At Home in the Dark and Skin & Bones

Why hello there, Dear Readers!
I hope November is treating you well. I binged on horror movies last month, and a favorite of mine is Night of the Creeps, where the exasperated detective fighting the deadly menace answers the phone with “Thrill me.” What’s thrilled you, lately?

I’m thrilled to have a story in Lawrence Block’s latest anthology, At Home in the Dark, a cross-genre dark fiction collection including stories by LB himself, Joe Hill, Joyce Carol Oates, Hilary Davidson, Richard Chizmar, Duane Swierczynski, Warren Moore, Wallace Stroby, Ed Park, Laura Benedict, Joe R. Lansdale and more. My story is the first in a new series, “The Cucuzza Curse,” following mob fixer Joe Cucuzza as he investigates a deadly pizzeria rivalry, where the mal occhio–the evil eye–has been employed. Inspired by my time working at the docks and a tribute to the late Anthony Bourdain, this story was a joy to write, however dark it may be, and I think you’ll dig it. At Home in the Dark will first be issued in a limited edition of 500 hardcovers from Subterranean Press, and will be available for pre-order soon. For now, you can check out the snazzy cover:

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LB always puts together a fine anthology and I’m honored to be in my third. Getting asked for a story by one of your literary heroes turns up the pressure to write your absolute very best, and the critics agree. “The Big Snip” from Dark City Lights was chosen for The Year’s Best Crime & Mystery Stories 2016, and Library Journal singled out “Truth Comes Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind” in Alive in Shape and Color as “stunning,” in a collection full of gems by literary legends. So I hope you’ll enjoy “The Cucuzza Curse” as much as I enjoyed writing it, because you’ll be seeing more of Joey Cucuzza…

What’s a cucuzza? It’s a large green Italian squash shaped like a baseball bat, that we make into a savory vegetable stew, but thanks to its size and shape, it is also slang for the male member, by those who indulge in wishful thinking:

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Hold onto your cucuzzas! (or the nearest similarly shaped object) there’s one more book to talk about. This one’s been in the works for five years or so, and I’m glad it is finally seeing the light. Skin & Bones, edited by Dana Kabel, will be released this month from Down & Out Books. It includes stories by Lawrence Block, Patti Abbott, Jason Starr, Angel Luis Colon, Stuart Neville, Marietta Miles, Joe Clifford, S.A. Solomon, Rob Hart, Tess Makovesky, Tim Hall, Charles Ardai, Glenn Gray, Liam Sweeny, and the late Bill Crider, among others. My story is “The Cronus Club,” about an exclusive society of extreme epicureans. You can pre-order it from your local bookstore or the usual online suspects like Barnes & Noble, in ebook or paperback. Another snazzy cover, don’t you think?

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That should get you hungry for Thanksgiving, which I’ll be spending in Louisiana, as I put the final edits on Riff Raff, the second Jay Desmarteaux novel. Our two-fisted smart-cracking bruiser wades hip deep into the swamp to bushwhack his way to the heart of darkness in the delta, following the blood trail of his own evil lineage, and kill the tree at the root….

 

They Live, Nada, and “Eight O’Clock in the Morning”

John Carpenter’s They Live has been a favorite since I first saw it, and remains a pulp science fiction classic. My friend Tony Peyser told me it was based on a short story by Ray Nelson called “Eight O’Clock in the Morning,” which was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1966, long out of print. He also invented the propeller beanie hat, if you remember those.

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The story is very thin but of course, a very memorable premise of mind control and aliens among us. Carpenter filled it out a lot with Reagan-era class warfare from the yuppie class enslaving working people, and fed into the hatred of the soulless consumerists who inspired American Psycho. If you haven’t seen They Live, it’s a deserving classic for many reasons, and embraces its kitschy pulp roots, very much like the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The DVD is available on NetFlix.

You can read “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” here. In 1986 there was a comic adaptation by Bill Wray in Alien Encounters, which Carpenter saw and drew from. That’s where the infamous and silly final shot comes from. Instead of a girlfriend, Nada, played by Roddy Piper the pro wrestler, gets Keith David, one of my favorite actors, best known for playing Childs in Carpenter’s The Thing. When Nada wants him to “wear the glasses” that will awaken him from alien domination, they have a throwdown alley fight for at least five minutes, to play to Roddy’s wrestling strengths. It’s a lot of fun, and silly, and after so many mass shootings, Nada’s shotgun solution to the aliens in the infamous bank scene is a little creepy, but it’s as pure an action hero story as there ever was.

If you want to read the comic that inspired Carpenter, you can read it here. This is a snip:

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Happy Halloween from Pyewacket!

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Kim Novak and Pyewacket, her familiar from Bell, Book, and Candle

One of my favorite Halloween movies is Bell, Book, and Candle. Tonight I’ll be watching The Witch, though. I highly recommend it, if you like disturbing stories. It tells a tale straight from the Salem Witch trials, as if the stories told were truth, and it succeeds with chilling efficacy.

But if you don’t like being scared, here’s a very funny pastiche of Lovecraft and Schultz, by John Aegard, over at Strange Horizons:

The Great Old Pumpkin.

I loved it. And here’s my costume, the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. My favorite line isn’t why a raven is like a writing desk, but rather when Alice says, “I don’t think…”

and he quips. Then you shouldn’t talk!

Nasty fellow, that Hatter… lay off the mercury.

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