An interview with David Agranoff

 

I recently read the novel Punk Rock Ghost Story, published by Deadite Press, and I immediately knew that I had to interview author David Agranoff. Here we talk about said novel, PRGS, and his love for punk music.

Tells us a bit about yourself.

“I am a weirdo like everybody else. I grew up in Indiana, which is in the Midwest of the states. I was a hardcore kid, grew-up in the punk and hardcore scene. From that I got into militant Animal rights activism, but I was always a horror and Science Fiction nerd the whole time. So I always had a love for reading horror and Science Fiction. When I was a teenager my heroes were Clive Barker and John Carpenter.”

What made you want to be a writer?

“Well a few things. I was always a reader and before I could even write them myself I was telling Science Fiction stories my mother would type up on her typewriter. Wish I still had those! I was a Mother’s boy all the way but she passed away when I was twelve. I think my love of horror started there. I needed to explore the darker side of my thoughts and feelings. I discovered a local horror host – Sammy Terry – who dressed like a goofy ghoul and showed horror movies on TV. I was hooked. He was followed by Black Belt theatre so I would tape these amazing double features that were Hammer Horror movies and Shaw Brothers Kung-Fu movies. This influenced my novel Hunting the Moon Tribe which is a hybrid tribute with Chinese Vampires. I am super proud of that novel.

It was also reading Stephen King’s The Raft which was a light-bulb moment for me. I figured out how he did it. How he built the terror, suspense and never lost sight of the story. I actually taught that story in a class for the Horrible Imaginings film fest here in San Diego. The Body Polotic by Clive Barker was also a huge early influence that taught me that concepts can’t be too weird if well thought out and how to make a political point about the real world through fantasy.

Today John Shirley is probably my biggest influence and my favorite author. I am also a huge fan of F. Paul Wilson, Robert McCammon, and Sarah Pinborough.”

How do you write? Do you do it daily, on a weekend, etc?

“Whenever I can find a moment, I work full time as a Teacher’s Aid in a school for kids with special needs. I always write on weekends, but I have started a wake up at 4am program before leaving for work at 7am. This is new for writing the current novel in progress.”

Does anything else influence your writing?

“I am always reading – that is a huge influence – but I love movies and right now I love long form story telling on TV. I have a rotation of TV shows I watch. Some of my favorites at the moment include Sense8, Fringe, Millennium, Battlestar Galactica, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and Terriers. I love Shane Black. Anything he writes. I love his dialogue. Tarantino. I love Wuxia Kung-Fu fantasy movies. I think all those things influence my writing. “

Punk rock and horror are a big part of who I am, do you think punk and horror are similar?

“It is outside of mainstream culture so of course they are similar. Punk, hardcore and Death Metal are all important to me as music I enjoy but these are scenes I grew-up in. There is a sense of community and Us Versus Them attitude that is similar in both. I wanted to tell horror fiction stories set in the punk realm because it was the world I grew-up in. Certainly John Shirley who was a pioneer in the Portland punk scene was the same in the genre community. His introduction to my short story collection Amazing Punk Stories is one of the proudest moments of my life. I mean John’s novel Wetbones is my favorite horror novel of all time.”

Your novel, Punk Rock Ghost Story, is about a haunted van, and set in the world of hardcore punk, where did you get the idea from for the book?

“The ghost story is a fantastic way to explore the difference between eras. I was thinking about how different the modern punk world was compared to the early days in the early 80’s. I mean the post Nirvana/Green Day punk rock was very different to the early days of American hardcore. I started to think what could bridge those times. Time travel or a ghost story and ghost story seemed clear to me. I have explored the idea of a haunted punkhouse but the idea of the van kept coming back to me. I mean I feel the energy of the shows that happen in classic venues or basements never really die. The ghost of past shows still haunted venues. The idea that the spirit or the energy of punk being trapped inside a tour van. It just made a weird kind of sense to me.”

You mention some great bands in the novel (Zero Boys, Black Flag, Negative Approach, Circle Jerks, Bad Brains, Bad Religion, and even Propagandhi and Beastie Boys), what are your favourite punk bands; How did you get into the punk scene; and do you get to many shows?

“I don’t go to many shows, I sometimes go to see fellow old farts like Agnostic Front and Slapshot when they hit the road. As for favorite punk bands, I am a dork for early Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks and I am from Indiana so gotta rep Zero Boys. I actually listen to more Death Metal these days Morbid Angel, Celtic Frost and At The Gates are favorites. I am Vegan straight edge and have been for 25 years so hardcore 90’s Vegan mosh is my favorite Race Traitor, Day of Suffering and Earth Crisis. But of course when I wrote Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich I listened to a ton of Oi! ha-ha.”

PRGS is set in the now and flashes back to the early 80’s. How do you think the scene has changed in that time?

“That was the major theme of the novel. 80’s it was new, and not at all accepted by the mainstream. People didn’t like or accept people being different. You had jocks and rednecks who wanted to beat you up and bully you just for being different. These days these frat guys are at Red Hot Chili Peppers and Green Day shows. That is the biggest difference. Hot topic in the malls, I mean we had to scrap and claw to find music, punk kids today can google anything. Just booking a tour, or finding music without the internet I don’t think kids today have a clue what it was like. Certainly this was a major theme of the novel. I mean it is a horror novel, and it should operate just as a scary story but for those interested in the deeper theme that is the thing I was exploring.”

With PRGS you originally wrote it way back in 2007 yet it didn’t come out until 2016. How did this happen?

“There were several reasons the version in 2007 was not ready. I wrote it in 33 days. I had this idea that I wanted to write it like I was on tour. Like a tour journal. Sounds neat but the final product was not worth reading. I wanted to spend time building the “legacy” of the band in the novel, the F*ckers. So I thought a few years seeding the history of this band in subtle ways was something that should happen over time. Also I wanted this to be the third and final book in a thematic trilogy of Punk books, with Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich and Amazing Punk Stories. This is something my editors at Deadite/Eraserhead, Jeff Burk, Rose O’Keefe and I have been planning for since 2010 really. I mean Jeff and I talked about the marketing campaign and the “Documentary” 6 years before we ended up doing it, kinda crazy when you think about it. Once Amazing Punk Stories was out I knew Punk Rock Ghost Story was next and I also knew the old draft was not nearly as good as my current work. So I drew out the old draft pulled out the outline I worked from in 2007 and started from scratch. I copied the three quotes that open the novel and started over never looking at the old draft. It was 20,000 words longer, ha-ha.”

Do you have anything new planned in the near future?

“I am working on several projects right now. A solo horror novel is in the first draft stage and it is the most savage thing I have ever written. I have a TV pilot I am developing with Anthony Trevino a super genius young writer who has a novella out called King Space Void. This project is called Nightmare City and will likely be turned into a novel series that we will co-write. Anthony and I are also in a series of Anthologies called the San Diego Horror Professionals. Six local authors edited by Ryan C. Thomas. We have two volumes out it also includes Bryan Killian, Robert Essig and Chad Stroup. They are really good.

The next published novel will be Flesh Trade Co-written with Portland science fiction author Edward Morris. It is an epic noir space opera and will be put out by Grand Mal Press. Think of it as Taken meets Philip K. Dick.

Thanks for the interview. I hope people will check out my work, I’m an indie author who values every purchase. If you can afford to get my work, I would love if people request my books at their library. Mosh!”

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JUST LIKE HELL/MR. GRAY by Nate Southard (Book Review)

JUST LIKE HELL/MR. GRAY by Nate Southard (Sinister Grin Press)

Nate Southard has a way of making you uncomfortable. Most of what I’ve read by him has left me with what I refer to as “That Gummo feeling.” You feel upset and unnerved and sad and anxious and kinda dirty and frightened. You also go back again and again. Like that sore spot on your gum you can’t keep your tongue away from. That basket full of cobras in your soul, Southard is gonna flute those fuckers all wiggly and hissing as soon as you start reading.

This book is a pairing of two older novellas. The first is JUST LIKE HELL. Dillon is a hero, a high school football star with schools frothing over him and a life full of rich prospect kneeling at his feet. However, there are things about Dillon that aren’t public knowledge, things kept from his family and friends. When Dillon’s secrets are discovered things take a dark and violent turn and by the time it’s over things will never be the same. This story is absolutely gut-wrenching. It’s timely and angry and tragic and terrifying. This is horror, truly.

MR. GRAY is the second story and in it we follow a young man and a girl as they do their best to save a child from a very dark force. A force that both of them have personal history with, think The Exorcist by way of Funny Games. Characters as flawed as they are well-meaning. And a terrifying villain, that will most certainly haunt you for some time. Southard really hits a stride here, one that barely allows time to gasp before the next blow is delivered. Brilliant. (John Boden)

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CUT CORNERS VOL. 3 (Book Review)

CUT CORNERS VOL. 3 (Sinister Grin Press)

Extreme. Brutal. Fucked up. Intense. These are all descriptives that would be quite in line if used to describe this short collection. Three stories from three of the genres most twisted writers.

Up first, we have ANDROMEDA by Kealan Patrick Burke. A young girl can’t seem to cut the cord between her cell phone and the real world, until she starts to notice strange things and people at the edges of her vision.  This story was quite creepy and occupied the same unsettling level as another Burke tale, PEEKERS. I found myself playing images from this over and over in my head, top notch.

Next is THE BARREL from one of the masters of the brutal and twisted, Bryan Smith. A drunken lout lets his dogs out one night, to discover a barrel has been dumped in his front yard. The dogs don’t like it, barking and fearing the vessel. As the man begins to give in to his curiosity about the barrel, things get much darker and pretty weird. Wonderful weirdness with touches of gallows’ humor.

Seeing us out is a story from the legendary Ray Garton. AFTERPARTY finds an obnoxious young superstar attending a party where etiquette is very important and the right behavior means everything. Young Jarrett will find out just what it takes to survive in the industry and whether or not it’s something he possesses.  This one is a violent and sour exposition on stardom and the things it takes to get there. Were it not so believable, I’d have called it satire. An exceptionally deviant tale.

CUT CORNERS VOL. 3 is a quick and easy read, a lot of fun and twisted as hell. If you aren’t familiar with the work of these fine authors, this is as good a place as any to get your feet wet. Just be sure to towel them off before you cover your house in sticky red footprints. (John Boden)

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SATANIC PANIC: POP-CULTURAL PARANOIA IN THE 1980’S (Book Review)

SATANIC PANIC: POP-CULTURAL PARANOIA IN THE 1980’S

Edited by Kier-La Janisse & Paul Corupe (FAB Press & Spectacular Optical)

Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980’s is probably my favorite book that I have read this year. A collection of essays from various authors, the book seeks to explore the phenomena of the 1980’s satanic panic in its various facets, forms, and reactions. Each essay serves to shine a light on one aspect of the satanic panic. Be it Dungeons and Dragons, Michelle Remembers, The Acid King Ricky Kasso, Geraldo Rivera’s crusade against Satan, or the proliferation of satanic themes and imagery from heavy metal music of the era; each piece dives deep into the murky waters of urban legend, sociology, pop-culture history, and public-outcry journalism for a greater understanding of the satanic panic as a whole.

Clocking in at around 370 pages and beautifully designed and laid out, Satanic Panic is full of photos, art, newspaper clippings, and movie and TV stills. This book is fucking amazing. Without getting too autobiographical, I was a kid who was into horror movies, D&D, weird cartoons, heavy metal, and so on. I also had parents who owned several of the Christian VHS tapes and books – about the encroaching rise of Satanism in popular culture and how to protect your children from it – which are discussed in this book. Satanic Panic speaks to a broader piece of modern history that for me had real world impacts. That’s possibly why it struck such a chord with me.

If you are at all interested in the history of the Satanic Panic and its aftershocks, or, you’re just curious why there was such a strong cultural stigma attached to some of the things you may enjoy, from horror to heavy metal, role playing games to 80’s cartoons, this book will server to shed some light on the groups and people who demonized them. In another way, this book also serves as a companion piece for anyone curious about the history of the rise and tactics of the Evangelical Christian Right. On top of all that, it’s also just a great case study in regards to quite a peculiar time in pop-culture history.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s beautiful, insightful, funny, and consistently interesting. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy – you won’t regret it. I swear, it probably won’t make you kill yourself or others. And don’t forget to Hail Satan. (Sam Richard)

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BACON FRIED BASTARD by David W. Barbee (Book Review)

bacon fried bastard

BACON FRIED BASTARD by David W. Barbee (Eraserhead Press)

Piggly Swiggly is a drunk. He’s also kind of an asshole, but he’s the kind of drunken asshole that it’s incredibly fun to read about. BACON FRIED BASTARDS is a despicable, drunk as fuck, bizarro retelling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in a crazy sci-fi world full of strung out bacon addicts, prohibition era gangsterisms, unrelenting robotic lawborgs, and crocodile zeppelins. It’s also got a crazy amount of heart and a healthy dose of action oriented violence.

At its core, BACON FRIED BASTARD has a lot to say about addiction and relationships, and where they collide. Never heavy-handed or moralistic, Barbee tackles some serious themes inside a story about a drunk pig man and the bacon junky he shacks up with. But it also has squid-headed men who wear suits of armor and a whole lot of drunken fights. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable book, with a ton of creativity energy running through it. It’s rare to find a book with a bizarre world so effortlessly crafted. This is a striking example of one of the many interesting faces that bizarro fiction can have.

David W. Barbee is a bizarro force to be reckoned with, and if you haven’t read him yet you should really do yourself a favor and buy BACON FRIED BASTARDS; then buy all his other books, and send me a thank you note after you’ve witnessed how great of a writer he is. With BACON FRIED BASTARDS, Barbee is on top form. This book is so damn fun and the ending was about as perfect as it could be. Get it now, pour yourself ten drinks, and enjoy the drunken ride. (Sam Richard)

 

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HIVE by Alex Smith (Book Review)

HIVE by Alex Smith (Muzzleland Press)

With HIVE, Alex Smith explores the world of urban paranoia with a Cronenbergian precision. The story follows the relationship of Mark and Carolyn as they try to piece things together following the decision to have an abortion. The act causes an emotional rift in their relationship, which they seek to close by moving out of their matchbox sized, loft apartment. As you can expect, it’s upon moving into their new apartment where things start to get creepy and weird. As to not spoil any more of the plot, let me just say that what follows is goddamn awesome.

Despite it’s short length, Smith manages to pack a whole lot of emotional realism in to the main characters and the rebuilding of their relationship. For all its paranoia, HIVE is a deeply human book. In that way, I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith was, along with the aforementioned Cronenberg, a fan of JG Ballard, as HIVE reads like a condensed horror take on the classic Ballard formula. There are some genuinely unsettling moments in HIVE. One of my favorite scenes recalls a total VideoDrome vibe, in the best possible way. I would also like to point out how sharp the book looks, because that cover is simple and effective as fuck.

Smith is now on my to-watch list for up and coming horror writers. Given that HIVE is his debut, I’m sure that he’s got a whole lot of awesomeness to share with us all, and I look forward to getting my hands on what he does next and smashing it into my brain as quickly as possible. HIVE is honest, paranoid, human horror for when you want things to get hallucinatory and creepy. I highly recommend this bit of weirdness to all interested in a fresh voice in the horror genre. (Sam Richard)

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THE RIVER THROUGH THE TREES by David Peak (Book Review)

THE RIVER THROUGH THE TREES by David Peak (Blood Bound Books)

Years ago, when they were kids, Dan and Grace Robertson had a run-in with the local urban legend known as “Bicycle Bob,”  a possibly otherworldly entity that dressed in rags and rode a bike around the woods outside of town, abducting and devouring children. Grace was taken by the man while Dan fled. While his half-sister was eventually found alive but traumatized by her ordeal, they never did capture the person responsible.

Now: Still living in their same town, Dan has grown to become a deeply introverted and timid man, so racked with guilt from the events of his childhood and consumed by the grief of taking care of his terminally ill mother.  His job as the cemetery caretaker doesn’t offer many bright spots either.  His sister, Grace is the town whore, ravaged by drugs and bad choices. She too has never been able to forget the past.

One day, Dan is taken by a group of local men, bullies, and shown the body of an acquaintance.  They leave him there with the body and he walks to town and reports it.  Through this event we are introduced to many other denizens of the town: the corrupt local deputy; his boss who is by-the-book and a decent fellow; a teacher who has as much fear as she does concern for the children in her care; Dan’s mother as she is slowly eaten by her illness; twin brothers who run the local meth lab and also seem to worship very ancient entities.  As Dan struggles to find his sister, the people and places he encounters show him that this town is just a bandage on a gangrenous wound. One that has been oozing and putrefying for a long, long time.

David Peak has turned in a metal-as-fuck tale of small town horror. If the music of EyehateGod were a story, this would it. Swampy and dark as hell. So veiny and evil and just unsettling that it makes your ears bleed. This book was so effective in that permeating evil vibe. It works on a subliminal level while you read the words and devour the story there is something much more sinister tunneling beneath it.  Maybe under you right now, waiting for that perfect moment when you have let your guard down… (John Boden)

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