Jordan Krall interviews Edward Lee
Recently, Eraserhead Press author Jordan Krall (author of Piecemeal June, Squid Pulp Blues, and Fistful of Feet) spoke with hardcore horror superstar Edward Lee about sex, violence, and cult movies. Note: This interview was conducted via email in early April and both collections mentioned in the article are now out.
EDWARD LEE: The Lovecraft of Hardcore Horror
If you’re a true horror fan, then you know Edward Lee. You may know him from his brutal revenge tale Header (recently made into a feature film) or his mass market paperback novels such as The Golem andBrides of the Impaler.
But what his true fans treasure most are his small press masterpieces of harder-than-hardcore horror.
Gast. Going Monstering. The Bighead. The Pig. The House.
These are books that would make the Marquis De Sade gag. We’re talking the filthiest, most vile, evil things ever imagined. Despite the gruesomeness, Lee brings in humor and depth that you don’t often find in the genre. Whether writing about backwoods hicks, horny demons, Lovecraftian horrors, or fetishistic creeps, Edward Lee does NOT disappoint.
Deadite Press (the horror fiction imprint of Eraserhead Press) has just published two collections of out-of-print (and much sought after) fiction from Lee called Bullet Through Your Face and Brain Cheese Buffet. To celebrate this, I talked a little bit with the man to see what makes such a depraved mind tick.
Edward Lee: Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever really been asked that before, and it’s occurring to me this very instant that I’m oblivious as to an answer! I can only guess that my own curiosity is what pushed my creative bent toward the hardcore. Whether it was 30 years ago, or today, I find that whenever I’m reading something, part of me wonders what the work would be like if it were more explicit. Sometimes, of course, the prospect doesn’t kindle me at all because there’s no way the more explicit detail would be integral to the story; the result would be boring and cumbersome.
Much of the time, however, the prospect is thrilling. If I’m reading Lovecraft or M.R. James, for instance, I’ll think, “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if stories like this were to-the-max hardcore?” Or I’ll read an old Elmore Leonard novel and be struck that edgier details might or would work very effectively–even to a greater effect than the original. It would make for more interesting icing on the cake. At any rate, that was my creative reasoning, say, in the early 90’s. The Bighead, for example, I wrote as merely a creative exercise; I wanted to take a standard horror-formula (The Old Monster in the Woods Theme) throw in some uncharacteristic characters, and see what happens when I put a hardcore microscope on their lives. It seemed to spice things up in a way that was, for me at least, fascinating. The project was a lot of fun, but I NEVER thought it would get published. When it did, (and also my novella Header) my “hardcore” sub-career began; and–knock on wood–it’s still going. For quite a while I’ve been privileged enough to write for two marketplaces–foremost, the mass-market, and then the small-press/hardcore/collector’s market. I couldn’t feel luckier.
JK: Many of your stories involve demonology. Does it interest you purely in the fictional context (like in Lovecraft, etc) or do you enjoy reading about “real” occult topics?
JK: There is a pattern in many of your stories of a person getting his comeuppance after trying to satisfy an extreme sexual need. It almost seems like these stories have a moral. Is this intentional? Or it is sort of like those old E.C. comics . . .
EL: Both, I think. I don’t deliberately set out to write grotesque morality plays, but they wind up that way a lot. Of course, E.C. Comics were something else I was weaned on, so who knows? But I don’t mean to say that, for instance, my novellaEver Nat, was actually an existential psycho-drama that demonstrates man as a unit of consciousness alone in a universe full of natural temptation; and the desolateness of sex as a component of single-minded indulgence. Laughing yet? It’s a scatological horror yarn about a guy who picks up a hooker and she turns out to be the WRONG hooker. It’s true, a lot of my stories are like that, and I’m really not sure why. An author’s own work is the hardest for her or him to analyze.
JK: What sort of reactions have you gotten from people who know you in “real life” after they read your more extreme fiction?
EL: One girl I was practically engaged to dumped me after reading the galleys for Coven. Quite a number of folks have reported that, after reading one of my grosser stories, their significant others have become tuned up in the libidinal department. After Header came out on DVD, not one but two women I know (one an ex-girlfriend!) said that they’ve fantasized about getting “headered,” but only from the guy who played Travis in the movie! (Eliot V. Kotek.) Interesting stuff, huh? I remember years ago I was interviewed at a convention and this woman in the audience gave me a rasher of crap about my story “Stickwoman,” insisting that my fiction existed to victimize women. I tried to politely point out that men seemed to be more aggressively victimized in my work, but she wasn’t buying that. I did promise to turn the tables, however, then wrote Ever Nat. I hope she read that one.
JK: Can you remember cutting a scene from a story because you knew you absolutely could not include something so depraved or gross? If so, can you be specific?
EL: I can’t remember cutting anything for that reason, but I did have a scene cut from Creekers because it was too graphic. But I loved the scene so much I put it in The Bighead (the “Kohl’s Point” Scene). I’ve always avoided explicitHolocaust references because, well, it’s a tragedy so potent I don’t think it has any place in fiction that’s designed to entertain people. It’s a Hand’s Off topic. And–wow–you’ll hate this–there are two stories I wanted to write but never will because . . . I can’t tell you!
JK: Damn! Well, maybe someday you’ll change your mind. Anyway, are you influenced by movies at all? If so, which ones do the trick?
EL: I’m sure I am influenced by movies but I’m not consciously aware of it. When I wrote Brides of the Impaler I continuously watched movies by Paul Naschy, Jean Rollin, Amando DeOssorio, Jess Franco, and Joe D’Amato because I wanted to use imagery in the book the same way these directors used it in the films (among my favorite films in the genre!)
Everyone in the book is named after some aspect of a lot of these movies. There is one recent notion that has occurred to be, a movie I saw a couple months ago called Paranormal Activity. It wasn’t very effective in my opinion; it seemed like an hour and a half of Blair Witch Style footage that existed to prop up two or three scary scenes. But my disappointment with the flick gave me an idea for a novella in which I can do all the things those filmmakers DIDN’T do, sort of a rip-off in reverse. There’s a good chance, I think, that I’ll write it some day; and if I do, it’ll be hardcore to the max. I’m getting queasy just thinking about it!
JK: You mentioned how you like being scared and/or grossed out by a story but not depressed. Your stories, despite the depravity, are fun as hell to read. How do you make sure the readers don’t get depressed? How do you keep it so fun?
EL: Well, actually most of my hardest core, scatological stuff are black comedies (The House/The Pig, Minotauress, Going Monstering, etc.) so no matter how grim certain implications can get, it’s doesn’t generate that effect because it’s funny. But in serious stuff (I guess Haunter of the Threshold falls into this category), I’m not sure how to answer the question. Happy endings, in a sense? I’m not sure. I hope people are entertained, not depressed by the book. Perhaps the strength and sexual nature of the protagonist will circumvent the reader becoming depressed by the perverto-horror-show meat-grinder she goes through. It also strikes me, though, that as I’ve gotten older, I lean toward more happy endings. I guess I’m turning into a cream-cake.
JK: This may seem like a standard boring question but fans do want to know (especially fans who are also writers): What’s your writing schedule like? Do you have any rituals?
EL: It’s a great question because all authors have a different answer. My only ritual involves chugging Diet Coke, but my routine is akin to this: I get up at nine-ish, go for a walk (preferably on the beach where I can pursue, say, alvinolagnia?) and maybe run some errands, then return to my abode and write 1000 words. Sometimes I’ll write only 500, then go for another walk, and do another 500 when I get back. I love walking. It clears my head; it even seems to work out structural problems in my work in progress without requiring my conscious volition. Some fans have been disappointed to learn that I never write at night (like Lovecraft, for instance) but I can say that for the first 15 years of my career I did quite a bit of writing at night. I guess as I get older, my brain works better during the day!
JK: You have some books that are coming out from the Deadite Imprint of Eraserhead Press. Can you tell us a little about them and how it came to be that you’re working with DP/EHP?
EL: Jeff Burk contacted me somewhat out of the blue, after sending me this really cool book called Squid Pulp Blues, which looked great and was a dynamite read. Can’t recall the author, though. Jordan something? Anyway, Jeff made a pitch, was interested in some of my older cult tales, so I said “Hell yeah.” The actual titles aren’t locked yet, but one is a reprint novella collection that will contain Ever Nat, The Salt-Diviner, and (my favorite title!) The Refrigerator Full of Sperm. The second project is a reprint story collection of some pieces that have been out of print for a long time: “Mr. Torso” and it’s fairly rare companion piece “Ms. Torso,” “The Dritiphilist” (one of those stories I’m ashamed of myself for writing!), “Makak,” “Grub Girl in the Prison of Dead Women,” “Mother,” and the uncut version of “The Baby,” plus a few others I think. I’m very excited to see these reprinted, and equally excited that they’ll be trade-sized paperbacks at a very reasonable price. I hope the material stands up after all these years.
JK: Do any of your personal sexual interests or fetishes enter into your stories?
EL: It’s true that I’ve written a number of tales about paraphilias (fetishes); Room 415, “The Dritiphilist,” “The Cyesolagniac”; in fact, Haunter of the Threshold (which I hope will be released as an affordable trade pb next fall) is about a woman who suffers from myriad ultra-kinky fetishes (including urophilia, asphyxiophily, and–are you ready?-hybristophilia, or one who is aroused by having sex with scumbags and criminals!) I can also promise that several more stand-alone stories will come down the pike that involve one character or other’s perverted fetish syndrome–how’s this for a title? “Papillamanic”! (Oh, and how could I forget? The novel I’m working on now is about a chronic scoptolagniac, i.e. a peeping tom.) But have I ever written about my own personal fetish? Hmm, actually, no. I’m a confirmed alvinolagniac!
JK: Lately you seem to be on a Lovecraft kick. What brought this on?
EL: For decades, whenever I’m asked in an interview what horror author has most influenced me, the answer is always the same: Lovecraft. A couple of years ago, though–right after an interview, no less–it occurred to me that even though Lovecraft is my biggest influence, I hadn’t really read him for almost 30 years. So I dropped everything and re-read all his work, and found that it was even better than I remember. In fact, since then, I haven’t stopped re-reading him. I probably read at least several pages of HPL every day. One day I read “The Hound” five times in a row, and another day I did the same with “The Rats in the Walls” (which still gets my vote for Scariest Story Ever Written.) Tonight, I will re-read for probably the dozenth time “The Lurking Fear,” (one of the best “pulp” horror tales ever; it’s as though Poe climbed out of his grave 80 years later and wrote a piece for Weird Tales) and tomorrow I will re-read “He,” perhaps my favorite HPL story of all. In essence, I eat, drink, and breathe Lovecraft now–I can’t get enough. If I can’t fall asleep, I don’t count sheep, I count the Daemon Swineherd’s flabby fungous things from “Rats in the Walls.” When my stomach rumbles, I SWEAR it’s trying to say “Yog-Sothoth.” Serious, I’m an HPL junkie. No author can transport me to another more exciting world more effectively than The Master. But with this realization, it struck me as odd that I’d never really written anything “Lovecraftian” (save for Coven, whose overall concept was a camouflaged version of The Mythos), so thus I embarked, and discovered that I LOVE writing Lovecraftian fiction, particularly pastiches. (Trolley No. 1852, The Innswich Horror, and the upcoming Pages Torn From a Travel Journal.) My chapbook “You Are My Everything” combines HPL tidbits and Headers, while Going Monstering brings back aspects of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward . I’ve partially written a piece which functions as a sequel to “The Dunwich Horror” called “The Dunwich Love Story,” and I even have a contemporary novel in mind (working title: Dunwich). Praise be to Lovecraft!
– Jordan Krall
Out Now on Deadite Press
Ever Nat – One man is forced to endure an unimaginable torment just to stay alive, one night at a time.
The Salt-Diviner – A touching story of one couple and the quadriplegic, homeless fortune teller locked in their basement.
The Refrigerator Full of Sperm – Why are all the men of Luntville falling into comas with their pants down and dicks up?
Zombie prostitutes, religious rapists, horny werewolves, death by vomit, and sexual fetishes scraped off the sidewalk. From sex prisons to mafia torture chambers, hold on tight because you’re about to enter the perverted and twisted mind of Edward Lee. Once you’ve seen what he has to show you – there’s no coming back.
Brain Cheese Buffet collects nine of Lee’s most sought after tales of violence and body fluids. Featuring the Stoker nominated “Mr. Torso,” the legendary gross-out piece “the Dritiphilist,” the notorious “The McCrath Model SS40-C, Series S,” and six more stories to test your gag reflex.
Out Now on Eraserhead Press
“Krall has quite a flair for outrage as an art form . . . he’s created a wholly unique terrascape of Ibsen-like naturalism and morbidity; an extravaganza of white-trash urban/noir horror.” – EDWARD LEE
Kevin lives in a small apartment above a porn shop with his tarot-reading cat, Mithra. He has gotten used to Mithra bringing him things from outside: dead mice, Twinkie wrappers, donut scraps, houseplants, and the occasional rabbit head. But one day, Mithra brings him an ankle… a sweaty piece of rubber-latex shaped like a human ankle. Later, he is brought an eyeball, then a foot.
After more latex body parts are brought upstairs, Kevin decides to glue them together to form a piecemeal sex doll. But once the last piece is glued into place, the sex doll comes to life. She says her name is June. She comes from another world and is on the run from an evil pornographer and three crab-human hybrid assassins.
Piecemeal June is a reality-bending journey into love, sex, death, and a bizarre parallel world of butchered flesh.
Squid Pulp Blues
Three novellas of squishy-noir from Jordan Krall.
On the surface, Thompson looks like any other blue collar New Jersey town. But beneath the working class exterior lies a bizarro world of fetishistic crime, sleazy motels, and squid. In these three bizarro-noir novellas, the reader is thrown into a world of murderers, drugs made from squid parts, deformed war veterans, and a mischievous apocalyptic donkey…
Red Henry Hooper just got out on parole. He meets his friends, fellow small-time criminals Dix Hayden and Grant Minissi, in a cheap motel to drink a couple beers and perhaps plan another job. Things go sour when Grant takes some bad drugs. Meanwhile, in the next room, strange things are happening that will make Henry’s day even worse: a woman is missing her feet and a notorious local gangster Robert Hapertas (aka The Haberdasher) is on his way. And he’s not pleased…
Tommy Pingpong knew it was a mistake sending his partner Jake into the meeting with their boss. Now they were on the run from Peachy, a diaper-wearing gangster who would like nothing better than to kill the both of them. On top of that, the deformed war veterans called the longheads are buying up all the guns in town, planning something big that’ll have severe implications for the town of Thompson.
THE APOCALYPSE DONKEY
When Simon Palmer took the black envelope from the tall man in the parking lot, he didn’t know that this case of mistaken identity would make his day take such a weird turn for the worst. When the man finally realizes that he gave the envelope to the wrong guy, Simon is thrown into a dangerous cat-and-mouse game that finally leads to a sleazy carnival of squid violence . . .
Fistful of Feet
A bizarro tribute to Spaghetti westerns, H.P. Lovecraft, and foot fetish enthusiasts.
Screwhorse, Nevada is legendary for its violent and unusual pleasures, but when a mysterious gunslinger drags a wooden donkey into the desert town, the stage is set for a bloodbath unlike anything the west has ever seen. His name is Calamaro, and he’s from New Jersey.
Featuring Cthulhu-worshipping Indians, a woman with four feet, a Giallo-esque serial killer, a crazed gunman who is obsessed with sucking on candy, Syphilis-ridden mutants, ass juice, burping pistols, sexually transmitted tattoos, and a house devoted to the freakiest fetishes, Jordan Krall’s Fistful of Feet is the weirdest western ever written.