Forgotten Book: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes by Loren Estleman (1979)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes puts the world’s greatest detective on the doctor’s strange case.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 198th in my series of Forgotten Books.

Back in the mid 1980’s I thought I might end up as a regular writer of western novels. As a result, in 1984 Joe Lansdale and I ended up going to the Western Writers of America conference in Branson, Missouri. We spent a long Sunday driving from Dallas to Branson, talking the entire way. I heard stories that day which took years to appear in one form or another. I heard the story of The Night They Missed the Horror Show on that trip. I listened as Joe pitched The Magic Wagon to Pat LoBrutto in the cafeteria line for one of the meals. I met Jory Sherman and his wife Charlotte, who were writing two adult western series, Gunn and Bolt. Jory was talking with me about doing some of those titles but we never got beyond talking.

Among the people I met that weekend was Joe’s agent, Ray Peuchner. Ray had about a dozen clients there and I thought that someday soon I might be one of them. Ray’s most prestigious writer at that point was Loren Estleman.

I talked a lot with Loren that weekend. He told me about the first novel he sold, The Oklahoma Punk, and how it was from a minor publisher and was very hard to find. And he talked about Aces and Eights, his Spur award winning novel of Wild Bill Hickock, which he managed to write without once dealing with a horse. We talked mysteries too. His Amos Walker series of novels set n Detroit was underway. When I went back to Dallas, I found The Oklahoma Punk in the first bookstore I looked in.

The next WWA meeting was in San Antonio and I saw Loren again. We went book shopping in the city, where I served as the native guide to a large group of western writers. Wonderful things were found on that trip. The following year, it was Ft. Worth and I could not attend in the manner I had the previous two years. I got there briefly but I had to maintain my normal work schedule and the like. It was nowhere near as satisfying that year, and I never attended another WWA meeting. Nor did I write a western novel. I had ideas, but, being me, they remained unwritten.

A couple of years later, I found myself in the Detroit area for a couple of months. Loren lived nearby and I sent him a postcard with my information. He contacted me and we did a couple of dinners and spent a very pleasant day shopping for books in Ann Arbor. I have only seen him once or twice since then. But I enjoyed all the time we spent together.

So, long stories lead to shorter ones.

The other day while waiting for Sandi to appear in the local Cinco de Mayo parade, I spent some time in Front Street Books here in Alpine. I was killing time and enjoying the AC. I found a couple of paperbacks I was looking for and then chanced across a copy of this week’s book, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes, by John H. Watson, M.DS, as edited by Loren D Estleman.

This was Estleman’s fifth book, following The Oklahoma Punk, two westerns, and another Holmes title, Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, or, The Adventure of the Sanguinary Count. This copy was an first edition in a dust jacket — an ex-lending library copy with massive glue stains on the end papers — but for $4 I was not about to complain.

The novel features Holmes and Watson being initially retained by G. J, Utterson, an attorney for Dr. Henry Jekyll, who is violating some confidences. Dr. Jekyll has recently made a will leaving everything he owns to one Edward Hyde, a nasty, brutish character whom Uttwerson does not trust.

The pair follow Hyde and find him to be a loathsome character whom they believe is blackmailing Jekyll for his considerable fortune. But nothing they do can disclose much about Hyde, and Jekyll wants them to drop the case. He made the will voluntarily and is not being blackmailed.

Holmes and Watson are reinvigorated when Hyde apparently kills Sir Danvers Carew one day in full sight of various witnesses. Eventually, even Mycroft appears with a message from a royal personage – a very powerful female royal personage – who wants the case solved. The chase is on and plenty of action ensues, including a wonderful chase between two hansom cabs throughout a very busy London midday.

Sometimes it is hard for us as modern readers to remember that The Strange Case of Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was originally published as a mystery and the relationship between the two title characters was a total shock to Victorian readers. So, it is here to Holmes and Watson.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes is good read. Knowing the resolution, we readers get to enjoy seeing how Holmes is going to arrive at the highly improbable solution to the tale. I found it satisfying and well worth my time spent reading.

Check it out. Personally, I blame Mary Reilly (who does not appear in this book).

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Haunting Question: What’s the Scariest Short Story You’ve Ever Read?

Short stories may be the ultimate way to experience horror fiction.

Think about it. You typically consume a short story in one sitting, no breaks, no relief from the mounting tension and dread. If the tale’s a gripper, you don’t dare come up for air. But with a novel — even one you really like — the experience is spread out, sometimes over a couple of weeks. And each time you put down the book, the tension dissipates.

Not surprisingly, virtually every major horror writer, from Edgar Allan Poe to Laird Barron, has written in short form. Pieces such as Ray Bradbury’s “The Next in Line,” Stephen King’s “I am the Doorway” and H.P. Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu” all come to mind as my own early sources of chills — and writing inspiration.

With Halloween right around the corner, I asked other authors and editors to talk about the short stories that terrified them the most. The resulting selections make a great late-October reading list.

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Lisa Tuttle: Lisa Tuttle is an American-born science fiction, fantasy and horror author who currently resides in the United Kingdom. She has published more than a dozen novels, seven short story collections and several non-fiction titles. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the BSFA Award for Short Fiction and the Nebula Award for Best Short Story (which she refused).

The first thing I thought of when asked for the scariest short story I’d ever read was “The Fog Horn” by Gertrude Atherton. But then I realized no one under the age of 50 would truly appreciate just why it is so terrifying. So, to balance that out, I must add another. This one scared the socks off me when I first read it, aged about twelve, and it holds up very well today. I love ghost stories, but really, when you think about it, ghosts are not that scary, being unable to do very much. But there are exceptions, like “The Gentleman from Down Under” by L.P. Hartley.

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Joe McKinney: Joe McKinney, a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, is an author in many genres, including horror, zombie apocalypse tales, ghost stories, virus thrillers, crime and science fiction. He has written 17 novels, developed two collections of short stories, created a tale for a comic book, and been both published in and edited numerous anthologies.

Horror, if we’re being honest with ourselves, lives in the short story. That’s where the genre truly excels, and that’s why EVERY SINGLE MASTER OF HORROR has written in the short story genre. Yes, there are masterpieces in the novel genre. I grant you that. But the truly defining moments of horror’s graduation from fringe hack work to beloved cultural groupspeak come from the short story. So, if I had to pick just one, I’d give the nod to “Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner. I first encountered that story in an anthology I picked up in a used bookstore. At this point, I don’t have any chance of remembering the name of the anthology, but I absolutely remember the terror that went through me as I read that story for the first time. It was not only a brilliant character study, but a master class in developing the slow, creeping dread that makes horror so effective. It was only later, after I’d begun my own journey through professional publishing, that I realized that the story was also a thorough commentary — indeed, almost a satire — of the horror genre as it came of age in the ’70s and ’80s.

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Nate Southard: Nate Southard is the author of Down, Pale Horses, Just Like Hell and several others. His latest collection, Will the Sun Ever Come Out Again?, is available now from Broken River Books. His work has appeared in such venues as Cemetery Dance, Black Static and Thuglit.  A finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction, Nate lives in Austin, Texas.

The story that sticks with me the most is Paul Tremblay’s “The Teacher.” A new teacher accepts eight kids into a special class, one that involves a horrible video and an even worse lesson. While not what most might consider a “scary” story, “The Teacher” is the kind of tale that worms its way deep and infects you. Once I finished it, I couldn’t read again for a few days. The entire world felt wrong.

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Jeffrey Ford: Jeffrey Ford is an American writer whose works span genres including fantasy, sf and mystery. His stories and novels have been nominated multiple times for the World Fantasy Award, the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Award, the International Horror Guild Award, the Fountain Award, Shirley Jackson Award and the Edgar Allan Poe Award. He’s a graduate of Binghamton University, where he studied with the novelist John Gardner.

I don’t scare easy when it comes to fiction. The most scared I’ve ever been reading a short story was when I was 10 and up late in my bed after everyone had gone to sleep. I read “The Phantom Rickshaw” by Rudyard Kipling. I’m not sure what it was about the piece that scared the shit out of me, maybe the inevitability of the young soldier’s death after he sees the forbidding form of the woman he jilted glide by in a rickshaw. It had to do with the quiet nature of the story — no outlandish haunting — just a silent exchange of glances between the living and the dead. Creepy. Kipling is one of the best short story writers. Borges considered him better than James Joyce and Henry James. His colonial lineage is hard to defend. I side with Salman Rushdie’s take on him — “Kipling, there is much that is hard to forgive, but more that is hard to forget.”

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Jessica Reisman: Jessica Reisman’s stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. Her first novel, The Z Radiant, published by Five-Star Speculative Fiction, is “thinking reader’s sci-fi.” She was a Michener Fellow in Fiction in graduate school.

I wanted to go with a Lisa Tuttle story that I heard her read at a World Fantasy Convention (“Closet Dreams, according to Lisa. — Ed.) , but I can’t for the life of me remember the title. So I’m going with Maureen McHugh’s “The Naturalist.” The reason explaining why is essentially the same, however: I find stories about human monsters — psychopaths and sociopaths — much more terrifying and chilling than stories about supernatural monsters. Beyond being possible, they actually exist and do horrifying, scary, scary things.

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Gene O’Neill: Gene O’Neill is a multi-award nominated writer of science fiction, fantasy and horror fiction. More than 100 of his works have been published in venues including Cemetery Dance Magazine, Twilight Zone Magazine and the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

I think it’s a tie between George R.R. Martin’s “The Pear-Shaped Man” and Michael Shea’s “The Autopsy.” Martin’s story is great because essentially you become what you hate and fear. Shea’s story is great because of a dying man’s revenge against a seemingly overwhelming force.

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Tina Connolly: Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin trilogy from Tor Books, and the Seriously Wicked series, from Tor Teen. Ironskin, her first fantasy novel, was a Nebula finalist. Her stories have appeared in Women Destroy SF, Lightspeed, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and many more.

I don’t read a lot of horror, but I do remember loving to be scared stiff by the John Bellairs books as a kid. They were so deliciously gothic and atmospheric — and the creepy illustrations by Edward Gorey made them even better. The House with a Clock in the Walls is still my favorite, but the one that scared me the most was the terrifying sorcerer (who controls blizzards from inside his father’s tomb, IIRC) in the Dark Secret of Weatherend.

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Lori Michelle: Lori Michelle is the co-owner/CFO/layout guru of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and the editor-in-chief of Dark Moon Digest and Dark Eclipse. She is the author of Dual Harvest and the editor of Bleed, an anthology where the proceeds will go to the National Children’s Cancer Society. Several of her stories have appeared in anthologies including the 2012 Bram Stoker finalist Slices of Flesh.

I am not sure if this is the scariest story I have ever read, but it is certainly the most memorable short story I have ever read. It is by the great Stephen King and appeared in Nightmares & Dreamscapes. I am talking about “The Moving Finger.” The images of a strange anomaly coming into your safe haven via the drains has given me shivers over the years. The bathroom is supposed to be the place where you can relax. But SK has shown that nowhere is safe, not even your own sink.

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R.L. Ugolini: R.L. Ugolini’s short stories have appeared in literary journals and anthologies, including, most recently, Red Rock Review and Demonic Visions Vol. 3, 4 & 5. The Summerset Review nominated her story “Falllow” for the 2011 Million Writers’ Award. Samhain Publishing released her first novel Quakes in 2015.

It was 1843, and the world had yet to suffer the horrors (culturally, if not exactly psychologically) of sparkly vampires, Twitter or stuffed-crust pizza. An agitated narrator lays out his crime for his readers. He has done the unspeakable — he is a madman, a monster. And yet, as his story unfolds, it becomes clear the terror of the tale lies not with who he is or what he has done, but with how his conscience will bear his guilt. It is a reminder that horror need have no demons save those of our own making. For this reason, I recommend “The Tell-Tale Heart,” by Edgar Allan Poe.

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Max Booth III: Max Booth III is the author of three novels: Toxicity, The Mind is a Razorblade and How to Successfully Kidnap Strangers. He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. He’s currently a columnist for LitReactor and Slush Pile Heroes. He has studied under Craig Clevenger and award-winning editor Jennifer Brozek.

“I’m On My” by Shane McKenzie published in Splatterpunk Zine #4. A thousand stories popped in my head when Sanford asked me to pick the story that has scared me the most. Many classics, which I’m sure you already know about. However, there’s one short story that has really stuck with me since I first read it back in 2013. And that is Shane McKenzie’s “I’m On My.” It’s a short little tale about a man driving home to his family, only to encounter a slight detour. Look, when you’re driving, all it takes is for your attention to be distracted for a single second, and not only is your whole life ruined, but so are others’. “I’m On My” is a story about an innocent man accidentally running over a small child. There is nobody around that witnesses this crime. It’s just the man and the boy he’s hit. If you were in the same situation, how would you react? I think we all would like to say, “I’d call the police and wait with the boy!” But that’s just what we like to say. The truth is, there’s no way of knowing how we would react to such a situation unless it actually happens. It’s a heat-of-the-moment type of situation, and the implicated consequences of such an accident are absolutely terrifying. Every morning, I drive home from work and see various kids waiting for the school bus, and I swear, every morning I am reminded of “I’m On My.” This little story has fucked with me so much.

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Jamie Lackey: Jamie Lackey write science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories. She read submissions for Clarkesworld Magazine from 2008 through 2013. She also worked as an assistant editor for the Triangulation Annual Anthology Series from 2008-2010, and she was one of the magazine’s two coeditors in 2011. She was an assistant editor at Electric Velocipede from 2012-2013 and is the editor of Triangulation: Lost Voices.

I have to go with “Ponies” by Kij Johnson. It’s just so delightfully dark wrapped in shininess. And the ending is tragic and inevitable.

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Eric J. Guignard: Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. His stories and articles have appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Shock Totem, Buzzy Mag, Bewildering Stories and Stupefying Stories. He’s also an anthology editor, having published Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award.

Being an indecisive writer, I considered equally two of the scariest stories I’ve ever read, though each for a different reason. “Other People” by Neil Gaiman (published first in Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders, 2006) is one of the bleakest visions of Hell I’ve ever encountered. This scared me remarkably, because there’s a belief that Hell is different for all, and it is designed individually based upon your worst fears… I wouldn’t have feared this prior, but after reading the story, suddenly Gaiman’s tale embodied what I imagined the worst type of Hell to be, in which you relive out all the pain you’ve caused other people, whether directly or indirectly, over and over again… and now I can’t “unknow it.” My second is “Crouch End” by Stephen King (published first in New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, 1980; collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1993) I was probably about 18 or 19 years old when I read this story, and it freaked me out so much I swore I’d never read it again. And I haven’t… I don’t know if this story would still affect me so terribly now, but there were some passages that just haunted me at the time. I wasn’t familiar with the Cthulhu universe back then — which this story is homage to — so the descriptions of subtly-changing things around us and slithering shapes seen only from the corner of your eye were really quite seminal to me.

Haunting Question: What’s Your Go-To Scary Movie for Halloween?

 

If you’re a horror buff you undoubtedly have a go-to film when the Halloween spirit drifts in on cool autumn air. You know, that one you find yourself glued to the instant it pops up on the cable horror marathon.

In my case, it’s The Shining. I find it impossible to resist its calling. Stanley Kubrick’s camera bestows the haunted hotel with an unsettling beauty and Jack Nicholson’s performance is a brilliant tightrope walk between hammy and terrifying.

I asked other writers — some who specialize in horror and others who don’t — what fright flicks they’re most likely to throw on the DVD player this time of year. Here’s hoping the answers send you exploring creepy new cinematic territory or revisiting old nightmares.

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Lee Thomas: Lee Thomas is the Lambda Literary Award and Bram Stoker Award-winning author of more than 20 books, including The Dust of Wonderland, In the Closet, Under the Bed, The German, Torn, Ash Street, Like Light for Flies and Butcher’s Road. Writing as Thomas Pendleton and Dallas Reed, he is the author of the novels Mason, Shimmer and The Calling from HarperTeen. He is also the co-author (with Stefan Petrucha) of the Wicked Dead series of books for young adults.

One of the nightmarish creatures that emerges from The Mist.

While season-specific titles – Halloween (1978) and Trick ‘r Treat (2007) – always make for great viewing this time of year, I have a – relatively – new seasonal favorite in Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist (2007). Great performances from the cast and a nihilistic ending that will piss off grandma, The Mist is a modern creature-feature classic. I watch it in black and white, which ups the nightmare vibe considerably.

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Yvette Benavides: Yvette Benavides is an author of literary fiction, often set on the U.S.-Mexico border, and an associate professor of English at Our Lady of the Lake University. She teaches composition and literature courses as well as courses in the combined MA/MFA program in literature, creative writing and social justice.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. I guess it’s the first one that comes to mind because it is the scariest — at least the early imprint of it. (It was made in 1971.) I watched it on late-night TV a few years after it was made, when I was maybe 8 or 9. An emotionally/mentally fragile woman feels unsafe in her home. That’s scary. The psychological vampires won’t leave.

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The atmosphere of British film The Innocents earned high marks from Steve Rasnic Tem.

Steve Rasnic Tem: Steve Rasnic Tem’s short fiction has been compared to the work of Franz Kafka, Dino Buzzati, Ray Bradbury and Raymond Carver, but to quote Joe R. Lansdale: “Steve Rasnic Tem is a school of writing unto himself.” His 300 plus published pieces have garnered him a British Fantasy Award, and nominations for the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards.

It varies over time, but again and again I find myself returning to Jack Clayton’s The Innocents. It’s wonderfully atmospheric, and explores very well the idea of how the past can maintain a terrible hold on the present.

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Joe R. Lansdale: Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over forty novels and numerous short stories. His work has appeared in national anthologies, magazines, and collections, as well as numerous foreign publications. He has written for comics, television, film, newspapers, and Internet sites.

The Haunting, the original version. Why is because it truly creeps me out and edges between psychological and possible supernatural.

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Elizabeth Bourne: Writer and photographer Elizabeth’s fiction has been published in Black Lantern, Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, Interzone and Clarkesworld. She loves writing genre and is currently working on a second-world fantasy novel and a mystery set in prohibition era San Francisco.

My #1 go-to Halloween movie is The Haunting, based on Shirley Jackson’s phenomenal, and phenomenally creepy, book The Haunting of Hill House. This is one of those wonderful instances where the book and movie are equally good. What higher praise can there be than that Stephen King wrote Rose Red (shot in Tacoma’s Thornewood Castle) as an homage to this masterpiece.

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William F. Nolan: William F. Nolan writes mostly in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. Though best known for coauthoring the acclaimed dystopian science fiction novel Logan’s Run with George Clayton Johnson, Nolan is the author of more than 2,000 pieces (fiction, nonfiction, articles and books), and has edited twenty-six anthologies in his fifty-plus year career.

Alien and The Fly (1986) – and Blood of Dracula. All damn scary.

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Stina Leicht: Stina Leicht is a sf/fantasy writer living in central Texas. Her latest novel is titled Cold Iron, a new secondary world flintlock fantasy series for Simon and Schuster’s Saga Press. The next book in the series, Blackthorne, will be released in 2017. Her second novel And Blue Skies from Pain was on the Locus Recommended Reading list for 2012.

Things get scary in the 1976 Carrie.

Because of my love of good horror I can’t limit myself to one film. So, here are my four favorites. The first is The War of the Worlds (2005). It has layers beyond the main plot. It talks about the transition from boy to man. Both Ray and his son, Robbie, demonstrate this growth forced upon them by tragedy. (Too bad the women don’t.) The scene in the basement of the farmhouse packs a wallop. Also? The tripod animation just rules. My next pick is Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). Like WotW, Body Snatchers has been remade quite a bit, but the team of Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright did it best. The film is extremely creepy, particularly the end. I’m a huge Stephen King fan, and I’m torn between The Mist (2007) and Carrie (1978), but I’ll pick Carrie today. Sissy Spacek captures Carrie’s frail vulnerability perfectly. And that’s the important thing to remember about Carrie, I feel — it’s that transition from victim to perpetrator that is so relevant today. It says a lot about extremist Christianity and misogyny. My last pick is between American Werewolf in London and Cabin in the Woods (2012). Joss Whedon isn’t perfect — no one is — but Cabin is a gem from the first scene to the last. Price of admission is the merman scene.

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Josh Rountree: Josh Rountree’s short fiction has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Realms of Fantasy, Polyphony 6 and Happily Ever After. His short fiction collection, Can’t Buy Me Faded Love, is available from Wheatland Press. His first novel, Alamo Rising, was co-written with Lon Prater and is now available from White Cat Publications.

The Shining. It’s different than King’s book but just as amazing in its own way. Both the movie and the book still scare the crap out of me every time.

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Derek Austin JohnsonDerek Austin Johnson has lived most of his life in the Lone Star State.  A member of the Turkey City Writer’s Workshop, his work has appeared in Rayguns Over Texas! edited by Rick Klaw, Nova Express, Moving Pictures, Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, and Revolution SF.  His film column “Watching the Future” appears each month on SF Signal.

Pontypool (2009, d. Bruce McDonald). There’s much to love in this suspenseful movie, from the claustrophobic setting to a surprising amount of humor. Combining elements of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and director Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, Pontypool stands as one of the most intriguing of zombie movies.

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Scott A. Cupp: Scott A. Cupp is a writer from San Antonio who has been associated with the science fiction community for more than 40 years. He has been a regular reviewer at Mystery Scene magazine, where he reviewed western and horror novels, and at the Missions Unknown blog, where he did columns on Forgotten Books and Forgotten Films.

The more recent film Pontypool puts a new twist on zombie invasions.

When the Halloween season comes around I love catching up on great horror films. Among those I remember fondly this time of year are William Castle’s 13 Ghosts which I saw when I was 8 or 9. You had a special viewfinder to see or not see the ghosts when they appeared. Of course, I watched them all, then I had to walk home in the dark. Every shadow haunted me on that trip. As more of an adult, I loved the original Lugosi Dracula, particularly when Van Helsing and crew kill Lucy Westenra in the crypts of London. It was a creepy scene heightened by my memory of that particular passage in the novel, which is one of my favorites. Of course, my forgotten film this week, The Leopard Man, has a scene where a young girl afraid of the dark has been sent out for corn meal to make her father’s tortillas. On her way home she encounters a leopard that has escaped its leash. She runs home screaming to be let in but the door is bolted and her mother feels she is shirking her duties. The cries and beatings get more frantic and suddenly the screams are visceral and there are other, animal sounds. Then there is silence as blood seeps under the door. All in chilling black and white. This is noir horror at its best. I also love all of the 1963 version of The Haunting for its psychological terror.

Forgotten Book: Space For Hire by William F. Nolan (1971)

Psychedelic cover art isn't the only thing going for Space for Hire.

Review by Scott A. Cupp

This is the 156th in my series of Forgotten Books.

William F. Nolan has been around a long time and produced a great body of work. Most famous for his collaboration with George Clayton that gave us LOGAN’S RUN. He’s worked in the teen market, star biographies, non-fiction, mystery, television and film industries. He’s won the Life Achievement Award from the International Horror Guild, the Horror Writers of America, and the World Fantasy Convention. He is an Author Emeritus of the Science Fiction Writers of America. He has also won the Mystery writers of America Edgar Award a couple of times.

I first encountered his work in short story form in the mid 1960’s and then found LOGAN’S RUN. I liked what I read. I later met him at a couple of conventions and found he was a pretty nice guy. In 1987, Joe Lansdale and I took our families on vacation to southern California and one evening was spent over dinner with Nolan, RC Matheson, and David Schow. This was a very fun trip.

So, I was ready for a really good time when I picked up SPACE FOR HIRE the other night as a book to read. It’s an early mystery/science fiction combination. Nolan has a passion for the Black Mask Boys – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Erle Stanley Gardner (with three novels featuring the characters, formal biographies of Hammett, and an informal study of the three writers).

This book was fun. Sam Space (it only takes one small straight line to convert that to Spade) is working on a case for Esma Pitcairn Umani (a striking Venusian woman with three heads and the skill to use all three of them. Her father, Dr. Emmanual Quantas Umani, is working on a secret project. His enemies are fairly successful at killing him, but he has perfected the process of transferring his mind to other bodies. Unfortunately, his supply is low and he needs Space to accompany a load a fresh bodies from Allnew York and see that they arrive safely on Mars. It’s a simple job.

But no job is ever simple. On the trip he meets Nicole, a stunning red head with winking nipples who wants to seduce him. He gets hit with drugs and finds he has missed his return trip and Dr. Umani and Esma have been killed.

This would normally be the logical end of the story, but logic plays no part in this story. There are alternate realities, multiple versions of each person, time travel, Zubu birds from Pluto, gungoons, the Robot King of the Solar System and his pet dragon, and many more twists and moebius style turns.

At first I was skeptical but the story got wackier and wackier until I was absolutely loving it. So, give it a look if the above piques your interest (and even if it doesn’t). Nolan is a demonstrated master of many forms and they all run wild in here.

As always, your mileage may vary, particularly if you have trouble with the whole cross genre thing.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

A political creature: Does horror lean left or right?

All art is political. Even Alien.

All art is political.

Whether or not the artist intends it to be taken that way is a moot point. Others will assign politics to the work, even if the creator doesn’t. Witness, for example, the fascinating documentary Room 237, in which Stanley Kubrick obsessives assign subtext and symbolism to The Shining the director likely never intended.

As a horror author, I wince when people characterize the genre as being inherently conservative (a notion also frequently applied to fantasy). Horror stories, some critics argue, are essentially about stopping forces from changing the status quo — putting the genie back in the bottle, so to speak. What’s more, the genre also has a long and unfortunate tradition of making the other a source of fear.

Author Paul Tremblay clearly struggles with the same unease about that categorization. His recent essay in Nightmare Magazine, “The H Word: The Politics of Horror,” presents an eloquent argument that horror, if well-executed, deserves a progressive interpretation rather than a conservative one.

While horror protagonists’ objectives are almost always to bring a return of the status quo, Tremblay points out that horror’s quest to make us uncomfortable necessitates that characters and readers confront truths that will permanently change them. This shift in outlook dispels the very conservative fallacy that things were different in the “good old days.”

“Not only are (the good old days) gone and never coming back, they never existed in the first place,” Tremblay writes. “That’s the horror of existence. Change happens whether you want it to or not.”

By way of example, he points to Alien, the haunted-house-in-space installment of that film franchise. The movie ends with Ripley floating alone in a vast and uncaring cosmos, lucky to have escaped with her life. By contrast, in Aliens, more of an action flick than its predecessor, Ripley settles into hibernation with her surrogate family of Newt and Hicks, telling the girl they’re safe to dream again.

I maintain that perspective-altering aspect of horror is what appealed to the creators of the ’70s and ’80s who unleashed an innovative and bloody wave of fiction and film that commented on the Vietnam War, racism, urban isolation, AIDS and the military-industrial complex from a left-of-center perspective.

In his documentary Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film, Mick Garris points out that George Romero, David Cronenberg, Clive Barker and Stephen King all aim to turn an oppressive status quo on its head. “It’s the people who repress them who are the ones you have to look out for,” Garris argues.

Indeed, the conservative politics of division and discrimination can be an effective tool for creating and sustaining the isolation needed to make a horror story work. Consider the racism in Joe R. Lansdale’s The Bottoms and the fear of the gay title character in Lee Thomas’ The German. Only after the protagonists in both books are able to overcome their fear of the other are they able to effectively fight off a larger evil.

Is this to say horror always has a progressive bent? Certainly not. Slasher films and some other horror subgenres are conservative as the “700 Club.” In these works, teens who explore sexuality are punished in gruesome ways and only characters’ faith in a Christian higher power can rout supernatural evil.

To my mind, horror is neither inherently progressive or conservative. The genre’s themes and variations, the intent of its creators and the perspectives of its observers are simply too broad for that to be the case.

But Tremblay is fundamentally correct: the progressive notion is frequently what makes a horror story stick with us. The best such work terrifies us because it alters our outlook on the way the universe works and shows us change — whether or not we’re ready to face it — is inevitable.

LoneStarCon 3 and Rayguns Over Texas

For those of you attending LoneStarCon 3 (a.k.a. WorldCon) in San Antonio this week, here’s my schedule. Please drop by and give me a good ol’ Texas “howdy.”

I’m particularly excited to be participating in the launch events for Rayguns Over Texas, a new FACT-published anthology of Texas science fiction which includes my story “Pet Rock.” Be sure and check out my interview with the book’s editor, Rick Klaw, over at the Missions Unknown blog.

Texas Roadhouse Blues: Speculative Fiction and Rock and Roll
Thursday 3-4 p.m. w/ Bradley Denton, Peggy J. Hailey and Josh Rountree
Convention Center: 006A

Rayguns Over Texas launch event
Thursday 6:30-8:30 p.m. w/ Rick Klaw, Josh Rountree, Stina Leicht, Joe R. Lansdale, Scott Cupp, Rhonda Eudaly Simpson, etc.
San Antonio Public Library, Downtown

Music and Science Fiction
Friday 2-3 p.m. w/ Vincent Docherty, Catherine Asaro, Lauran Schiller and H.G. Stratmann
Convention Center: 102A

How SF Fandom Made the Sixties Happen: Origin of Rock Journalism
Friday 5-6 p.m. w/ Christopher J. Garcia, Jason Heller, Mike Ward and David G. Hartwell
Convention Center: 007B

Writing about Music and Art
Saturday Noon-1 p.m.
Diana G. Gallagher, Leslie Fish , Tanya Huff and Seanan McGuire
Rivercenter: Conference 12

Autographing session
Saturday 2-3 p.m.
Convention Center: Exhibit A

Rayguns Over Texas Group Reading & Signing
Saturday 5-7 p.m.
Convention Center: 007A
w/ Rick Klaw, Josh Rountree, Stina Leicht, Chris N. Brown, Don Webb, Derek Johnson, Jessica Reisman, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Rhonda Eudaly, Matthew Bey, Scott A. Cupp, Mark Finn, Nicky Drayden, Rocky Kelley, and possibly others.

Bram Stoker Award winners for 2011

The Horror Writers Association announced the winners of the 2011 Bram Stoker Awards at its annual awards banquet last weekend. This year’s presentation was held in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the World Horror Convention, and marks the 25th anniversary of the Awards. (Look for my personal thoughts on the con and the award ceremony soon.)

The award is named for Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. The trophy, which resembles a miniature haunted house, was designed by author Harlan Ellison and sculptor Steven Kirk.

Twelve new bronze haunted-house statuettes were handed over to the writers responsible for creating superior works of horror last year. This year’s winners are:

Superior Achievement in a NOVEL
Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney (Pinnacle Books)

Superior Achievement in a FIRST NOVEL
Isis Unbound by Allyson Bird (Dark Regions Press)

Superior Achievement in a YOUNG ADULT NOVEL (tie)
The Screaming Season by Nancy Holder (Razorbill)
Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Superior Achievement in a GRAPHIC NOVEL
Neonomicon by Alan Moore (Avatar Press)

Superior Achievement in LONG FICTION
The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” by Peter Straub (Conjunctions: 56)

Superior Achievement in SHORT FICTION
“Herman Wouk Is Still Alive” by Stephen King (The Atlantic Magazine, May 2011)

Superior Achievement in a SCREENPLAY
American Horror Story, episode #12: “Afterbirth” by Jessica Sharzer (20th Century Fox Television)

Superior Achievement in a FICTION COLLECTION
The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates (Mysterious Press)

Superior Achievement in an ANTHOLOGY
Demons: Encounters with the Devil and his Minions, Fallen Angels and the Possessed edited by John Skipp (Black Dog and Leventhal)

Superior Achievement in NON-FICTION
Stephen King: A Literary Companion by Rocky Wood (McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers)

Superior Achievement in a POETRY COLLECTION
How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison (Necon Ebooks)

Also awarded:

Vampire Novel of the Century Award to:
Richard Matheson for his modern classic I Am Legend

Lifetime Achievements:
Rick Hautala and Joe R. Lansdale

The Specialty Press Awards:
Derrick Hussey of Hippocampus Press and Roy Robbins of Bad Moon Books.

The President’s Richard Laymon Service Award:
HWA co-founder Karen Lansdale.

Source: HWA

Tags: 2011 Bram Stoker Award™ Winners, Allyson Bird, Derrick Hussey, horror, Horror Writers Association, HWA, Joe McKinney, Joe R. Lansdale, John Skipp, Jonathan Maberry, Joyce Carol Oates, Karen Lansdale, Linda Addison, Nancy Holder, Peter Straub, Richard Matheson, Rick Hautala, Roy Robbins, Stephen King, Stoker Awards, Vampire Novel of the Century, World Horror Convention

Zombies and reading lists: A weekend at Armadillocon

I’ll be at the 33rd annual ArmadilloCon this weekend, participating in panels pontificating on everything from what sf books should be on college reading lists to why people still love those cuddly flesh-eating zombies.

Guests at the venerable Austin convention include Guest of Honor Paolo Bacigalupi, author of The Windup Girl, which has won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and just about every other award you can think of; Artist Guest Vincent Villafranca, known for his vibrantly imaginative bronzes; Editor Guest Lou Anders, award-winning editorial director for Pyr Books; Fan Guest Fred Duarte Jr.; Toastmaster Mark Finn; and Special Guests Emma Bull and Will Shetterly.

I counted nearly 100 participants, including horror giant Joe R. Lansdale, off-the-wall short story writer Howard Waldrop and fellow Alamo City residents David Liss and Scott A. Cupp. (Cupp, I believe, has attended every Armadillocon since the con was established.)

The convention is being held Friday, Aug. 26, through Sunday, Aug. 28, at the Renaissance Hotel Austin, 9721 Arboretum Blvd. Three-day memberships are $50. Individual daily passes are available for $20 (Friday and Sunday) and $35 (Saturday).

I have enjoyed every Armadillocon I have attended, and I appreciate the organizers’ continued focus on sf, fantasy and horror literature. Yes, folks, good old-fashioned books. That’s not to say no one dresses up in costume, bitches that Firefly was cancelled or huddles in a corner playing GURPS while nibbling on Cheetos, just that media and gaming are not the sole reasons for the con’s existence. If you’re a reader, a writer or aspire to be either, it’s a con not to miss.

Here’s a list of my panels, if you’re inclined to catch some:

Friday, 6 p.m. in the Sabine Room: Texas is a Scary Place
Myself, Matt Cardin, Joe Lansdale, J.M. McDermott, Nate Southard and Frank Summers
Friday, 10 p.m. in the Trinity Room: Fantastical Feast: Food in SF/Fantasy
Myself, Cat Rambo, Linda Donahue, Kimberly Frost, Julia Mandala and Marshall Ryan Maresca
Saturday, 1 p.m. in the San Antonio Room: SF101: A Reading List for a College Course
Myself, Bill Crider, Scott Cupp, Jess Nevins, James Reasoner and Josh Rountree
Saturday, 9 p.m. in the San Antonio Room: The Rising Popularity of Zombies
Myself, Linda Donahue, Scott A. Johnson, Josh Rountree and Nate Southard
Saturday, 11 p.m. in the Trinity Room: Ghost Stories
Myself, Don Webb, William Browning Spencer, Nat Southard and Scott A. Johnson

For a full rundown, including a list of all the panels and participants, check out the Armadillocon website.

World Horror 2011: Well run and lotsa fun

Hats off to everyone that made Austin’s World Horror 2011 such a fun, friendly and downright productive con.

It was my first World Horror, and certainly not my last. I can only hope future organizers follow the lead of Lee Thomas and Nate Southard, who managed to bring in a collection of great panelists (Joe Hill was especially insightful, even if I didn’t care all that much for “Heart Shaped Box”) and kept things running smoothly. Even the busload of braindead frat boys who showed up at the hotel couldn’t ruin the mood.

Rhodi Hawk did a commendable job putting together the pitch sessions. She did her best to take the fear and apprehension out of the process and managed to match up publishers, agents and authors with a minimum of muss and fuss. I’m happy to say I had some degree of interest in the novel I’m shopping. We’ll see if any of those three-chapters-and-a-summary requests actually bear fruit. Stay tuned.

As usual, it was great to catch up with the usual Texas con folk like Joe R. Lansdale and family, Stina Leicht, Mikal Trimm, John Picacio, Vincent Villafranca, Joe McKinney and John DeNardo of the spectacular SF Signal blog. Hell, I even think my buddy Thomas McAuley (who I dragged along even though he’s more of a fantasy writer than a horror guy) found it worthwhile.

And, yeah, yeah, I know it’s been more than a week since the con, but cut me some slack for this late post. As soon as I got back from the con I had to dig myself out of an end-of-semester grading Hell.

Horny Toads and Ugly Chickens: A&M’s speculative fiction collection

The first issue of Amazing Stories is just one of the items in Texas A&M's speculative fiction collection.

Ever heard of the 1975 novel “Doomsday Clock,” published in San Antonio with an actual fuse sticking out of its cover? What about “Overshoot,” a 1998 Ace paperback about an elderly Alamo City woman reflecting on how global warming brought down civilization? Or the Asimov’s story “One Night in Mulberry Court,” in which a blue-skinned alien anthropologist moves into a San Antonio trailer park?

Don’t feel bad. Until a couple days ago, I hadn’t either.

I discovered their existence virtually via the online site for Texas A&M’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection. Seems the Aggies have amassed a 54,000-piece collection of speculative fiction plus related history and criticism, much of it Texas-related. The collection houses the papers and manuscripts of Chad Oliver, Michael Moorcock and George R. R. Martin. What’s more, it contains over 90 percent of the American science fiction pulp magazines published prior to 1980, including the 1923 debut issue of Weird Tales.

Perhaps even cooler, it’s all searchable by author, title, imprint, and subject terms via an online database.

As an added perk, the A&M site also includes Bill Page’s 1991 essay “Horny Toads and Ugly Chickens: A Bibliography on Texas in Speculative Fiction,” which draws the “Ugly Chickens” part of its title from Austin writer Howard Waldrop’s wildly imaginative short story of the same name.

“The mystique of the old west has long been an alluring subject for authors; even Jules Verne and Bram Stoker used Texans in stories,” Page writes. “As one reads science fiction and fantasy novels set in Texas, certain themes repeat themselves. There are, of course, numerous works about ghosts, vampires, and werewolves. Authors often write about invasions of the state, not only by creatures from outer space, but also by foreigners, including the Russians, the Mexicans, and even the Israelis.” (There he goes with another Howard Waldrop reference. This time, Waldrop and Jake Saunders’ novel “The Texas Israeli War.”)

The essay gives an exhaustive listing of Texas sf/fantasy/horror authors, both known (Robert E. Howard and Joe R. Lansdale) and not-so-known (Leonard M. Sanders and Joan Johnston), and a list of stories and books by non-Texans set in the Lone Star State. Bummer it’s almost 20 years old, though.

And while you’re there, you might as well peruse other features, including extensive bibliographies of Robert Heinlein, Judith Merril and Sam Moskowitz.

All told, the A&M site is an impressive resource for those of us who just can’t get enough Lone Star lore in our speculative fiction.