Sunday, November 21, 2010

Unexpected Surprise in the Most Unlikely of Places

The horror anthology Fears came out in 1983.  At that time I bought every horror book I could get my hands on.  This book was one of those acquisitions.

I loved it.  There were some excellent short stories in there.  The cover, understated and powerful, left me unprepared for just how good the book was going to be.  When yo have a roster that includes the likes of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Dennis Etchison, Joe R. Lansdale and George R. R. Martin you can't really go wrong. 

I loved the book, but when I moved to CA it was one of the ones I chose to leave behind.  Over the years I have thought about it.  I haven't really gone seeking it out because I have a lot of books I haven't read.  Why delve into a book I've read before when I have a stack of unopened potential treasures?

All that changed when one day I walked into the break room at my job and there it was, sitting on the table all alone, in a spot where people usually leave their unwanted books for others to pick up.  I could not believe my eyes or my luck.  Usually the books that were left behind were thrillers, romances, books on animal care, or spiritual stuff.  This was unexpected and, quite honestly, shocking.

I grabbed it.

I grabbed it, but also felt guilty about it.  Who would leave such a treasure.  I asked around, and someone finally said they had done it.  I asked if they had meant to leave it, and she confirmed that she did.  I was not going to argue.  This was a much better find than The Love Explosion.  (Though not nearly as funny.)

I imagine my original copy will someday show up in a package of stuff my mother has cleared out of storage.  I'll compare conditions and then make a decision on which to keep.  Until that day comes, however, I'm not letting this one out of my sight again.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On Stephen King ...

Stephen King is rarely ever mentioned as "literature."  If anything, some critics seem to take his popularity as a sign that he is a lightweight.  Perhaps these criticisms are on the mark.  Perhaps they are the shadows of jealousy or disdain.  The two things that are hard to make an argument against is that his books sell, and they are fun to read.

King got me into writing with The Shining.  I was nine when I read it, and it scared the living shit out of me.  It also made me want to do the same thing to others.  Influential?  Yes, but if you read any of me fiction you'll be hard pressed to see those influences. 

My favorite King work (and I'll admit to not having read everything the man has ever produced) is Christine.  There is something about that story that strikes me as a perfect horror tale that is slightly experimental -- especially for King.  It will probably never be held in the same light as The Stand, but I think it is one of his best. 

Right now I'm reading the first part of The Green Mile.  I actually started buying this book in the serial format and then stopped for some odd reason, so I don't have all of them (they are fairly easy to find, so I'm not worried).  I'm enjoying it, but I'm not all very far into it.  From what I can see, it has the usual King hallmarks, and while that's not a bad thing, it is part of the problem with his work.

King has a habit of presenting many of the same types of characters over and over.  All with their own little quirks.  This irritates a lot of people ... including me sometimes.  Life, however, is a lot like that.  You encounter many of the same types of people day in and day out, each with their unique character features, which is often the only way to tell them apart from one another.  King is mirroring reality, but people don't read King's work to take in a dose of the outside world.  They read it to escape it, and therefore their criticisms may be sound.

The older I got, the more I appreciated his non-fiction work.  Reading his takes on writing is an endless source of fascination for me.  I find that a lot of what writes about makes sense, and it captures some of that magic I feel as I'm engrossed in my own manuscripts.  I think he easily conveys those moments to non-writers in a way few others have.  When he writes about it, it comes across as if he were having a conversation with you, and that immediately puts you at ease. 

I don't read much fiction these days.  When I do, it's rarely King.  It's not because I don't want to.  Instead it's because I have read most of his stuff.  When I do pick up one of his books (about once a year), I'm reminded of why he made me want to be a writer in the first place.  It's a comfortable feeling, and one I hope never changes.  Someday he'll give up the words, but I have no doubt his work will be available for quite some time to come.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Treasure Found

Look at the cover of this book, The Little People.  How could you not want it?  I sure as hell did, and I spent years looking for it.  A gnome wearing swastikas and wielding a bullwhip?  You know that's gonna be good.

A few years ago I attended a large sale put on by a museum.  It was selling off things people donated and items the museum had no use for.  I came across a large box of books.  There were some UFO books in it, a slew of The Planet of the Apes books (which I sold for eBay and made quite a bit on, and The Little People

I paid fifty cents for the book.  I would've paid fifty dollars.

Oddly enough, I have yet to read it.  It sits on my shelf in the horror section, much like the Ark rests amongst the crates at the end of The Raiders of the Lost Ark, a treasure to never be seen.  I'll read it someday, but I really wanted it for that cover.  I wanted to know it really existed and wasn't a figment of some delusional person's imagination (including my own). 

I don't know if such a cover could exist today.  The horror market is saturated with good-looking vampires who act politely.  A swastika would be seen by many as an act of war.  Therefore, this book will stay in my collection until forcibly removed, as I'd hate to lose it to some asshole who donates it to a museum.  Things such as this should never be lost to the dustbin of history.