Do You Know This Man?

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I never met Charles L. Grant, but that never kept me from knowing him. Such is the way with writers.

I can’t remember just when it was that I heard about Grant’s work, but I distinctly recall the feeling of immense bonding that overcame me when I did. Having begun my journey out of the juvenile jungle populated by terrormeisters like R. L. Stine and Bruce Coville, I started breaching the territory of Grown-Up Horror in my young adulthood, first meeting the field’s most prominent generals like King and Koontz before finding out about other commanders of noble and dubious rank like Rice, Laymon, Straub, Saul, Brite, and Barker. Somewhere in that heady mix of invigorating discovery came Charles L. Grant.

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Jump for Rue Morgue!

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My article on Alvin Schwartz’s and Stephen Gammell’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series made its debut in the terror-loving pages of Rue Morgue last month for their 169th issue. The article was published under their regular “Classic Cuts” banner, an ongoing feature of the magazine that argues for a work of art’s inclusion in the pantheon of genre greats in roughly seven hundred words.

As I said at the start of the piece, “[f]or readers of a certain age, no other book cleaved as deep an impression in their formative gray matter as Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Today, just mentioning the title is enough to awaken a grinning nostalgia in even the most casual literary plunderer. It seems that anyone who was a student from the year of the first book’s publication onward has at least heard of it at some point. Whether these kids knew it or not, Scary Stories had become part of their Canon.

Get your hands on the August issue to hear the rest of the gory details.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Aliya Whiteley

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Powered by a refreshing stance to push her stories outside the comfortable and time-honored parameters of genre, Aliya Whiteley looks to be one of the field’s more unique and idiosyncratic practitioners. Her new novella The Arrival of Missives, reviewed earlier last week, is another entry from the author’s elusive and stimulating oeuvre. Aliya took some moments to sit down and discuss the genesis of her novella,  the balance of writing historically-tied fiction, and delicious jams.

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REVIEW: The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley

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Reading weird and dark fiction at the rate that I normally do can sometimes inspire a kind of tunnel vision. While stories may differ greatly in subject matter, setting, or voice, the one element that has always remained the same in my experience is tone. Each story, no matter how diverse the prose, generally fluctuates between inspiring feelings of terror or awe. To put it another way, my resulting state of mind come the story’s end is generally the same. Weird is the weird fiction that doesn’t presume to upset the balance of reality or point out our human insignificance within the grand scheme. I think it’s for this reason that I struggled with The Arrival of Missives, Aliya Whiteley’s new novella from Unsung Stories. For nearly its entire length it refused to fit into the parameters that I had subconsciously built for it, humbling me by revealing the blinders that I had been wearing during this literary journey.

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Mer Whinery

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Though relatively new to the dark side of the literary barbwire, Mer Whinery has steadily been building a body of work that effectively trades in the haunted balladry of existence in the rural South and the bloodily thunderous passages of pulp cinema and fiction. The author’s debut collection was the source of our review earlier this week. Whinery took the time to hunker down with the folks at the Omnibus to discuss late-nite monster shows, the challenges of pigeonholing,  and the realities of hard living.

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REVIEW: The Little Dixie Horror Show by Mer Whinery

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Horror being, among other things, the genre of subversion, it stands to reason that the authors working in this mode should frequently take the landscapes that make up their homes and their travels and introduce elements of the fantastic to both accentuate and complement the darker qualities inherent in those landscapes. Mer Whinery has managed to do this with his first collection, staging his sordid dramas in the lonely country heart of the eponymous Little Dixie, the greasy twilight zone of Oklahoma.

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DILLINGER (1973)

 

From the moment that Warren Oates swings open the bank teller’s window and greets the audience on the other side with a grin equal parts sleaze and charm, DILLINGER (1973) appears to be another production mining the gangster-as-folk-hero vein ala BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967). A wealthy pigeon of a woman has just turned her nose up at the unseen teller, and the impression seems to be that she, standing right in front of the infamous criminal who will shortly make off with her precious cash, is going to get what’s coming to her. Clearly, the pompous woman is in the social minority–the opening credits wryly play a jaunty version of “We’re in the Money” over a photo montage mainly composed of poverty-stricken families of the Depression–and Dillinger’s theft aligns him with the conception of the criminal as a modern-day Robin Hood, but one who though adamantly opposed to killing any bystanders takes no visible issue with riddling cops and bank guards with hot lead, leaving them to bloodily convulse in the dust.

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SEASON OF THE WITCH (1973)

 

Like the malcontent MARTIN (1977) who sought answers and an alternative nightside to the dull, crushing poverty of his daylit hours, Joan Mitchell (Jan White) plunges into the world of all-the-rage witchcraft to distract from the role of compliant housewife that has been both pressed upon her and eased into without much personal pushback. (Not only is Joan’s input constantly interrupted in conversation, but the film’s alternate title in Britain, JACK’S WIFE, further classifies her as a non-entity in the possession of another.) Seeing perpetually smashed, older friend Shirley (Ann Muffly) shatter at the thought of her advanced age–an aching scene–kindles similar fears in Joan, and it’s tempting to view her black magic experimentations as the pagan inverse to the materialistic mid-life crisis of the rougher sex.

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