Today’s special guest is Harry Shannon, author of the rip-roaring pulp horror novels Night of the Beast, Clan, Daemon, Dead and Gone, and The Pressure of Darkness, the superb Mick Callahan crime noir series (Memorial Day, Eye of the Burning Man, One of the Wicked, Running Cold), and most recently the novella, Pain, and a collection, A Host of Shadows. His latest release, (co-written with Steven Booth), is the apocalyptic zombie novel, The Hungry. And if the word “zombie” elicits a groan, Harry sympathizes…
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By Harry Shannon
We’re all sick of zombies. If not, we damned well ought to be. I’d hold they are not quite as over-exposed as vampires, but we’re getting there. The night Teen Zombies In Love hits the YA Best Seller list and also sells as a movie trilogy, I guess we will have completely arrived.
And yet, as Halloween approaches, and I wander out to ponder decorating the yard, I find myself digging around the garage looking for my old VHS copy of the original Night of the Living Dead. You see, I adore that movie. It scared the crap out of me at the drive-in all those years ago, and it still works today. That little girl in the attic? Brrr…and that horrible Karloff impression, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara,” so wonderfully sets the stage for what is to come. I love zombies. Love how they have come to symbolize so many cultural things, from vapid consumerism to the offstage horrors of terrorism or rampant corruption on Wall Street. In the right hands, they rock.
So against all odds, I found myself collaborating on a new zombie novel, The Hungry.
It began as a short story for a charity anthology called Dead Set. A friend named Steven W. Booth had been flailing about trying to finish an acceptable novel, and I offered to collaborate on a tale that became Jailbreak, and eventually The Hungry. The conceit was simple, a zombie tale in an old west ghost town, but the moment I decided to make the Sheriff a female, something wonderful happened. Sheriff Penny Miller took over the story…and our zombies became something fresh and interesting. Joe McKinney maintains in the introduction to The Hungry that Penny Miller is uniquely American, a tough as nails lady out to do the right thing despite terrorism, a crappy economy and hordes of negativity personified by the living dead. Damn, he just may be on to something.
In any event, it was one hell of a lot of fun to write.
I love good zombie stories because in they end, they aren’t about the zombies. Like all good fiction, they are about people, human beings facing difficult circumstances and banding together to survive. Just like real life, just like now. So I guess I’m not sick of zombies after all, just zombies with no purpose behind them, or perhaps cardboard characters in front of them.
I plan to fix up the yard next weekend, put out the creepy lighting and prepare the sound effects. As the kiddies come searching for candy, I’ll be jammed into one corner of my couch watching a seminal black and white masterpiece for maybe the 100th time.
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