Ad Capere Tenebris

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Ad Capere Tenebris

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.

Allow me to explain.Continue Reading

Time Bomb

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Time Bomb

All roads eventually lead to... (Photo Copyright 2016 Tod Clark)
All roads eventually lead to…
(Photo Copyright 2016 Tod Clark)

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

Missing in Action

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Missing in Action

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

Tower of Babble

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Tower of Babble

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

Drive On

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Drive On

CD
A quick side-trip to the beach. (Photo Copyright 2016 Brian Keene)

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

Horror Drive-In vs. ‘The Conjuring 2’

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Horror Drive-In vs. The Conjuring 2

Conjuring2Poster1I try. I really do. I want to like every horror movie I see. Every book I pick up. I know I can be a curmudgeon, but I have never gone into something with the intention of trashing it.

And yet I am disappointed all too often. Not only am I disappointed, I usually seem to be on the opposite end of the opinion spectrum than most.

Case in point: The Conjuring 2. A movie that is earning a lot of positive buzz. According to Rotten Tomatoes, this sequel is being well received by the critics. Well, I’ve always maintained that your average movie critic hasn’t a clue as to what constitutes quality horror.

I didn’t mind The Conjuring. I thought the first half had some extremely effective moments. Director James Wan has shown skill at establishing and maintaining tension and dread in his movies. The second half of The Conjuring? Well, it all became kind of silly once the cat was out of the bag and we began to see physical manifestations of the haunting.Continue Reading

Horror Drive-In vs. 'The Conjuring 2'

HorrorDrive-In-web

Horror Drive-In vs. The Conjuring 2

Conjuring2Poster1I try. I really do. I want to like every horror movie I see. Every book I pick up. I know I can be a curmudgeon, but I have never gone into something with the intention of trashing it.

And yet I am disappointed all too often. Not only am I disappointed, I usually seem to be on the opposite end of the opinion spectrum than most.

Case in point: The Conjuring 2. A movie that is earning a lot of positive buzz. According to Rotten Tomatoes, this sequel is being well received by the critics. Well, I’ve always maintained that your average movie critic hasn’t a clue as to what constitutes quality horror.

I didn’t mind The Conjuring. I thought the first half had some extremely effective moments. Director James Wan has shown skill at establishing and maintaining tension and dread in his movies. The second half of The Conjuring? Well, it all became kind of silly once the cat was out of the bag and we began to see physical manifestations of the haunting.Continue Reading

A Brief Walking Tour of Burbank’s “Horror Row”

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A Brief Walking Tour of Burbank’s Horror Row

Kasey Lansdale and Brian inside Dark Delicacies. (Photo Copyright 2016 Brian Keene)
Kasey Lansdale and Brian inside Dark Delicacies.
(Photo Copyright 2016 Brian Keene)

Unbeknownst to most fans of the horror genre, there is a two block stretch of Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, California that serves as “Horror Row.” What follows is a brief walking tour for those wishing to experience it.

We start at 3512 West Magnolia Boulevard, the current address of Dark Delicacies. In business since 1994, Dark Delicacies—operated by Del and Sue Howison—sells horror novels, horror non-fiction, horror vinyl, horror movies, horror toys, and horror-themed clothing and accessories. It’s a popular hang-out and social spot for Los Angeles-based horror professionals, many of whom a visitor might happen to spot browsing the shelves. Dark Delicacies hosts in-store signings with authors, actors, directors, and musicians on a weekly basis. Their book selection in unbeatable—used mass-market paperbacks, new trade paperbacks, signed limited edition hardcovers, and offerings from both the mainstream and the small press. They are also a New York Times bestseller list reporting store, meaning strong sales there can boost a horror novel’s success. More importantly, Del and Sue make sure that every visitor to the store feels welcomed and special.Continue Reading

A Brief Walking Tour of Burbank's "Horror Row"

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A Brief Walking Tour of Burbank’s Horror Row

Kasey Lansdale and Brian inside Dark Delicacies. (Photo Copyright 2016 Brian Keene)
Kasey Lansdale and Brian inside Dark Delicacies.
(Photo Copyright 2016 Brian Keene)

Unbeknownst to most fans of the horror genre, there is a two block stretch of Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, California that serves as “Horror Row.” What follows is a brief walking tour for those wishing to experience it.

We start at 3512 West Magnolia Boulevard, the current address of Dark Delicacies. In business since 1994, Dark Delicacies—operated by Del and Sue Howison—sells horror novels, horror non-fiction, horror vinyl, horror movies, horror toys, and horror-themed clothing and accessories. It’s a popular hang-out and social spot for Los Angeles-based horror professionals, many of whom a visitor might happen to spot browsing the shelves. Dark Delicacies hosts in-store signings with authors, actors, directors, and musicians on a weekly basis. Their book selection in unbeatable—used mass-market paperbacks, new trade paperbacks, signed limited edition hardcovers, and offerings from both the mainstream and the small press. They are also a New York Times bestseller list reporting store, meaning strong sales there can boost a horror novel’s success. More importantly, Del and Sue make sure that every visitor to the store feels welcomed and special.Continue Reading

An Abundance of Bourbon, or, "Whiskey River Take Me Home"

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An Abundance of Bourbon, or, “Whiskey River Take Me Home”

Road
Brian and Del Howison of Dark Delicacies. (Photo Copyright 2016 Brian Keene)

On Wednesday morning, I woke up in Los Angeles, forgetting that I was still on East Coast time. I stumbled outside in search of coffee and couldn’t understand why it was still dark. Then I fumbled for my phone and glanced at the time and saw that it was only four in the morning. The only people awake were the homeless—and they weren’t nocturnal by choice. They were just out to beat the heat.

Los Angeles is a city that runs on automobiles. Seriously. You can’t get anywhere in Los Angeles without a car, and in truth, because of gridlock, you can’t get anywhere with a car, either. I’m told that the city offers public transit, but much like Bigfoot, Chupacabra, and Dean Koontz novels that don’t feature a dog, I have never seen it. Continue Reading

An Abundance of Bourbon, or, “Whiskey River Take Me Home”

EndofRoad-web

An Abundance of Bourbon, or, “Whiskey River Take Me Home”

Road
Brian and Del Howison of Dark Delicacies. (Photo Copyright 2016 Brian Keene)

On Wednesday morning, I woke up in Los Angeles, forgetting that I was still on East Coast time. I stumbled outside in search of coffee and couldn’t understand why it was still dark. Then I fumbled for my phone and glanced at the time and saw that it was only four in the morning. The only people awake were the homeless—and they weren’t nocturnal by choice. They were just out to beat the heat.

Los Angeles is a city that runs on automobiles. Seriously. You can’t get anywhere in Los Angeles without a car, and in truth, because of gridlock, you can’t get anywhere with a car, either. I’m told that the city offers public transit, but much like Bigfoot, Chupacabra, and Dean Koontz novels that don’t feature a dog, I have never seen it. Continue Reading

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #192

We’ve been spoiled in recent years by getting two novels from Stephen King. 2016 will see the end of that streak. The recently published End of Watch is the only book from King we’ll see this year. Later this fall, though, we’ll get Hearts in Suspension, edited by Jim Bishop, a collection of essays by King and others about his time as a student at the University of Maine. The publisher says that King’s essay is quite long (the longest of the set of about ten essays by various authors), and that the essay is “funny, truthful, and an involved work about Steve’s experiences during the 60’s, 70’s and the anti-war work of the Vietnam era, and so much more.”Continue Reading

'Night Shift' and the Nature of Fear

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Night Shift and the Nature of Fear

nightshiftLet’s talk about fear. We won’t raise our voices and we won’t scream; we’ll talk rationally, you and I. We’ll talk about the way the good fabric of things sometimes has a way of unraveling with shocking suddenness. – Stephen King, Introduction to Night Shift

I finished reading Stephen King’s first collection of short stories, 1978’s Night Shift, a few months back, but have avoided writing down any thoughts on it.

No one wants to expound on a subject of which they feel they have little to contribute, and for me everything that needs to be said about Night Shift was said perfectly by Stephen King in his introduction to the book. In fact, it may be one of the most perfect pieces King has written, if not certainly the most perfect he had written in 1978.

King’s opening act serves as an essay on the nature of fear: why he writes horror, and why people read it. I found myself not only more mesmerized, but more haunted by this than any of the tales in King’s gruesome set list. Continue Reading

Into the Breach

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Into the Breach

The day before I left for California, my eight-year-old son and I spent the afternoon in the woods. After hours of swimming in the creek, avoiding snakes, catching turtles and frogs and then letting them go, and pretending we were in a “real-life” game of Minecraft, we sat down on a big rock. Both of us got quiet for a moment.

Then I asked, “So, do you want to talk about me leaving tomorrow? I haven’t done a tour like this since you were born. Is there anything you are wondering about? Are you worried or scared or feeling sad?”

He thought about it for a moment and then said, “Well, Dad, I’m worried you’ll get lost.”Continue Reading

The Hype's Not Wrong. You're Wrong: A Horror Fan's Guide to Staying Positive

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Paper (n): material manufactured in thin sheets from the pulp of wood or other fibrous substances, used for writing, drawing, or printing on
 

Cut (v): make (a movie) into a coherent whole by removing parts or placing them in a different order.

The Hype’s Not Wrong. You’re Wrong: A Horror Fan’s Guide to Staying Positive

I’m not delivering breaking news when I say that civility and nuance are the first things to go once people plop their butts in front of their computers. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

And look, I get it, I’ve been guilty of logging in after a long day and treading down the warpath, looking to get the venom out. And sometimes I end up standing by that venom (especially if it was a good zinger on Twitter, no regrets there), but most times I wish I hadn’t.

But as a reader, movie guy, and—most importantly—a horror fan who values the opinions of those I’m friendly with, there’s a certain brand (flavor? variety?) of venom that I feel like I see way too often. What is this scourge on the horror community?Continue Reading