Ginger Nuts of Horror
I’d somehow, when I was in sixth or seventh grade, managed to slip a Stephen King book past my parent’s discerning gaze. I read Skeleton Crew first, and then Carrie, and then The Shining, and then Pet Sematary. Then one day, while waiting in the dreary brown halls of the medical center for my mom to get out of an appointment, I discovered the book that changed my life.
It was sitting on a cart outside of the little convenience store--where people bought last-minute gift cards, flowers, and acetaminophen--in a pile of other used books. It was beat to shit, white lines cutting through its spine, its binding coming loose at the seams. Its cover design depicted nothing more than blackness fractured by radiating orange lines. It had Stephen King’s name on it and another author I’d never read: Peter Straub. I bought it for twenty-five cents and slipped it into my backpack before my mom could see. It looks like this:
Yup, I still have it. I’ve used tape on it, smeared Elmers glue though its spine. I’ve read it countless times, actually had to buy a new copy because this one can no longer support the abuse of another read. Still, I keep it. Treasure it. But why? What is it about The Talisman?
It’s partly, I know, because it found me at that perfect time in my life just preceding childhood but before the complications of sex and youthful rebellion (of which I have had my fair share); it spoke to me directly. But also because it opened my eyes to what fiction could be: a journey, with feeling, imagination, and, yes, darkness. Life is not always pretty, even in our fantasies it is often grim. Yet there’s heart. And hope, also. It’s the journey that counts.
I spent my youth imagining other worlds; that I might one day discover a door that opened up on an alien vista. I’d always known there’d be danger on the other side, but beauty too. I’d always wanted, more than anything, to explore those worlds; and in The Talisman I found a story about a boy who must do exactly that, only it was gritty and real, and believable. It was adult, not a sugar-coated children’s story.
It’s written beautifully, the characters alive. It was the first time I’d encounter Straub’s subtleties of prose, his gifts with structure and suggestion, which compliment perfectly King’s storytelling mastery. The Talisman is the flawless mix of great characters, literary prose, and imagination. It was the first novel that made me sit back and think, Man, how did they do that? I want to write something like that.
The Talisman made me want to be a writer. And look where that got me…
An award-winning writer and poet, Keith Deininger is the author of The New Flesh, Fevered Hills, Marrow's Pit, and Ghosts of Eden (Nov. 2014). He grew up in the American Southwest and currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife and their four dogs. He is a skeptic and a bit cynical.
When Keith was in first grade, he started a fire in the woods behind his house, but his father discovered it before the flames grew out of control and stomped it out with his foot. After that, Keith began to write. In fourth grade he wrote a story about a boy who wakes up to find everyone has disappeared and he is alone. In high school he won first place in a writing contest in Los Alamos, New Mexico and was presented with a check for one hundred dollars and his first writing credit by Ray Bradbury. In college he won a Conceptions Southwest editor's choice award for his poetry.
Although he went to high school in Los Alamos, New Mexico--the birthplace of the atomic bomb--he grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He's always been a bit of a nerd, from playing Dungeons and Dragons to collecting Magic cards voraciously for many years, including competitively and in tournaments. The closest he ever came to playing sports was community youth soccer and hacky sack with his friends. Most members of his family are either scientists or engineers. His wife is a teacher working with kids with autism. He is the black sheep artist in his family and proud to call his work "dark," "fantastic" and "disturbing."
Built to encompass the entire range of lifeless mountains, it had always, relentlessly, clanked on and on. Within, vast halls and endless corridors were filled with the sounds of metal on metal, with hissing steam, with squealing gears. In the eyes of its citizens, it was sacred, deified, omniscient. Enshrined in their mythology for innumerable generations, it had gone by countless designations, but its truest name was perhaps its plainest: the Machine.
For Ballard, the Machine is a place of tedium, and ignorance, and cruelty. He sees little use in his mundane job and secretly questions the purpose of the Machine. When tragedy strikes, Ballard is forced to embark on a paranoid journey that will take him outside of the Machine, and everything he's ever known, over the edge into darkness, past the point of no return…toward the blackness known as Marrow's Pit.
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When Jake, a shy fourth grader, starts a fire in the woods behind his school that gets away from him, he's punished and forgiven. But his life is never the same. Three years after the incident, the dreams begin. Dreams of flames and a strange creature Jake calls The Melting Man. Waiting and watching with an insidious grin, it lures him deeper and deeper into his darkest fears, and closer to an otherworld of fire and torment. And then, Jake begins to see The Melting Man wherever he goes.
Come with me, Jake...Come and see...
As his dreams bleed into waking life, Jake realizes he's being dragged toward a very real apocalypse, and that The Melting Man's powers are growing stronger. Asleep, awake, or trapped between the two, Jake must fight to understand not only who and what The Melting Man is and what the dreams mean, but how this creature and Jake's mysterious family legacy ties into a disturbing, violent and enigmatic film associated with his father, a failed screenwriter.
But there may be no way to stop what has already begun...because this is a new nightmare...a new terror...a new Flesh...
THE NEW FLESH, the debut novel of horror, madness and suspense from Keith Deininger.
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