1999

So, I had to go to the DMV this morning to renew my driver’s license, which had expired on my birthday and I hadn’t realized it, like an idiot. The DMV is never a great experience, and yesterday was no exception to that rule. But I was able to finish reading Christopher Golden’s Ararat while I was there, which made the time pass much faster (I was there slightly less than two hours) and I did end up taking what had to be the worst driver’s license photo in history–at least my personal history of driver’s license photos. Insult to injury? My last one looked terrific. Heavy heaving sigh.

Even more insult to injury? It looks like me.

Ah, well.

You have to hate that. Anyway, I managed to finish reading Ararat, which was enjoyable, and this evening I started reading Margaret Millar’s Do Evil in Return, which is quite marvelous.

ararat

Just past eight o’clock on the last morning of November, the mountain began to shake.

Feyiz froze, breath catching in his throat as he put his hands out to steady himself, waiting for the tremor to end. Instead it worsened. His clients shouted at him in German, a language he did not speak. One of the men panicked and began to scream at the others as if the devil himself were burrowing up through the heart of the mountain to reach them. They stood on the summit, vivid blue sky rolling out forever before them, the frigid air crisp and pure. An idyllic morning on Mount Ararat, if the world had not begun to tear itself apart.

“Down!” Feyiz shouted. “Get down!”

He dropped his trekking poles and sank to his knees on the icy snowpack. Grabbing the pick that hung at his hip, he sank it into the ice and wondered if the six men and three women in this group could even hear him over the throaty roar of the rumbling mountain.

The Germans mimicked his actions.

I read an essay recently which discussed how, out of all the types of genres and subgenres in literature, that horror is the most faith-based of them all. It sounded absurd at first, but as I read the essay and thought about it more–and have, obviously, continued to think about it–that premise is pretty spot-on. Not all horror is faith-based, of course; there’s nothing about faith in films like Halloween or any number of horror novels I could think of (The Other, for example); but so many of them actually are that it’s kind of fascinating; especially when you take into consideration the way religious groups generally condemn horror books and films. The Exorcist is deeply rooted in Catholicism; and to name two, neither The Omen nor Rosemary’s Baby could have been written without knowledge of the Christian Bible. Ghost stories are predicated on the idea that there is life after death; that the soul continues to live on and needs to move on to another plane–whether that be heaven or hell, those books rarely make the distinction. The existence of the supernatural in a lot of horror proves that faith, and religion, are real and true; and after all, isn’t religion itself supernatural? I have made the offensive (to Christians) joke about Easter being a celebration of a zombie; and if you can get past the faith and look at any religion and its rituals, you can see what I mean.

I blaspheme, of course. I am an apostate heretic who would have burned not so long ago in our history.

I’ve read Christopher Golden before; I greatly enjoyed his Dead Ringers, and have Snowblind in my TBR pile. This week I took his Ararat out of the pile to read, and it again put me in mind of how so much horror fiction is dependent on religion for its existence. The opening scene quoted above, of an earthquake shaking Mount Ararat in Turkey, ends with a tremendous landslide, one which greatly changes the geography and the face of the mountain itself, long purported to be the final resting place of Noah’s Ark. The existence of the Ark, of course, would prove that the Bible is, at least in this instance, literally true (although Christianity is not the only belief system from the Middle East that tells of an ancient flood); there have been reports in the past that it has been found; but the likelihood of wood thousands of years old surviving is not great. But this landslide opens a new cave on the side of the mountain, high up; and soon the race is on to be the first to scale the mountain and see what’s inside the cave. The first section of the book has to do with one particular team racing to beat several other’s to the cave; risking their lives in the process. But the team–lead by adventurous couple David and Meryam, who explore and write books and make documentaries about their exploits–that arrives first soon discovers that the cave isn’t really a cave but the Ark itself…and there’s something else there that should have never been discovered.

To tell anymore would, of course, risk spoiling the story; there are so many twists and turns and scares and shocks that to give away anything more than is contained in the cover jacket blurb would be a disservice to future readers and to author Golden. But I couldn’t stop reading; resented having to put the book down, and was very satisfied when it was finished. Golden also includes diversity of characters in all of his books and does it casually; I also appreciate the fact that he chooses not to describe non-white characters in terms of food or drink–I could go the rest of my life without reading about “cinnamon” or “chocolate” or “cafe-au-lait” skin.

But just think about it for a moment–if the story of Noah is actually true, the flood changed the world and refreshed it; a reboot by God, as it were, and there are some verses in Genesis that show how different the original world was before it was cleansed–the one that readily comes to mind is There were giants in those days.

I look forward to reading more of Mr. Golden’s work.

 

Let’s Dance

I managed, yesterday, to polish off Chapter Two; I wrote 1700 words or so in about an hour and fifteen minutes and voila! The pesky chapter was finished. I also started Chapter Three this morning; alas, maybe about a paragraph was all I was able to get done, but it was a start, and a start is always lovely. This weekend is my birthday; I will officially be fifty-six; but I’ve been saying I’m fifty-six for quite a while now. (I usually add the year after New Year’s; it’s just easier and I don’t really think of my birthday as a big deal, quite frankly). Paul and I are going to go see Dunkirk tomorrow night, and then out for dinner afterwards. I’ve taken Monday off, and I am working a late night on Tuesday, so I won’t have to be in to work until around three, which means I basically have a three and a half day weekend, which is lovely. I am hoping to be able to get a lot done this weekend; I want to finish reading the Ambler, which I am loving, then I am going to reread Dorothy B. Hughes’ In a Lonely Place, and then I am going to reread The Haunting of Hill House. After that, it’s either Jeff Abbott’s Blame or my advance copy of Laura Lippman’s newest, Sunburn.

One of the best perks of being a writer is that I get advance copies of books, or know people who do that can pass them along to me. My dear friend Lisa recently gave me an advance copy of this:

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I don’t consider myself to be a horror writer (SHUT UP BACK THERE! I said horror, not horrible), but I do consider myself to be a big fan of the genre. I read a lot of these books–not all, who knew there were so many? But I was a voracious reader, and I loved to read horror. The first horror novel I read was The Other–I still have the hardcover copy I originally read in junior high; I’m not sure I remember how I got a hardcover copy of it, maybe it was my grandmother’s–and I also read The Exorcist in junior high; everyone was reading it, and as all tweens (although we weren’t called that then) are wont to do, all we talked about was the crucifix masturbation scene. I always liked horror–I remember watching old black and white scary movies with my grandmother (she also likes mysteries) when I was a kid, but I never thought I could write it. I certainly never tried until the 1980’s, when my fandom of Stephen King made me give it a try. I still love reading horror, and there are certainly some amazing horror writers being published today whose books I greatly enjoy.

My inability to get any of it published is an indicator that crime was a better fit for my talents.

But what a wonderful resource this is! And a lovely trip down memory lane. To be honest, I thought I hadn’t read much horror throughout my life outside of the usual suspects (Stephen King, Peter Straub, Poppy Z. Brite) and some others that have come along more recently, but in going through this, I saw many titles I’d forgotten I’d read, and authors I’d forgotten.

This is a must for all horror fans; even those who are too young to remember the glory days of the mass market paperback boom of the 70’s and 80’s.

And now, back to the spice mines.