My dear friend,
Thank you for checking in here. This blog will be about the Chesapeake Bay, her history, her beauty, her prime, and her slow murder right before our very eyes. It’s the story of a poisoning. Sadly, it’s non-fiction. More on this next time.
First, I want to talk with you about this debut novel of mine.
DEADRISE is the newest addition to the American SOuthern GOthic canon. As many of you know, So-Go is a genre of writing that scuttles hunched over in desolate, dark, dilapidated, claustrophobic settings, (monasteries, castles, lighthouses, antebellum mansions). It’s infested by grotesque, larger than life characters. These characters are often physically misshapen to emphasize distorted thinking or sociopathic levels of mental illness. This illness in turn is often an allegory of a cultural soul sickness. So-Go emerged from the American South, but has migrated throughout the world as a recognizable paradigm for writing about social ills everywhere.
The marshy wastes of the Smith Island archipelago, which are slowly eroding into the rising Chesapeake Bay, form the perfect Southern Gothic setting for DEADRISE. The island streams walled with cattails, and the ruined buildings on outlying islands complete the world of DEADRISE, a primordial breeding ground, fertile enough to incubate World War III.
Early So-Go often includes metaphysical or occult elements, spawned by the forerunners of contemporary horror, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe.
Southern Gothic emerged in the mid-20th Century with more internalization of the physical grotesqueness, and more violence and themes of racism due to ignorance and poverty. Recall Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and the works of Carson McCullers, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O’Connor, Willliam Faulkner, and Toni Morrison. In the late 20th Century, one cannot overlook the works of James Lee Burke, who melds what seems to be post-traumatic stress disorder with recurrent supernatural apparitions in the mind of his serial character, Dave Robicheaux.
Oprah Winfrey produced a powerful film version of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a So-Go novel complete with a terrifying poltergeist played by Thandie Newton. Never has such beauty inspired such horror.
Late 20th and early 21st Century So-Go is marked by an extremely popular return toward the externally deformed, monstrous, or occult characters, including Anne Rice’s Vampire books, and the Stephenie Meyers’s Twilight series.
On a more satirical note, in Carl Hiaasen’s books, antagonists suffer terrible yet well-deserved maiming injuries. In Double Whammy, a dog bites an evil-doer’s arm, and never lets go, not even in death. The heavy decapitates the carcass, and progresses through the end of his arc with the dead dog’s jaws clamped deeply into his arm until finally a festering infection runs its course. In Skin Tight and Star Island, when Chemo’s arm is bitten off by a barracuda, he replaces the arm with a strange prosthesis, a weed-whacker. The outward injury, even the grotesque grafts, signal that the soul inside has likewise been altered for the worse by an ailing capital “S” Society.
In DEADRISE, antagonist Maynard Chalk slips further from normality toward the ungoverned id of modern Mr. Hyde. Like Dr. Jekyll, he has volunteered for this psychic break. In order to cope with a conflict he believes was inspired by the madness of Senator Lilly Morgan, he must himself embrace madness. He does so, not by ingesting a potion, but by refusing the medications that hold his darker side in check. Senator Morgan’s mental illness is neurological in nature, and ironically stems, no pun intended, from her devotion to her rose garden. These monsters must be vanquished by Ben Blackshaw, a protagonist who is tortured by his own internal demons.
DEADRISE satisfies many requirements of the Southern Gothic novel. Though death suffuses the action, and even the denouement, DEADRISE remains a hopeful story, leading directly to the next Ben Blackshaw novel, NITRO EXPRESS. Read the first two chapters on this site soon. Give me your email address, and I’ll let you know when they are ready for you.