Andrew David Barker was born in Derby, England in 1975. He directed an independent feature film entitled A Reckoning in 2009 and has since written or co-written several screenplays. He has also had several short stories published. The Electric is his first novel. His latest work Dead Leaves has just been released by Boo Books.
www.andrewdavidbarker.com or loitering aroundwww.twitter.com/ADBarker
Dead Leaves is very much a novella about horror, rather than a horror novel - where did the idea come from in the first place?
I’d wanted to set a story during the video nasty era for a long time. It’s a fascinating little pocket of British history and, also, it’s a time I don’t think has been dealt with too much in fiction, if at all. I knew it would be about kids just having left school; disillusioned and cast adrift in a world they have little understanding of - which was pretty much me at seventeen. It’s probably most people at seventeen. As for the MacGuffin being The Evil Dead, that was pretty easy as it is the most iconic film of that period.
The book very much focuses on The Evil Dead, which is kind of a holy grail for your characters. Is this one of your favourite horror movies?
It is. What I really responded to when I first saw it, and what I still respond to, is the fact that these kids in Michigan just went out there and made it through sheer force of will. That is, I believe, incredibly inspiring to anyone who wants to do anything creative. They forged their own futures. Plus, the film is pretty astonishing, even today, especially when you consider how little they had, and the conditions they were working in... and how young they were. For Sam Raimi, it’s perhaps one of the best directorial debuts I can think of.
The story is set in the midst of the video nasty panic - what's your recollection, or views, on this time?
I was only eight in 1983, when the book is set, but I still remember going into backstreet video shops with my mum and dad and staring in awe at the wall to wall films, most of which were horror films. Of course, I was too young to understand the politics at the time, but I also remember my dad getting videos from a guy who used to come round with a suitcase full of films. We used to call him the Pirate Man and I’ve put him in Dead Leaves. I was watching horror films at a very young age – my dad had quite a collection – and it is a genre I’ve always loved.
Researching the period was quite amazing. I knew quite a bit about it before starting work on the book, but when I saw Jake West’s excellent documentaries on the subject, Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape and Draconian Days, I really got a real sense of the hysteria and madness of the time, and I wanted to capture some of the in the book.
This is a book that will appeal a lot to horror fans, especially those who recall the VHS days. Is this a time you feel nostalgic for?
I’m very nostalgic for the video shop. I think a lot of people already are, even though they’ve been gone, what? Four years? Back in the eighties, there was something utterly wonderful about walking into a video shop and not knowing what would be in there. There wasn’t the exposure then – at least for me – in knowing everything that was coming out. Films would just appear, often with the most incredible covers, and the thrill of discovery was a true joy. I have very happy memories of going to get a film out on a Friday or Saturday night and spending ages just browsing. The only place I can do that now is in book shops, which I also can spend ages in, but record shops and video shops were also magical places. I’m sad that they’ve gone.
The coming of age element is something that the book has in common with your previous title, The Electric. What draws you to this kind of story?
Firstly, I think I’m drawn to writing coming of age stories because I’m very nostalgic for that period of my life. Plus, I may be 40, but I still don’t think I’ve really grown up. I’m a daydreamer and always have been. But more than that, coming of age stories are rich with firsts – first loves, first losses... real pain and an awareness of the wider world begins to set in at that age. Teenage angst is fire that should never go out, but it does in time. But in that fire comes real passion, a real need to do something – sometimes for ill, but sometimes for something good... sometimes that angst and dissatisfaction can propel you into a rich and wonderful adult life. Everybody understands what it was like to be young. It’s just growing up we’re all still trying to figure out.
To Scott, Paul and Mark, horror films are everything.
The year is 1983, the boom of the video revolution, and Scott Bradley is seventeen, unemployed and on the dole. Drifting through life, he and his friends love nothing more than to sit around drinking, talking about girls, and watching horror movies.
But things are about to change.
As the ‘video nasty’ media storm descends, their desire to find a copy of the ultimate horror film – The Evil Dead – is going to lead them to the most significant days of their young lives. As the law tightens and their way of life comes under threat from all quarters, they come to learn what truly matters to them – and what doesn’t.
A heartfelt story of friendship, loyalty and youthful rebellion, Dead Leaves is a darkly funny and brutally honest depiction of aimless life in a Midland town, and perfectly captures the impact those first few years of video had on a generation.
Purchase a copy here