what your heart tells you to knowing people won’t like it.
It means writing like Robert McCammon.
Inspiration can be hard to come by, and sometimes – just sometimes – we need to look beyond books to find it. Here are ten documentaries about art and creative expression that cracked my head open and filled it with magic juice. I hope they do the same for you.
I went to the Decatur Book Festival this year in Atlanta, the largest independent book festival in the country. No telling how many books they had for sale. Thousands for sure.
I bought one: Mucho Mojo by Joe R. Lansdale. I got the best of the bunch.
Now listen, I have read several Lansdale books, and will undoubtedly read many, many more. And, to be honest, I could have written this post about any one of them. They all stack up. Mucho Mojo just happens to be the book that led me to this laptop in a stiff-legged stupor and got me typing. It was either do that or give a standing ovation to an empty room.
There is one word that sums up why this collection of novellas made it on my recommended reading list: craftsmanship.
No, fuck that. Throw fresh, fun, entertaining, and memorable in there, too.
But, craftsmanship comes to mind first.
“The End In All Beginnings,” by horror vet, John F.D. Taff, is a well thought-out, finely crafted collection of stories that belong together. Mr. Taff is working with a theme here, exploring the greatest mystery facing mankind. Or it’s greatest curse. The fact that we die.
The size of this book, much like the little pond at the end of the storied lane, is deceiving. There is so much more packed within these pages than one would guess by merely glimpsing it on the shelf. You must crack the cover to see the true scale of the world Mr. Gaiman has imagined. But beware. Do that, and you’ll fall inside.
I’ve got a dirty secret. I didn’t want to like this book. I formed an immediate prejudice against it that still shames me. Why? I was envious, plain and simple.
I received my hardcover edition of The Troop as a welcoming gift upon arriving at the 2014 World Horror’s Convention in Portland, Oregon. This was my first time attending the convention, and I had come, in part, to pitch my first novel length work of fiction (which has since been picked up!). To me, the World Horror Convention seemed to be a celebration of the small press – the tribe (troop) of men and women just brave, or twisted, enough to champion tales of horror.