Brian Evenson isn’t an author that fans of Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King, or Chuck Palahniuk typically know, but he certainly should be, as his work is every bit as apocalyptic, surprising, and haunting. For years, Evenson’s readers have been slipping copies of his books into the hands of friends, students, and family members. When travelling, I often keep a copy of Contagion (which Evenson graciously allowed my small press, Astrophil Press, to reprint) and drop it into neighborhood lending libraries, and I must admit that I find a little thrill in knowing that I’ve done my small part in introducing people to this pitch perfect collection of stories. I am not alone in this; many of Evenson’s readers border on evangelicals, spreading the dark word of Evenson. This enthusiasm for Evenson’s work is understandable considering his ability to publish tightly wrought, layered stories that often stick with us long after having read them. There are very few authors I can think of who have a catalog as strong as Evenson; his stories feel entirely new and each of his sentences feel entirely necessary.
Recently, MCD Books has begun to establish itself as a home for some of today’s most memorable horror fiction. That’s bolstered by the recent publication of Rachel Eve Moulton’s Tinfoil Butterfly and the forthcoming publication of Andy Davidson’s The Boatman’s Daughter. To learn more about the press’s foray into horror, their aesthetic, and their future plans, I spoke with MCD Books Executive Editor Daphne Durham. Our conversation touched on everything from what constitutes literary horror to the legacies of bygone horror imprints, and includes some details of what you can expect from horror at MCD Books in the future.
We’re very happy to be publishing an excerpt from Dave Newman’s new book East Pittsburgh Downlow, out now on J.New Books. As its publisher says, “Pittsburgh’s most famous citizen, Mr. Rogers, said ‘In times of crisis, look for the helpers. East Pittsburgh Downlow is the story of the helpers. It’s the story of the helpless and people desperately trying to help themselves. In more than 600 pages, lives will change and end and people will be re-born. Families will be saved. Love will find love because that’s what love sometimes does.”
Hillary Leftwich has a knack for titles. Her new collection has arguably the best one I’ve encountered this year: Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock. In it, she combines surreal fiction, sharply-composed poetry, and taut nonfiction into an unpredictable and compelling whole. In addition to her book, she’s also the person behind the reading series At the Inkwell Denver; in other words, Leftwich is someone who can approach literature from many sides. I talked with her via email about the range of work in her collection, literary kindred spirits, and her handling of class.
The Psychotic Dr. Schreber, the latest book from D. Harlan Wilson, is a nearly indescribable blend of unsettling fiction, historical rumination, and cultural criticism. It’s also an utterly gripping literary work, one that takes bold risks and makes incredible use of an unconventional structure. In revisiting the life of a man best-known for Sigmund Freud’s writing on his case, Wilson details the ways in which Schreber remains relevant today — and traces the way he’s left his mark on everything from medical history to popular culture. I talked with Wilson about the genesis of the book and its unexpected scope via email.
Full disclosure: I blurbed Oliver Zarandi’s new collection Soft Fruit in the Sun, so I’m not exactly an impartial observer when it comes to his writing. But that’s not a bad thing: Zarandi is a writer worth championing, someone whose writing takes readers to wholly unexpected places and revels in bizarre yet familiar imagery. And so we talked about the making of his collection, the writers he admirers most, and what his take is on the current Premier League season.
“The thing about being the murdered girl is you set the plot in motion.” All 31 pieces of flash fiction in Cathy Ulrich’s debut collection Ghosts of You (Okay Donkey Press) begin with a variation of this sentence. Ulrich is a writer from Montana, whose work has appeared in Fiction Southeast, Cleaver Magazine, and The Atticus Review, among other venues. In Ghosts of You, she gives the murdered girls and women so frequently used as plot devices back their stories. In this conversation, Ulrich explains her deft use of repetition, the anger that fueled the collection, and the influence Law and Order reruns had on the collection.
When it comes to finding ugliness, unexpected beauty, and weirdness in everyday life, no author does it quite like Mary Miller. Her understated, straightforward prose is a treasure trove of illuminating morsels that strip away pretense and reflect humanity in all its glorious range: unpleasantness, pettiness, aching, love, hope, heartbreak, longing, lust, depression, humor, and confusion abound. At once a novel and a sociological treatise of loneliness and heartbreak, Biloxi, Miller’s latest novel, is a hybrid narrative that’s part novel, part love letter to human darkness, and part ethnographical observation of an old man and his dog. Oh, and it’s all strangely beautiful and engrossing.