I guess I should put something on this page, seeing as how it’s here, and, well, “about me.”
I was born in Savannah, Georgia and raised on a small farm in a rural community called Pineora about 3o miles north of the city, which is most likely overrun with cookie-cutter housing developments and probably has its own airport by now.
I went to Effingham County High School– Go Rebels! …unless the PC establishment has changed your name. I’m pretty sure the Confederate battle flag is gone. (I was geek enough to think of our Rebels in terms of guys like Wedge Antilles and Biggs Darklighter rather than Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest, anyway.)
Next I frittered away most of my twenties with college and what-not, eventually getting myself married at the grand old age of 34 to a woman of whom I am decidedly unworthy, and having a wise-cracking, happy-go-lucky, fantastic daughter in the bargain. I’m recently in Texas and about to finish a seminary degree.
As far as background for becoming a writer, both of my parents were voracious readers, and passed the gene on to me and my sisters. Mom would cart us off to the county library in Springfield every other week during the school year, and every week in the summer. We also took advantage of the bookmobile, probably one of the last generations to do so, which I think is a crying shame. Every time I saw my mother, she had a book in her hands–cooking dinner, washing clothes, lying in the sun or in bed. I think the example of just seeing my parents read had more of an impact on becoming a reader than anything, even being read to.
The best Christmas present I ever got was from my Uncle Frank when I was 7–a HUGE box filled to the brim with the Bantam Books paperback reprints of Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, Operator 5, John Carter of Mars, Tarzan, and G-8 and the Battle Aces, all pulp novels, all written 40 to 60 years before I was born. I practically inhaled them. Also included for my formative reading years were collections of illustrated classics like Sherlock Holmes, Jules Verne’s novels, and Edgar Allan Poe’s complete works. (Dad read me The Tell-Tale Heart that same year; I was terrified and hooked in equal measure. The nightmares continue to this day–Thanks, Dad.)
Also when I was seven (something magical about that year, I guess), I inherited my grandparents’ old yellow Royal Saturn model typewriter and began pounding out stories left and right–not very good stories, but I was writing and that was the point. I liked telling stories and sometimes I would co-write with my friend Tim. We’d write stories about UFOs and monsters on ruled notebook paper, adding illustrations of our own. Then we’d grab a handful of twist-ties from bread bags or kitchen garbage bags and run them through the holes, effectively binding them and making them, by gum, honest-to-God books.
My left arm for even one of those books now.
My favorite book series as a kid was Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators. Some of you may remember them–basically three boys in a small California town solved mysteries and reported their cases to Alfred Hitchcock, who introduced every book after the boys solved the mystery of the first book on one of his movie sets. Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews–next to these guys, Frank and Joe Hardy were mouth-breathers, Nancy Drew was Barbie with a spyglass, and Encyclopedia Brown was a moron. All of you that read the adventures of Jupiter, Pete, and Bob know what I’m talking about; those that didn’t, do yourself a favor and hit the library before they get rid of them all.
The first “grown-up” book I remember reading was Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey. My grandma had given me a boxed set of four of his books for Christmas one year and that one sounded like the best story. It was and is one of my favorite westerns.
I guess my influences are many, though I lean more towards the fantasy/sci-fi/horror subgenres.
Certainly Amos Harlow was influenced by Manly Wade Wellman’s excellent Silver John stories (or John the Balladeer to some, even though Wellman never called his character either—simply “John.”) Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan, and Charles Beaumont—all members of that West Coast fraternity of writers called the “California Sorcerers” whose short story work made up about two-thirds of the original TWILIGHT ZONE—are all huge influences, especially when it comes to composition, pacing, and plotting. I think Robert R. McCammon is one of the most underrated writers alive and his books The Wolf’s Hour, Boy’s Life, and the supernaturally-tinged Colonial detective novels of Matthew Corbett are among his best.
For mysteries and thrillers, I’d have to say David Morrell–the guy that gave us John Rambo in First Blood–wrote page-turners like he was on fire. Desperate Measures, The Fraternity of the Stone, The Fifth Profession, and Brotherhood of the Rose were all top-notch, better than most of what’s out there now. You go to school on guys like Morrell. Also, Flannery O’Connor’s Southern Gothics were as surreal as they were realistic in their portrayal of violence and psychosis, and Jim Thompson’s crime novels, especially The Killer Inside Me, were like gut-punches from a steam shovel. Donald E. Westlake, writing as Richard Stark, penned his famous Parker novels–a gritty, terse series of crime stories with a protagonist that’s really an antagonist, and you root for the guy even though he’s a skell.
Lately, I’ve discovered James Lee Burke and his series of Dave Robicheaux mystery novels. No writer has ever made a setting or geography more real to me than Burke. His descriptions of the bayou country surrounding New Iberia, Louisiana make the area come alive, almost another character in itself. The land speaks in a voice all its own, totally entrancing and enchantingly foreign to anyone who’s never lived there or visited the place. It makes you want to move there, to live under its shadowed oaks and among its vast tracts of cane fields, to hear its voice for yourself and become one with it. It’s a rare talent. Burke’s characters are equally enthralling—solid, bleary-eyed anachronisms that continue to buck the future and its dark underbelly, refusing to give an inch, yet admitting to the dark places in their own souls without hesitation.
As far as science-fiction goes, Alfred Bester and his The Stars My Destination is still one of my favorite books of all time. It’s The Count of Monte Cristo if Philip K. Dick got his hands on it. Same goes for The Demolished Man, and I kind of wonder if Dick was influenced by either story. Jack Finney is another unsung great. He gave us The Body Snatchers, which gave me fits as a kid as two different movies, but more so the latter adaptation—that scene with Donald Sutherland’s silent scream still gives me the willies. Finney also wrote a collection of sci-fi stories about time-travel—something very hard to do well, in my opinion—called About Time. He also gave us the novels Somewhere in Time and Time and Again, the former made into a good movie starring the late Christopher Reeve.
Fantastically-speaking, I’d have to say Glen Cook’s Black Company novels were terrific—sort of a war journal series about a group of mercenaries trying to survive in a war-torn fantasy world while all the time trying to discover their time-shrouded origins. George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire has turned the fantasy genre on its ear, giving us a darker, more realistic fantasy setting and characters well above-par to anything on the market. At first glance, I thought Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series was a flash in the pan, no more destined to last than the subgenre it belonged to. At first read, I was hooked–and I mean hooked hard. The guy strikes the perfect balance between world-building and storytelling and makes me believe in a modern-day world of wizards, especially one who moonlights as a detective.
I still love the pulps, and more than a little creeps into my writing, especially on some of my future projects in the works right now. DOC SAVAGE still holds a place in my heart—the stalwart good-guy and all-around genius that wants to stamp out crime no matter what. His counterpart, the SHADOW, a Batman before there was a Batman, slinking in the shadows, laughing at his criminal prey as he gives them the business (though I dug THE SPIDER, a more vicious vigilante more akin to the Punisher than his pulp soul-brother.) OPERATOR 5’s desperate secret wars fought on American soil were a blast, and always made me think of it as a precursor to G.I. JOE in a way, and G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES was a great mix of World War I flying ace derring-do and supernatural evil brewed in secret laboratories or summoned in occult rituals by the Kaiser and his Huns.
Alfred Hitchcock is still my favorite filmmaker and visual storyteller. They guy was simply a master of fear and suspense, and the ultimate example of why not showing the monster is always scarier than showing it, slavering between crooked teeth in full Technicolor and towering three stories over the audience. After seeing The Birds at seven years old, I kept watching our picture window in the kitchen every night at supper…just in case. After sitting through Rear Window, Psycho, Shadow of a Doubt, and Strangers on a Train the first time, my fingernails looked like they’d been through a paper shredder.
All that said, I am always writing; I have enough projects at the moment to keep me busy through the next five, maybe six years. I hope to have many and more stories to tell. Stop by occasionally and find out!