Monday, January 14, 2013

Scott Kenemore

Scott Kenemore's books include The Zen of Zombie; Z.E.O.; The Art of Zombie Warfare; The Code of the Zombie Pirate; Zombies vs. Nazis; and the horror novels Zombie, Ohio, his debut, and Zombie, Illinois.

Recently I asked the author what he was reading. Kenemore's reply:
I'm pleased to be asked to write a little bit about some books I've recently read. I tend to read about 50% horror, and 50% non-horror/literary works. An interesting thing about being a horror writer (or, subset of subsets, a "zombie writer") is that only about 40% of what I write is about zombies and horror...but of that 40%, nearly 100% gets published. And of the other 60% of my writing-- which is about a variety of non-horror topics-- only about 10% gets published. Consequently, when I read books, one of the things I like to notice is the way the writer I am reading has been-- or has not been-- categorized and labeled.

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

I'm on page 750 of Fall of Giants, a sweeping epic novel about WW I (and the third novel I've read by Follett). When he's at his best, Follett's books are like wrapping yourself up in a warm blanket. Of history. They contain gripping tensions and fascinating historical facts you may have missed in school. (I, for example, was not aware that the head of the British conservative party during WW I was named "Bonar Law." Zounds!) But for all of his gifts, I sometimes struggle with the way Follett writes about sex. Something in the back of my mind (and in the packaging of his books) makes me think that there are aspects here intended for women exclusively. (For whatever reason, I consistently come away with the feeling of: "That sex scene was not written for a man.") Can one read Follett's annals of Medieval or early-20th century paramours and ever feel entirely masculine? I am still figuring that one out...

Inheritance by Joe McKinney

Joe is another "zombie writer" I know from the circuit, and is probably best known for his "Dead World" series of zombie novels. His new horror novel Inheritance was the best small press book I encountered in 2012, and one of the finest books I read all year. Inheritance is a ghost story about the dark family secrets that haunt a police officer in contemporary Texas. It reads like Clive Barker meets Martin Preib, or Stephen King meets James Ellroy. Effectively scary and exciting, it works as a police procedural to boot. (In "real life" Joe is a detective for the San Antonio PD.) Joe is one of the greatest living "zombie writers," and with Inheritance shows that he can also write very fine general-interest horror fiction.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

I'm a huge Hugo fan. The Man Who Laughs and Ninety-Three are two of my favorite novels of all time. I'd read excerpts of Les Misérables before this year (and seen the musical a few times), but never sat down to tackle the whole thing until late 2012. It was deeply rewarding. I think you have to really love Hugo's overrwriting and hyper-descriptive style (which I do) to get this book. You also learn buckets of French history. (For example, that Frenchmen who disliked Napoleon made sure to pronounce his name "Bo-na-PAR-tay" to emphasize that he was Italian-born and an outsider...perhaps just as some of our contemporaries make a point to say "Barack Hussein Obama.") There are also wonderful (and brutal!) details left out of the musical we all know so well. (The one that sticks with me is Thenardier leaving for America to become a slaver.) It was a pleasure to finally read this work straight-through, cover to cover.

The Penguin Book of Horror Stories edited by J.A. Cuddon

There are few things I look forward to reading more than a well-edited collection of ghost stories or horror stories. This was one of the best I've read in a while. In a meticulously detailed introduction, J.A. Cuddon provides a fascinating look at the portrayal of horror across the years-- tracing, for example, the movement of horrific events occurring offstage (as in plays of the ancient Greeks) to gradually moving onstage in the time of Shakespeare. There were a few lousy stories in this collection-- including one by John Lennon that wasn't scary and made no sense--but most were satisfying and at least adequately frightening. My favorite was "The Waxwork" by A.M. Burrage, about a reporter who spends the night in the "Murderer's Room" of a wax museum on the same night a real murderer is on the loose...
Visit Scott Kenemore's blog.

Kenemore's Zombie, Illinois made Paul Goat Allen's list of the 13 best zombie fiction releases of 2012.

--Marshal Zeringue