“The writing was excellent – the author fits multiple layers to the story while making Mark a sympathetic character, despite being the weird and aggressive kid in class. I couldn’t wait to find out where the story was heading and was satisfied with the ending.”
In his latest interview, Mike Thorn answers Lou Pendergrast’s questions about Shelter for the Damned, Darkest Hours, and his new story “Deprimer” (from the latest issue of Vastarien).
“As Mark’s friendships begin to deteriorate, so too does his school and home life, making the shack feel like the only good thing in his world. I felt that one reason Mark may have been easily swayed was his own proclivity towards violence but another may have been the implied physical abuse at the hands of his father.”
- What authors influenced you growing up? Who are you reading now?
As a young kid, I was really excited by J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and R. L. Stine. Discovering Stephen King as a preteen was a big deal, and the same goes for encountering Hubert Selby Jr. in my teens.
These days, I try to read as widely as possible. I’m currently making my way through Drawn Up from Deep Places, by Gemma Files, which is terrific. I was recently floored by two Henry James novels—The Portrait of a Lady and The Bostonians.
“High-octane horror that really delivers while never being too predictable. Mike Thorn respects the genre and […] is a well-read student of horror.”
It is fascinating to assess Gemma Files’ Drawn Up from Deep Places as a collection, because the book’s construction is so uniquely connective. That is, rather than reading as an assortment of individual, isolated pieces, Drawn Up from Deep Places registers as a carefully designed, cumulative whole, comprised of two re-emerging fictional sequences woven among several standalone stories. With this text, Files displays extraordinary thoughtfulness and craft, both in conceptual and formal terms.
The collection begins with the vivid, haunting “Villa Locusta,” which situates us in an apocalyptic environment laden with mythological and religious imagery. Files further demonstrates her penchant for religious allusion with “Sown from Salt” and its companion story, “A Feast for Dust”: this duo recalls Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter, injecting a somber Western narrative with Biblical and supernatural reflections.
The bulk of the collection is devoted to another ambitious, genre-crossing series of interconnected tales. These pieces (“Trap-Weed,” “Two Captains,” the title story, and the final novelette, “The Salt Wedding”) revolve around a toxic, queer, and (sometimes dangerously) magic pirate romance aboard a ship named the Bitch of Hell.
There is also a queer horror-Western populated with demonic zombies (“Satan’s Jewel Crown”), a dark, culturally-specific love story with supernatural threads (“Hell Friend”), and an assembly of screenplay-formatted tableaus set around Jack the Ripper (“Jack-Knife,” definitely my favorite). With “Jack-Knife,” Files draws adeptly on her cinephilia and film criticism background, designing a narrative that reads both thrillingly as prose fiction and convincingly as visual text.
Drawn Up from Deep Places showcases a highly talented writer who inhabits rich genre histories and always manages to reconfigure those traditions in unusual, interesting ways. Files demonstrates stunning formal dexterity here, and a total command of voice (I am in awe of the sheer range of approaches here). This is a collection meant to be consumed as a whole, carefully designed and artfully executed. Highly recommended to adventurous readers of genre fiction.
Coming from The Seventh Terrace, June 16, 2021: Welcome to the Sixth Terrace of Dante’s tower of Purgatory, serving up sins of gluttony in an eternal banquet…
This exciting anthology will include Mike Thorn’s new story, “Vomitus Bacchanalius.”
“Why I’m excited to read [Shelter for the Damned]: I’m always up for horror that include creepy buildings which seem to be alive. I’m also interested by the study of violence and toxic masculinity within the main character! Looks like it could a fantastic book!“