So you can read my books

Monday, October 29, 2012


Mark Twain, Stephen King, and I were playing poker in Meilori’s.

“Why horror?,” frowned the ghost of Mark Twain.

King frowned back. “You mean why did I choose to write horror?”

“No,” snorted Mark. “The size of those stacks of chips in front of you tells me that. Why is horror so danged popular now?”

King sighed, “Not all of it is. Most of the horror movies fall flat these days.”

“Why do you think that is?” I asked.

Mark cackled, “Plain as day, son. It’s a case of the cat who sat on the hot stove never sitting on a hot stove anymore. ‘Course he won’t sit on a cold one either! They learned the wrong lessons from the successful horror films.”

King nodded. “Exploding blood bags, expensive CGI, and fancy make-up jobs won’t scare anybody over the age of 14.”

Mark winked at me. “And that’s three years younger than you have to be to get into one of those danged R rated horror movies to begin with!”

King said, “No, for a horror movie to work, it has to tap into our subconscious mind, find the things so terrible we can’t even bring ourselves to put them into words, and startle us with glimpses of them from the shadows.”

“Not directly?” I asked.

Mark chuckled at me. “Course not. Very few of us are able to look straight into the eyes of the Gorgon, son.”

“Symbols work best,” nodded King. “The best horror stories work on a symbolic level to help us understand our fears. Not face them. If you can’t face your fears, then you’re not quite sane.”

I made a face. “A lot of folks say the imaginative reader who gobbles up horror stories isn’t sane.”

Mark Twain shook his head. “No, they are more, not less, sane, Roland. They know that today apparently absolutely anything can happen, that we mortals are so very fragile, and that we walk among monsters.”

King nodded again. “The serial killers do walk among us:

Cancer, heart disease, the drunk driver. Ask a policeman. He’ll tell you that in every city block, no matter how high the income level, there is a meth user or lab.”

King rubbed his chin. “The imaginative see more than those with mental myopia.”

Twain frowned at his chewed-up cigar.

“Why, son, most of the world is more than content to read PEOPLE, howl at AMERICAN IDOL, and parrot their parent’s political opinions. That is not a useful life. That’s the life of a June bug that just happens to have opposable thumbs and can count to ten.”

King drummed his fingers on the table. “The imaginative mind takes refuge in make-believe terrors so that the real ones everyone else is ignoring don’t overwhelm them.

I said, “They go into the darkness of the movie theater, hoping to have a nightmare … because the horrors of the world outside look ever so much better when the nightmare ends.”

King’s eyes grew deeper. “But every nightmare is a solitary experience, a real world suddenly tilted on its ear vision. Hollywood should remember that.”

Mark lit up another cigar. “What I love about horror is its sheer democracy!”

I frowned. “Democracy?”

He slapped the polished oak table top.

“How can you not love horror where THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, which cost only $100,000, can scare the bejabbers out of the whole world, grossing $250 million!

Why, son, that’s pure democracy in action. Then, you add PARANORMAL ACTIVITY to the mix. Why, Roland, that’s close to angelic anarchy!”

King frowned at his hand and folded. “SAW III and up were hyped up and phony. The movie equivalent to Thanksgiving Day Parade floats. Now, BLAIR and PARANORMAL, the damn things looked and felt real. Shaky and unexpected like your nightmares.”

Mark smiled wide. “Those movie studio heads think horror is easy. T’aint anything close to easy. But it is mysterious,”

“Like catching lightning in a bottle,” suggested King. “Or like a good joke : re-visit the punch line too many times, and it wears thin.”

King shook his head. "Sam Rami tried it with DRAG ME TO HELL, but laughs predominated over the horror. To get the right mix of the two, you have to go back to his EVIL DEAD II."

Twain snorted, "Like THE DESCENT. I, myself, preferred the director's DOG SOLDIERS where heart was there as well as the horror."

He saw my arched eyebrow and chortled, "Hell, son, ghosts watch movies, too."

Mark chuckled as I folded, too, and he began raking in the chips.

“Hollywood churns out the same fodder over and over again. But, son, no matter how hard you churn water, you ain’t ever going to get butter!”

I made a face again. “Which is why we get all those not-scary, straight-to-video horror movies.”

King stared off into the darkness which somehow seemed thicker suddenly. “The truly effective horror stories reduce us to the mental age of ten again.”

His face went ashen. “Ah, Roland, where did everybody suddenly go?”

I looked around. All was darkness. Mark Twain’s seat was empty. All was a hollow silence. I tried to see beyond our table.

Only a living blackness surrounded us.

I jerked. A shuffling of dragging feet. It drew closer and closer to our table.

A low moaning breathed out of the darkness: “No. No. No!”

Stephen King tried to swallow and couldn’t. The shuffling was only inches away.

“Why can’t we see what’s making that shuffling?” I asked.

“It’s right on top of us,” rasped King.

“Boo!” shouted the suddenly appearing Mark Twain, a tray of ice tea in his hands.

He winked at the two of us jumping in our chairs. “Gotcha! Figured since I fleeced you at poker, I at least owed you something cool to drink.”

He cackled a laugh. “I wanted it a surprise so I dropped that blanket of night all around you. But wouldn’t you know? I almost tripped myself up in that danged fog!”

King took a cold tumbler of ice tea with shaky fingers. “So help me, Clemens, if you weren’t already dead, I’d kill you!”

He glared at me, but I just shrugged, “Hey, this is Meilori’s. You got off easy.”

{Be sure and read Stephen King's latest: 11/22/63!

Mr. Stephen King also wants it to be known that this is a fictional account ... he positively, absolutely did not lose that poker game!}



  1. Too much, Roland. Everyone is showing up at Meilori's. Pretty soon, you'll have bouncers and an A-list.

    Nice touch with King there!

  2. D.G.:
    Make that A Undead List! :-) Samuel McCord and Father Renfield sub as bouncers ... and the three Hellhounds: PieceFull, Puppy, and Tiny!

    Mr. King did seem to enjoy himself. I spotted him looking at some of the customers and taking notes!

  3. Evil Dead II... I laughed through that one as well, but it was a classic.
    Torture porn is not horror. Plain and simple.
    Last truly effective and creepy horror film I saw was The Ring. Yeah, it's been a while...

  4. Alex:
    THE CABIN IN THE WOODS came closest for horror, humor, and actual witty & thought-provoking moments. THE RING scared me plain and simple. The ghost of Mark Twain still hasn't forgiven me for playing the DVD so he could watch it with me!

    Torture porn just panders to the dysfunctional in our society. A NEW YORK TIMES movie critic said he spent most of HOSTEL with his eyes in his laps and sounds of screams and power tools in his ears. Sad.

  5. "The truly effective horror stories reduce us to the mental age of ten again."

    So very true! That is why I enjoy books far more than imagination takes me further that the actual words.

    Read Under The Dome...great. I also like Duma Key.

  6. Gail:
    DUMA KEY is my favorite Stephen King novel for the friendship painted so well in it despite the horrors the two good friends had to endure.

    Like you, I enjoy books due to my imagination being enlisted as a co-conspirator, so to speak! A good voice actor in an audio book can add another quality to the experience, too! :-)

  7. Every visit to your blog is a treat! This post is no exception :D Thanks for posting this (and my thanks to Mr. King and Mr. Clemens as well). I'm currently reading "On Writing Horror" and the essays constantly bring up the questions, "why write horror?" and "why write horror now?" The next time someone asks me why I write horror, I'm sending them to this blog post.


  8. Really I wish something would scare me, I don't know why I keep looking. I guess I am looking for something to scare me more than real life, that way I can go to sleep at night and still think everything is just fiction after all.

  9. Jen:
    Thanks so much. I think you would enjoy King's ON WRITING. It is short and full of wisdom. :-)

    AMERICAN PSYCHO would scare you, but it is highly distasteful to me as it is too close to real life horror.

    DUMA KEY by Mr. King is rooted in real life, drawing you into the trauma of Edgar Freemantle, trying to recover from a terrible car accident ... slowly drawing you into a frightening crisis both supernatural and emotional.

    Sadly, monsters are real as the killings in Norway tragically proved.

  10. I tried to watch American Horror Story: Asylum the other day. It was disturbing, gory, and had a lot of the BOO factor, but didn't actually scare me.
    It was everything I don't like about Criminal Minds with none of the psychology that I do.
    Plain old, sticks with you, can't sleep later, haunting creepy is way more successful with me than gross stuff. What you can't see is more frightening than anything the special effects department can whip up.

  11. I'm pretty much a horror wimp. Good thing I wasn't at this meeting.