“So,” author John Urbancik said as we drove across Florida from Tallahassee to Land O’ Lakes, “let me see if I understand this correctly.” (That’s how John talks. If you’re writing dialogue for John Urbancik, he would never say something like, “Let me get this straight” or “You’ve gotta be shitting me.” He would say, “Let me see if I understand this correctly.”)
“You’re on the second leg,” John continued, “of a book signing tour for The Complex and Pressure. In the first week of this second leg, you’ve been orphaned by the publisher of one of those books, and you’re waiting to hear the outcome of that. You have also seen three previously scheduled signings unceremoniously cancelled by the venues. A bookstore and a vehicle caught on fire, the radiator in your Jeep blew up, and you are running low on money, hope, and gas—and running even lower on fucks to give.”Continue Reading
To get to New Orleans, you’re pretty much going to have to drive across a bridge. That’s what I was doing the morning of July 16, on my way to sign at Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop. I was still thinking about warnings from dead friends, and about balance and patterns and nice fans and fires and the theory of Eternal Return. Continue Reading
Welcome to End of the Road, a nine-month weekly column in which I talk about my ongoing cross-country promotional tour for my new novels Pressure and The Complex. If you’re just joining us, a quick recap—everything was going swimmingly and our hero was triumphant until he received a dire warning from what is either a) the spirit of his deceased best friend, or b) his subconscious tricking him into thinking it is the spirit of his deceased best friend. Since that warning, things have gone from swimmingly to terribly awry. Our hero—having consumed two bottles of bourbon after learning that a) a major signing has been cancelled, and b) he is now orphaned at his mainstream publisher (who published one of the books he is currently out on the road promoting)—is currently passed out in a hotel room in Chattanooga. We now rejoin the column, already in progress…Continue Reading
The fog burned off with the sunrise, the new radiator worked fine, doing what radiators are supposed to do, and the storm was now yesterday’s memory. I reached Chattanooga in record time, arriving at noon. I was due to sign at a wonderful independent store called Star Line Books at three that afternoon. With time to kill, I checked into my hotel, and then met up with Eddie Coulter and Gavin Dillinger for drinks and a quick bite. Continue Reading
The storm reached its peak somewhere near the border of Virginia and North Carolina. The rain seemed to fall almost horizontally, and the wind rammed into vehicles, pushing cars and tractor trailers alike across entire traffic lanes. I gripped the wheel until my knuckles turned white, and chomped my cigar—a Drew Estate Tabak Especial—a little harder between my teeth. My coffee, long since cooled, sat perched against my crotch. Eyes on the road, I switched off my radio, and Clyde Lewis’s Ground Zero podcast vanished. I risked a glance in the back of the Jeep, making sure my cargo was safe and dry. Everything seemed fine. My duffel bag and laptop case were still there, as were the dozen boxes of Joe R. Lansdale’s books, which I was transporting to a convention for him. Continue Reading
Sunlight reflected off Three Mile Island’s nuclear cooling towers as my plane landed. After three weeks of traversing California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, I was home for seven days. The first thing I did (after getting my Jeep out of long-term parking) was drive to my ex-wife’s house. She and my son had been babysitting my cat while I was away. I hugged all three of them and then sat down on their couch and accidentally fell asleep for fourteen hours.Continue Reading
For the last few months, this weekly column has focused on my current book signing tour for Pressure and The Complex. If I’ve done my job correctly so far, then you’ve gotten a good look at what such an undertaking is like for me at my age and at this point in our genre and industry’s history.
You’ve also probably seen the ghosts of Tom Piccirilli and J.F. Gonzalez flitting around between the sentences—sometimes subtly, and sometimes with hammer-force blows. They’re going to start making their presences known more fully in the weeks to come. But before I begin recounting the second leg of the book tour, and telling you about what went down in July and August, I thought perhaps we should travel back in time to the year 2008. Continue Reading
If you’re just joining us, this is End of the Road—a weekly column in which I detail my nine-month promotional tour for my new novels Pressure and The Complex. I write about what I’ve learned out here on the road, and how the horror genre, our industry, our country, and myself have changed over the last twenty years. Last week’s column wrapped up the first leg of the tour. This week’s column will be short—just a few notes and addendums and bits of housekeeping that apply to those first seventeen installments of this weekly feature. What’s that? Yes, seventeen installments. There have been seventeen of these columns. If you missed one of them, you can find them all here. Continue Reading
Last week, I mentioned that I’ve visited San Francisco’s Mission District well over a dozen times. One of those times was back in 2006, when Christopher Golden and I led a group of writers on what was supposed to be a trip to James Simes’s legendary Isotope Comics, but—due to the fact that none of our phones had GPS technology back in the ancient days of 2006—turned into a walking tour of the Mission District instead. Nate Southard refers to this fondly as “the sixty-block death walk.”
People (mostly out-of-towners who had heard sordid tales of how the Mission District was home to roving bands of homeless, drug addicts, and mentally ill people) admonished us to be careful. They didn’t think such a pilgrimage was a good idea. We explained to them that, if San Francisco’s Alan Beatts was a bookselling demigod, then James Simes was his comic book counterpart, and we had to go pay homage. “Stay in a big group,” people then advised us. “Stay together or you’ll get stabbed!”Continue Reading
Alan Beatts and Jude Feldman are badasses. Alan is a former private investigator, bodyguard, firearms instructor, and motorcycle repairman. Jude is a former welder and computer micro-assembly technician. They also run Borderlands Books in San Francisco, a name inspired in part by William Hope Hodgson’s horror-fantasy-science fiction classic House on the Borderland.
I was introduced to them by Richard Laymon back in 1999. I first visited Borderlands Books in 2001, right after they’d moved to San Francisco’s Mission District. Indeed, when I visited, they were still remodeling the place. I signed there later on that year with Gene O’Neill, Mike Oliveri, Michael T. Huyck, Geoff Cooper, and Gak. And I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve signed there—or shopped there—since. At least twice with J.F. Gonzalez, once with a large group from the World Horror Convention, once with my ex-wife, once with Nick Mamatas, once with Mary SanGiovanni, and so on. Basically, anytime I’m in San Francisco, I stop at Borderlands.Continue Reading
So, I’m boarding an airplane in El Paso, about to traverse the time zones once again and fly to San Francisco, when it occurs to me that the ISIS-fighter’s psychic suicide bomb is still in my carry-on bag. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you need to read last week’s column). The totem is snuggled up against my laptop, three Yeti microphones, my digital voice recorder, an assortment of pens and Moleskin notebooks, half a tin of Altoids, a few cigars, a cigar cutter, and a hardcover of David Schow’s DJSturbia, which I bought way back in Burbank. Nobody in the TSA thought to question the trinket. Why would they? To them, it just looks like a small triangular wedge of red leather with a leather cord attached to it. But I know what it is, and now that I do, I can’t stop thinking about the damn thing.
This in turn leads to unkind thoughts concerning my mother.
Last week’s column ended with high school football coach Tod Clark and I leaving a triumphant, standing-room-only signing in Phoenix, and climbing into his truck to head for Albuquerque. We’ll return to that in a moment. But first, I need to tell you about the bomb I was carrying with us.
Back in the eleventh installment of this column, I wrote: “A fellow Navy veteran gave me a Chief’s badge and a trinket taken from around the neck of a dead ISIS fighter (more on that a few columns from now), both of which I was very touched by.”
Well, here we are at “a few columns from now,” still in Phoenix. Tod and I have not yet gotten into the truck. Indeed, we haven’t even made it to that triumphant Phoenix signing yet. Instead, we are sitting in a hotel room with author Weston Ochse and publisher Paul Goblirsch of Thunderstorm Books.
How is that possible? Well, right now, we are traveling through time, you and I. Continue Reading
I spent an afternoon recovering at the home of poet Linda Addison before my next signing at the Barnes and Noble in Tucson, and during that time, I’d begun to mull over something important. Before I tell you what it is, we have to backtrack a bit.
A decade ago, you could find my books in any bookstore. Indeed, most Borders and Barnes and Noble carried a few copies of each book in my backlist, thus creating a Brian Keene shelf, right next to Stephen King and Jack Ketchum. I can’t tell you how crucial this was to increasing my audience. If you’re a customer browsing the horror section (or even the alphabetical K section) your eyes are naturally going to be drawn to an entire row of books written by the same person, rather than a lone book by a lone author. Continue Reading
Hello. If you’re just joining us, this is End of the Road—a weekly column in which I detail my nine-month cross-country promotional tour for my new novels Pressure and The Complex. I write about what I’ve learned out here on the road, and how the horror genre, and our industry, and our country, and myself have changed over the last twenty years. We now rejoin the column, already in progress.
The drive from San Diego, California to Tucson, Arizona is a lonely haul through a bleak and desolate stretch of sunbaked wasteland that resembles the set of a Mad Max movie. Or, at least, that’s how it felt to me. So far on this Farewell Tour, I’d had partners to ride with, but Jamie LaChance and Kasey Lansdale had now returned home, and I was alone in the rental car with only my thoughts for company. This wasn’t a good thing. Anyone who truly knows me will tell you that my thoughts do not, in fact, make for excellent company.Continue Reading
Early morning in Los Angeles, and after a week, I was still on East Coast time. As a result, while the rest of the household slept, I was sitting out on David Schow’s balcony in the Hollywood hills, looking down on the city, and drinking coffee. It was the first moment of reflective, quiet, alone time I’d had since leaving home, and I was enjoying it. I watched the sun rise. I watched a coyote slink behind a neighbor’s house far below. And I watched three big black crows alight on some electrical wires just beyond David’s balcony. Squawking to each other, they looked out upon the world as if they owned it. And who knows? Maybe they did.
I sat there, quietly sipping coffee, watching three crows from the balcony of the man who co-wrote the screenplay to The Crow, and smiling at the universe’s little joke. Then Kasey Lansdale swept in like the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil, and the spell was broken, and the coffee was finished, and we headed out to the next signing—at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego.Continue Reading