Tag Archives: Jack Ketchum


Let me start by saying that I’m an animal lover. In particular, a dog lover. I have had dogs in my life off and on since early childhood, and currently have two that I spend most days with (and fight over bed-space at night). So I will tell you now, this was a hard read.

Don’t get me wrong. Red is a relatively short novel, originally published in 1995. The writing is not difficult, in fact it’s deceptively smooth and pulled me in within just a few paragraphs. But the subject matter is, for me, quite painful. This is the kind of horror story that makes me uneasy, not just because I became emotionally involved with the characters, but because this is the everyday horror that is seen all around us. There are no ghosts, no boogeyman, no mutated alien creatures or even the walking undead. This is a story of casual human cruelty, written from the point of view of a man who has already weathered many tragedies in his life.

Avery Ludlow is in his sixties, living in a house filled with memories—both good and bad—and the dog his wife had given him for his fifty-third birthday. Then one day three boys interrupt him by the river where he’s fishing. He can smell the gun oil on their brand-new shotgun, and knows immediately that these aren’t hunters. They’re rich kids who don’t care about the river and the fish or the old man and his old dog. And just out of boredom and spite, and a terrifying sense of entitlement, they shoot the dog.

This is the beginning of the story, of the loss of the dog, Red, and what Avery determines he must do to make things right. There is no flowery language or drawn-out descriptions to be had here, but I was swiftly immersed in the simple quiet beauty of this man’s life, and brought to tears by the terrible things he had to endure.

I am glad that I was cautioned (by several people) about the subject matter of this novel. But even more, I am glad that I read it. I would whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone. It is an amazing tale of love and remembrance, about a man who would certainly be worth knowing.

Jack Ketchum is a Bram Stoker Award winning author, the 2011 World Horror Convention Grand Master, and winner of the Best Screenplay Award at the prestigious Sitges Film Festival in Germany for The Woman.

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Bottom’s Up: A Conversation with Bill Braddock

Bill Braddock is a man of many talents, one of them writing. Brew is his debut novel and let me tell you, it’s an ass kicker. Full of enough grue and gore and ridiculous violence to sate the biggest horror hound appetite, and yet peopled with strong and real characters you can relate to…and others you wish you couldn’t.

Bill was kind enough to run out to Shock Totem Manor for a chat. (I say run as he is in shape enough to do that and still kick all of our asses without getting winded.)

John Boden: Brew is set in a “college town,” and growing up a stone’s throw from State College, PA (Penn State), it held an awful lot of obnoxious truth. The mentality of those football-headed folks, the fact that ALL can and will be sacrificed for the sake of that game…I could go on, but I fear it would be fairly negative. I know you hail from the same state as I, so I have to ask: how much “real life experience” found its way into this book?

Bill Braddock: Well, first of all, you nailed it…College Heights is my take on State College/Penn State, where I went to school and worked as a bartender. Virtually every place in Brew is based on a real spot, and some of the names are fairly obvious parallels—“Short Ridge” vs. “Shortlidge,” for example. I had great fun, traveling back in time and walking around my memories of these places, then prettying them up with plenty of chaos.

I considered simply setting the story in Penn State, but the town has gone through so many changes since I lived there twenty years ago, I either would have had to become the Michener of horror, doing extensive research and killing the fun, or I would have received an avalanche of e-mails pointing out my errors. While streets and stores change, however, I was confident that mass drunkenness and football mania still ruled. No need to change those.

The insanity that grew out of those football Saturday nights—that crackling weirdness, everybody hyped-the-eff up, looking for fun, looking to get laid or get in a fight or maybe overturn a car—all that, paired so incongruously with the ubiquitous laughter and hooting and celebration, weirded me out, resonating until it finally triggered this book.

All this being said, I love that town, insanity and everything. It ruined me on college ball forever, but I had a blast there, an absolute blast.

JB: I adored the fact that the heroes were all sort of “unlikely” in that they were the misfits and shadow people that are never on the scope of popularity. Was this a conscious choice or just how it turned out?

BB: Brew was a situation-first-characters-second story. I knew the central event, knew I wanted to tell a story like Richard Laymon’s One Rainy Night or Jack Ketchum’s Ladies Night, but I didn’t know the characters until I started writing. Herbert arrived first, then Steve, then Cat, then Demetrius, I think…and it wasn’t until I’d gotten well into Demetrius’s side of things that I realized all my heroes were outsiders.

Later on, I discovered that this is a recurring thematic concern of mine, the idea of people whose native strengths, due to societal circumstances, end up becoming paradoxical liabilities… until something big comes along, turns polite society on its head, and yesterday’s outcasts become today’s heroes.

JB: As gloriously over the top as this novel is, it is not entirely unfeasible. I mean, instead of the shambling undead, you give us mobs of ourselves, stripped of all objective reason and hyped up on animal aggression. I found this much more terrifying. Also the fact that in an isolated college town in central Pennsylvania, some shit like this could go down and linger for days before anyone really caught on and showed up to do anything about it, which amplifies the horror.

BB: Brew is far-fetched, but yeah, it’s not entirely impossible. Even the synchronized insanity, which is probably the least feasible aspect, isn’t completely out of the question. I had fun researching the book, and after gathering what I could on my own, talked to a chemist, a paramedic, and a pharmacologist. The more I learned about less-than-lethal technologies, brain science, and pharmacology, the more frightening (and frighteningly plausible) this all seemed.

I love traditional zombies. The inexorable slow shamble of their mindless mass attack seems to me the perfect metaphor for tireless pressure of the mundane world. Busy work, pointless job duties, paying bills, applications and permits, stuff that only rolls around once or twice a year, like remembering to shut off and drain the hose bib before winter hits, things that kill us not because they’re difficult in isolation but because they just keep coming, keep coming, keep coming…

And what do they want? Your brains.

Z-apocalypse stuff is fun because it takes all those mundane tasks that worry at our brains, solidifies them symbolically as a monster—a physical threat—and allows the strong individual to shrug off the maddening trivialities of day-to-day existence and get down to some this-shit-actually-matters-and-therefore-my-performance-actually-matters activity. Refreshing.

Despite my love of the walking dead, however, I wanted something different, something more in step with both the real-world madness I’d witnessed at Penn State and the cultural fears of the moment. In the 21st century, random violence, whether you’re talking about terrorism, school shooters, or the “knockout game,” rules headlines. Personally, I am frightened by violence outside logical cause-and-effect, from a beer keg I once saw tossed from one of the upper floor balconies of a high rise apartment at Penn State to the cancer that took my mother to bullets fired from shooters unseen.

You also mention isolation. When I was a kid, one of the coolest things about Penn State was its isolation. Forty-thousand people roughly twenty years old, most of them scuffing around without a full-time job. I decided to employ the other side of that particularly shiny coin by telling an apocalyptic tale versus a post-apocalyptic one. That’s why the whole story takes place in a matter of hours rather than days or months or years. I didn’t want the cavalry to get there in time to solve the problem. I wanted to leave that up to my outcasts-turned-heroes.

JB: It was a very cinematic read, in that I could totally see it playing out in film form. I would imagine there may be some interest in that. Is this something you would be on board with?

BB: Thanks. I’d really dig seeing Brew on the big screen, and I think it would make a fun movie. My excellent publishers have been talking to some absolute rainmakers on the West Coast, but I’m not holding my breath. It hasn’t even been optioned yet, and these things are a long shot. Still, even long shots do work out from time to time, and that would be really cool, so one of these midnights, I might have to sacrifice a goat or something.

JB: Have you always liked horror? What was it, if any one thing, that lured you to the dark side?

BB: I’ve always loved horror. As in always. I blame my brother, who was six years old and tended a tall stack of horror comics. My brother wouldn’t share, and my mother didn’t allow me to read them, since I’d been having night terrors all the way back to the crib, so I made it my daily mission to sneak in there and read those things. My brother, who went on to earn a degree in mechanical engineering, went so far as to rig up a homemade alarm built out of a screaming toy motorcycle. All too often, he would catch me in there, and he was merciless, as protective of those comics as a mother wolf with its pups. Other horror writers can pontificate all they want about the genre, but I’ve taken countless ass whippings in the name of horror. I’ve bled for horror. And I’m cool with that.

JB: What is on the horizon for Bill Braddock?

BB: I’m always writing, man. Right now, I’m mainly pounding away at a mainstream thriller, but I also have a couple of short stories I’m dying to write, a horror novel I’ve planned and can’t stop thinking about, and about 1,000 pages of work piled up on my long-time pet project, Perils of the Road. Given the positive response to Brew, however, I’m thinking of writing a collection of stories set on that same apocalyptic night. I’d call it Microbrews.

JB: That would be brilliant, the Microbrews thing. You aren’t messing with me, are you? Anyway, I don’t care. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me a bit. You’re the bee’s knees!

BB: Thanks so much, man. I’ve had a blast talking with you, and it’s awesome to find myself in the Shock Totem camp. You guys really know how to throw a party! As to Microbrews, not messing with you at all—and your enthusiasm just pushed me one step closer to writing the thing. Thanks!

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Announcing the Shock Totem Holiday Series…

Shock Totem Publications is proud to announce a new holiday series of books.

Back in 2011 we released something a little different: Shock Totem: Holiday Tales of the Macabre and Twisted 2011. It featured fiction from Shock Totem Publications staff members as well as the wonderful and insanely prolific Kevin J. Anderson, all based on the end-of-the-year holiday season. It also included anecdotal nonfiction pieces from a wide variety of authors.

Our sharpest cover to date. Ba-doom tssh! I’ll be here all week, folks.

The release was a hit. It sold well and continues to do so. But it was only released as an e-book, and since then many of you have asked for a print version. That is finally coming in late November.

Looking beyond that, we have a Valentine’s Day issue planned for late January 2014 and a Halloween issue planned for October 2014.

This is a cover mock-up. Listed authors are subject to change.

As with the first holiday issue, these releases will feature fiction based on their specific holiday themes. Nonfiction will come from not only authors but the artists and publishers whose talent and contributions to this field are all too often overlooked.

Look for the print version of the debut holiday issue in late November (or download it now), followed by the Valentine’s Day issue in late January 2014 and the Halloween issue in October.

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Chiral Mad

“Chirality” is, by definition, an object or system that does not match up to its mirror image. Hands are a common example of this. And we all know “mad” to mean insane or mentally ill. The two words that title this brilliant anthology basically tell you that these tales of varying madness and insanities will not be like anything you’ve read before. More than a title, it is a promise and one that is delivered upon.

The twenty-eight stories that make up Chiral Mad are all quite good. I will not go into all of them but will touch on my favorites.

I was not blown away by the lead story, Ian Shoebridge’s somewhat hallucinogenic “White Pills,” and worried I’d be wading through a volume full of that sort of thing; but the second tale, by Gord Rollo, laid my fears to rest. His “Lost in a Field of Paper Flowers” is a tragic tale of transcendental revenge that made me smile. A dark little smile.

Gary McMahon delivers another sliver of shimmering disturbia and repressed memory with “Seven Pictures in an Album.” While Monica O’Rourke’s “Five Adjectives” is a brutal diorama of denial and avoidance. Chris Hertz gives us firebug lovers in “There Are Embers.”

Eric J. Guingnard turns in “Experiments in An Isolation Tank,” a tale of inheritance, madness and perception, all darkly shaded in Lovecraftian hues.

In Julie Stipes’s “Not the Child,” a young mother sees the harbingers of death in her neighborhood and discovers it was not by accident. Jeff Strand’s “A Flawed Fantasy” takes the picking-up-a-strange-woman-at-a-bar trope and changes the game with a clever ending.

Jack Ketchum turns in a squirmy tale of marital discourse, nosebleeds, and strange visitations with “Amid the Walking Wounded.”

And then there is “Need,” by Gary A. Braunbeck. (Deep breath.) This might be the best short story I have read years. Its premise is simple: We are all saviors and we are all monsters. Told out of chronological order, it chronicles a tragedy in a town and the mark the heartbreaking event made on those who live there. It’s a haunting tale, one I found, and still find, playing on my mind. It hurts.

None of these stories are bad. Not a single one. Some resonated with me more than others, but that is to be expected. The writing is topnotch, and the subject matter is widely varied and innovative. These folks dug their toes in and went for big game. They have the trophies to show for it.

And if a collection of outstanding horror is not motivation enough for you to plunk down your hard earned money on Chiral Mad, I offer this enticement: All proceeds go to Down’s Syndrome charities. So buy a copy. And another for a friend or relative. Maybe a few more to sock away for Christmas gifts. Support the cause and read these stories.

I applaud Michael Bailey for publishing this…

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Fangoria Reviews Shock Totem #6

John Skipp has reviewed Shock Totem #6 on Fangoria’s website.


“[Jack] Ketchum and I are in firm agreement that Shock Totem is living proof that we’re in a golden age when it comes to the short horror story. Some of the best stories ever written are being written right now.”

To read the full review, click here. Have you picked up your copy yet?

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Goodreads Giveaway—Issue #6

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Shock Totem 6 by K. Allen Wood

Shock Totem 6

by K. Allen Wood

Giveaway ends April 06, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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Shock Totem #6—Now Available!

Shock Totem Publications is very happy to announce that our sixth issue is available for purchase!

Don’t listen to this guy. Tell everyone!

Shock Totem returns with its sixth issue, featuring stories that range from troubling tales of loss to chilling examinations of mankind’s dark side. In “Lighten Up,” four-time Stoker Award™-winner and Grandmaster of Horror Jack Ketchum gives us a dose of dark humor that still manages to be righteously menacing. “The River,” by rising star Lee Thompson, is a brutal tale of purgatory, wasted life, and regrets.

Soulmates connect through murder, love and revenge in P.K. Gardner’s “For Jack.” In “Orion,” a young girl who has only known darkness makes the ultimate sacrifice—in blood. “No One But Us Monsters,” by Hubert Dade, follows a man who is haunted and tormented by his own crippling fears. Mail hoarding, sin eaters, political horror, Shock Totem #6 runs the gamut.

Also included: Conversations with Lee Thompson and seven-time British Fantasy Award nominee Gary McMahon, as well as narrative nonfiction—a tale of true horror—by Ryan Bridger. An editorial about inspiration; the latest installment of “Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes,” which examines the connections between music and horror; plus reviews and much more…

Come see why Shock Totem is billed as “…one of the strongest horror fiction magazines on the market today” (Hellnotes).

Currently the print issue can be purchased via our webstore or Amazon. More online retailers will follow in the coming days and weeks. Kindle owners can order the digital copy here.

Interested in our back catalog? All past issues are still available digitally and in print and can be ordered directly from us or through Amazon and other online retailers

As always, thank you for the support!

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Announcing Shock Totem #6…

Right on the heels of our fashionably-late fifth issue, we are proud to announce that our sixth issue is primed and almost ready to go. I am doing the layout this time, so I’m making sure everything is perfect. It’s close, though.

For those who have yet to see it, here is the cover artwork:

Once again the cover art was created by the brilliant Mikio Murakami, who has done all our magazine artwork since issue #3.

Here is the official Table of Contents:

* The Spectacular Inspiration Suit, by John Boden (Editorial)
* For Jack, by P.K. Gardner
* Orion, by Michael Wehunt
* The Hard Way: A Conversation with Gary McMahon, by John Boden
* Ballad of the Man with the Shark Tooth Bracelet, by Lucia Starkey
* She Disappeared, by Ryan Bridger (Narrative Nonfiction)
* Strange Goods and Other Oddities (Reviews)
* No One But Us Monsters, by Hubert Dade
* The Cocktail Party, by Addison Clift
* Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes, Part 4, by John Boden and Simon Marshall-Jones (Article)
* Lighten Up, by Jack Ketchum
* Magnolia’s Prayer, by John Guzman (2012 Shock Totem Flash Fiction Contest Winner)
* When We Crash Against Reality: A Conversation with Lee Thompson, by K. Allen Wood
* The River, by Lee Thompson
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)

Yet again we feel this issue sits well apart from previous issues, though without straying too far from what readers have come to expect from us. We dig it, and we’re confident you will as well.

Look for it soon in digital format. Print will follow shortly after, and if interested you can preorder it here.

As always, thank you for your continued support!

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Shock Totem #5—Now Available!

Shock Totem Publications is very happy to announce that our long-awaited fifth issue is available for purchase!

This issue of Shock Totem is yet another eclectic mix of horror fiction and nonfiction, featuring previously unpublished stories from the likes of Ari Marmell, Darrell Schweitzer, Joe Mirabello, Mekenzie Larsen, and others. There is also a five-part illustrated microfiction serial, by Kurt Newton, which is something new for us; plus a conversation with horror legend Jack Ketchum, narrative nonfiction by Nick Contor, reviews and more.

The full table of contents is as follows:

* Taking Root: An Editorial, by Mercedes M. Yardley
* In Deepest Silence, by Ari Marmell
* Girl and the Blue Burqa, by D. Thomas Mooers
* Digging in the Dirt: A Conversation with Jack Ketchum, by John Boden
* Hide-and-Seek, by F.J. Bergmann (Poetry)
* Eyes of a Stranger: An Essay, by Nick Contor
* Postmortem, by Kurt Newton
* Jimmy Bunny, by Darrell Schweitzer
* Strange Goods and Other Oddities (Reviews)
* Little Knife Houses, by Jaelithe Ingold (2011 Shock Totem Flash Fiction Contest Winner)
* Canon, by Anaea Lay
* Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes, Part 3, by John Boden and Simon Marshall-Jones
* The Catch, by Joe Mirabello
* Three Strikes, by Mekenzie Larsen
* To ‘Bie or Not to ‘Bie, by Sean Eads
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)

As of right now, you can order this issue—and past issues, which are all still available—directly from us or through Amazon, in both print ($6.99) and digital ($2.99) formats.

As always, thank you for the support!

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Red Rain

If you have kids—or maybe when you were a kid yourself—R.L. Stine was a reading fixture. His Goosebumps series encouraged kids to read for years. I even read a few of my kids’ copies, and also played the HorrorLand computer adventure game—which featured Jeff Goldblum!

So when I was offered the opportunity to review Stine’s new novel, Red Rain, for adults, I jumped at the chance. He’s now reaching out to those kids who grew up with his books.

Lea Sutter is a travel blogger who takes a trip to Cape Le Chat Noir, a small island off the coast of South Carolina. The island is said to harbor both the living and the dead—they exist together in an uneasy peace. Shortly after Lea arrives, a nasty hurricane hits the island. In the aftermath, Lea walks along the beach when she is besieged by a blood rain—red rain. Two little boys emerge from the rain, lost and alone. Lea takes them back home with her, wanting to adopt the orphaned twins.

Her husband and other children aren’t thrilled, but they try to welcome the boys into their home. Then weird things, bad things start happening. Although Lea’s husband Mark begins to suspect there is something very wrong with the boys, Lea won’t hear any of it. And all she can think about is the death and destruction she saw on the island.

Then Mark is accused of a gruesome murder and the kids in the town go missing—and the Sutters’s lives are turned upside down.

Red Rain is a great story. It kept me turning the pages; it was hard to put down. The ending was unexpected and really made the book. Although it wasn’t scary, there were definitely creepy moments. The story reminded me a lot of Thomas Tryon’s The Other, another great story about freaky twins.

Although one of the blurbs on the back cover says to “Keep this book far, far away from your kids” (Douglas Preston), it’s really not inappropriate for kids fourteen and up. This is the perfect book for introducing older Goosebumps readers to more adult horror without screwing them up for life, like say a Jack Ketchum book would.

This is more of a creepy mystery than an outright horror. Definitely an excellent read, and I hope R.L. Stine continues to write for us adults.

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