Over the past few years I haveoftendiscussedmygreatestinfluences as a writer in the horrorgenre. This week I would like to discuss another one: an oft neglected TV show entitled In Search Of. Airing from 1977 to 1982, In Search Of was narrated by the regrettably now deceased Leonard Nimoy, In Search Of proved not only entertaining – but also surprisingly scary. Especially for young children at that time, such as myself. I loved the show (particularly it’s first few seasons), so much that I couldn’t resist finding a reason to briefly mention it in my new werewolf novel Apex Predator.
Whether consciously or not writers often interject aspects of their own personality into their characters. Though I didn’t shape my novel’s protagonist nor the other characters upon myself, there is a bit of me in each of them. Before anyone says anything about the villainous Jimmy Donnelly, please don’t worry. I’ve never done anything remotely approaching the savagery unleashed by that character’s particular appetites. However, parts of my past show up in other characters; including the book’s protagonist – William Brody.
During Apex Predator’s first act Brody is investigating a gruesome murder that happened in the same metropolitan area where he grew up. There is a forest bordering the suburban neighborhood where he was raised; and this forest had an impact on his character’s development, as it did on mine. As a child I spent countless hours in that forest and in front of the television. During those years the forest taught me something, and at times the lessons it taught inspired me to become a horror novelist. One of those instances occurred when my childhood best friend and I swore we found Bigfoot prints in the mud along the tree line. Now, where do six year old’s get such an idea? Why, the television of course.
Some of you might remember that it once seemed as if Bigfoot was everywhere. In Search Of spoke of him; the Six Million Dollar Man fought the creature; and the Saturday afternoon horror special’s eerie Led Zeppelin scored intro all too often led into another showing of the Legend of Boggy Creek.
In Search Of’s creepy take on the beast might have been the scariest. The first three minutes of Season One’s Bigfoot episode led to several nights of nightmares for my young self. Those minutes reenacted a Bigfoot attack on some miners in the Pacific Northwest. The rest of the show (included below) isn’t bad, but I encourage you to watch at least those initial scenes. Try and overlook the show’s groovy title music. Consider what a young child who watched the episode might have been thinking the next day when he or she ventured into the woods. What might that child have been imagining was also out there in the trees – watching and waiting for a chance to strike:
I am absolutely ecstatic to say HorrorNews.net has just published an enthusiastic and positive review of my new novel Apex Predator, offering the following praise:
“It takes mere paragraphs to become addicted to author’s unique style and infectious story telling prowess…pace is swift… rare commodity for one to stumble across… mesmerizing conclusion… vivid description… pulse pounding action… borderline poetic and the crystal clear imagery inspires the suspense fanatic in each of us… eloquent grisly, gory and gruesome prose. Douglas evokes an unsettling level of skin crawling hysteria for even the most cynical of readers…one cannot help but squirm with unease and maybe double and triple check that the locks have been secured for the night. Rest assured Apex Predator is not your Uncle Ned’s Werewolf story. It’s invigorating, innovative and refreshing to see an age old premise composed with a brand new edge…will jump at the chance to embark upon another S.M. Douglas odyssey.”
Needless to say I am beside myself at landing such a wonderful review (though for some reason they refer to me as “him” and not “her” but whatever, I’ll take it in exchange for an endorsement like this from such a highly regarded publication). For those that don’t know, HorrorNews.net is perhaps the number one website for all things horror. It is consistently ranked by Alexa as one of the top four horror related websites as well as one of the top horror websites of all time. This is so cool.
Yesterday I did a short interview with fellow horror author Brian Ferenz over at werewolfbook.com. We touched on several topics. These include: where my initial interest in werewolves arose from, the role both World War II and the city of Detroit play in my book, some modest tips for aspiring authors, my take on the importance of cover design, and more! What other authors might also find notable is that I did the entire interview via Twitter (where Brian found and contacted me) – a lesson in and of itself regarding the importance of social media in terms of getting the word out there about your work.
Please check out the interview. It’s a short read and Brian also has interviewed several other author I think werewolf fans will find interesting. These include one from yet another Michigan based werewolf author – Joshua Werner. There seems to be a bit of a werewolf renaissance in the mitten state, so don’t forget to keep your silver handy if you come to visit!
As everybody who follows me on social media knows I have been on a historical werewolf kick. Perhaps this should be no surprise given that my new book Apex Predator features several chapters set during the Second World War (chapters an actual WWII historian edited). However, Apex Predator also has several other nuggets for the fan of historical or classic werewolf mythology. To that end it offers what I hope to be an interesting take on the werewolf origin story, which this superb artwork by Jakub Rozalski in part encapsulates – at least in terms of showing the era in which my werewolves first took form.
In Apex Predator this is all further fleshed out as several primary characters grapple with the fact they are being hunted and try to figure out how to not only survive but also gather enough evidence to prove werewolves do exist and thus get help. I have long been interested by the idea of being hunted by a monster but having no one to get help from because no one would believe it – so I also incorporated that into my novel. But I digress. I have also long been fascinated by the interplay between man and his surrounding environment; particularly at those catastrophic times when nature strikes back. Perhaps no such time was more deadly than during the Black Plague; a time very much salient to that of my novel.
The plague germ Yersinia pestis had been the cause of horrific epidemics before the Black Plague put its stamp on human history in the 14th Century. For instance during the Athenian Plague of 430 BCE; the Antonine Plague of 165-180 CE; and the Justinian Plague, 541 CE, which was the most deadly outbreak prior to the Black Death. However, none of those outbreaks compared to the Black Death; which for reasons unknown proved particularly adept at producing DNA mutations in humans.
What we know is that what made the Black Death so deadly came from how easily it spread. It ended up killing millions in Asia, and as many as one third of Europe’s population was wiped out in large part because the Black Death spread like wildfire. What is most stunning is that all of this happened for a reason. The Black Death wasn’t an accident, it was the product of a unique set of circumstances fueled by overpopulation, malnutrition, weakened immune systems, climate change, globalized trade, and gross inequality producing a vast human underclass. In addition, this particular strain of plague not only stemmed from a germ carried by simple fleas but which gestated in the body of a small furry animal: the Central Asian marmot. This particular marmot as a host ended up being the perfect vehicle for incubating the plague into something more powerful and dangerous than plague strains found elsewhere in the world.
Trade with Central Asia brought this strain west into the growing slums of Europe’s great cities. Though the marmot incubated strains of plague proved the deadliest – people, not marmots, spread the plague. This plague not only spread, but quickly adapted to and transformed its new human host. This adaptation proved to be an evolutionary process stemming from the action of natural selection, rather than just a series of incidental mutations. Similarly, in Apex Predator these mutations also prove to be anything but random or meaningless. They are part of a process whereby natural selection created another evolutionary response; one every bit as deadly though more circumspect than Yersinia pestis.
“Here’s some holiday reading direct from the “You Might Like…” category of things I haven’t checked yet but want to: horror author S.M. Douglas‘s new werewolf novel Apex Predator…It combines classic occult story assets like “secrets from WWII-era Europe” and “mythical evil on the verge of remaking the world” with a fictional dystopian present day that seems increasingly non-fictional as 2016 staggers to its miserable conclusion. But I digress! To be frank, this sounds like exactly the kind of thing I want to read right now, so I’m going to order a paperback copy from Amazon as soon as I’m done writing this post. Aspiring metal bands, please contact Douglas directly to negotiate the rights to name your group “Eastern Europe’s Blood Lands.”
This is the home of author S.M. Douglas. Although I enjoy writing about horror, I also love to discuss random items of popular culture. My hope is that you treat your visits as an opportunity to discuss with others those aspects of horror, science fiction, comic books, and so much more – even including the creative process as an artist and author.
Thoughtful contributions are not just welcomed, but encouraged, including via articles, book and other media reviews. So please do join me as I look forward to your participation.