LUCID, my latest novel, out in trade paperback on Tuesday, April 14th, 2015, is not only a labor of love, it is my first foray into the young adult market. Although, if pressed, I would not limit the audience of this book to teens. It’s as scary as anything I’ve written. The story of a gifted, eccentric 18-year-old who discovers in her recurring dreams a door that leads to another dimension… LUCID is five years in the making. It is more heavily researched than any other fiction I’ve ever written. I am obsessed with dreams and dream research, and this book will be an origin story for an epic examination of all the possible permutations dreams can take on. Check it out at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or indie book stores everywhere, as well as digital formats, available, among other places, in Kindle at Amazon (CLICK on pic to go to order page).
Being typecast is the greatest thing in the world, if you ask me. Being cast as anything is a privilege most folks don’t ever get to enjoy. Lately, I get asked a lot, “Now that you’re known as THE WALKING DEAD novel guy, do you ever miss writing your own original material?” It’s a legitimate question, but I always just smile and say, “Nope! Don’t miss it a bit… and will you pass the lobster and caviar, please?” Okay maybe I exaggerate a little but it’s true. I love being known as anything. Okay, scratch that. I guess I wouldn’t want to be known as ‘That Guy on COPS who got busted in his skivvies yelling at his common law wife outside his trailer home.’ But I’ll confess, it’s delightful to be known as the Zombie Guy. I love it. But I will also make another confession. I never gave up developing my own material. Like an air traffic controller trying to land too many planes, I have quite a few works in progress.
One of the most exciting is a book called LUCID. A project that’s been gestating for a few years now, LUCID is my first Young Adult work and tells the story of one Lori Blaine, a very special seventeen-year-old girl with a very special talent. It starts with a recurring dream that features a mysterious door. When Lori gets up the nerve to go through that door and see what’s on the other side… well, to paraphrase the old Marquis de Sade… “let the games begin!”
The book has now found a home at a very cool boutique-style publishing house called Permuted Press – a cutting edge horror outfit with designs on conquering the apocalypse – for me, a match made in heaven, or hell, depending upon your proclivity. As a matter of fact, let me defer to their press release, and please, if you have any interest in my work, check out this book LUCID. I know everybody says they’re proud when something like this comes out, but I mean it. I am so proud, and I want as many people to read it as possible. I’ll be tweeting and twerking and twiddling about it for many months, but here’s an early warning.
Take it away boys:
“Permuted Press has established itself for over a decade as the leading independent publisher of zombie, post-apocalyptic, and survival horror fiction titles. Since Permuted Press’s acquisition by a privately owned investment firm in the summer of 2013, their releases have increased in frequency and scope. Permuted Press now publishes a wide variety of genres including Science Fiction, paranormal, fantasy, macabre and traditional horror.
“Permuted Press President Michael L. Wilson stated, “Jay is legendary for his association with the successful series, The Walking Dead. Having the work of such a prestigious name like Mr. Bonansinga among our list of titles is a real thrill for our growing company.”
“Jay Bonansinga is the co-author of the New York Times bestselling Walking Dead series as well as a screenwriter and filmmaker who has been called “one of the most imaginative writers of thrillers” by the Chicago Tribune. He is an acclaimed Bram Stoker award finalist and his books have been translated into nine different languages and several are in various stages of development as movies. Jay lives in Evanston, Illinois, and is a visiting professor at both Northwestern and DePaul universities where he teaches screenwriting.
” The deal was put together by MacKenzie Fraser-Bub at Trident Media Group. (Film/TV: Andy Cohen of Grade A Entertainment)
“LUCID will be available at retail in January, 2015.”
Who knew that The Walking Dead – the blockbuster zombie franchise and brand — would lead to the pivotal work of my career? When I first got the gig four years ago – to be the “house novelist” for Mr. Kirkman and his empire – I thought it would be a fun sort of lark, a down-and-dirty novelization job (where you just basically off-load a script into the medium of prose). But after four books, four spots on the NYC Bestseller list, and countless conventions, interviews, and media… the results, as Walter Cronkite used to say, are in! Not only is it the game-changing event in my life as a fiction writer, but it also has inspired me to write some of the most interesting prose of my career.
Now I have signed a new deal with Robert Kirkman to create four new novels set in the Walking Dead universe. The first, “Descent” (Thomas Dunne Books, October, 2014) is a high watermark for me. Robert has handed me the keys to Woodbury and entrusted me to go deep, deep, deep down under the surface of that fabled town. I am so honored and stoked to be creating the stories for this award winning series now. Thanks, Robert. And thanks, Walking Dead-Heads. I can’t wait for you to crack this one open!
For fans of the New York Times bestselling co-author of THE WALKING DEAD: THE ROAD TO WOODBURY comes a brand new line of Jay Bonansinga e-books from Crossroad Press, a growing force in the field of digital genre fiction:
BLOOD SAMPLES is the jewel in the crown, a new collection of short horror, fantasy, and suspense representing two decades of Jay’s published work in magazines, literary quarterlies, and anthologies. Be the first on your block to download an impressive array of short fiction and original novellas by Jay, some of them never-before-published in this country. The tasty menu of terrifying treats includes, “Stash,” the original story on which Jay’s award-winning indie film is based, a movie which stars the late Marilyn Chambers and comic legend Tim Kazurinsky; “The True Cause of the Great Depression,” an acclaimed and twisted Christmas tale, which, until now, was only available in Germany; “The Butcher’s Kingdom,” an exclusive Allan Pinkerton adventure, which co-stars Edgar Allen Poe and takes off where Jay’s historical book PINKERTON’S WAR ended; and many, many more. At $3.99 this ebook is a mind-blowing entertainment value. Go to Crossroad Press to order.
THE KILLER’S GAME is one of Jay’s most popular action novels, a book long out of print and even longer in development as a major Hollywood movie, with such luminaries as John Woo and Michael Douglas attached to the project over the years. Leading off a series of exclusive digital releases coming your way in 2013, THE KILLER’S GAME tells the gut-wrenching story of a mob assassin who is diagnosed with terminal leukemia, and decides to go out like a good soldier and put a hit on himself.
THE KILLER’S GAME will be followed by rare and sought-after Bonansinga novels such as BLOODHOUND, HEAD CASE, SICK, THE SLEEP POLICE… and last but not least Jay’s popular first novel, the Stoker-award finalist THE BLACK MARIAH, the adaptation of which has been a long-gestating film project of George “Night of the Living Dead” Romero’s.
You can find these books and more here: www.crossroadpress.com
A THEATRICAL EPIC….
Dateline: Chicago, Summer 2012. You are plunged into the past when you enter the home of Lookingglass Theater on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois — the space sits in a lovely refurbished warren of auditoria in the pre-fire Chicago waterworks, all glass and scabrous iron gleaming dully in the inverted light. The new production of “Eastland” (inspired in part by events related in my 2004 book THE SINKING OF THE EASTLAND) leads you into its performance space in somber light, down boardwalk aisles, the seats rough hewn like the pews of a church or the gallery of a ship. The lights go down, and… and… wait. You must see this for yourself! You MUST! I know I’m biased but Good Lord this is a theatrical masterpiece! Conceived and written by the great Andrew White, music by the brilliant duo of Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman, and directed with savage beauty by the inimitable Amanda Dehnert, “Eastland” is a high-lonesome ode to the wake left by tragedy, a blue collar ‘Night to Remember,’ and believe me, this is a night in the theater to remember! If you’re reading this before the end of August and live within a lightyear of Chicago, buy tickets immediately HERE.
YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST….
An early warning to collectors, avid Bonansinga readers, and bargain shoppers. In the upcoming weeks, a series of original, all-new, never-before-published Jay Bonansinga works will become available here on this site and selected venues. For a limited time only. Everyone’s a winner. Bargains galore. The quality goes in before the name goes on. “Step right up,” as Tom Waits says. These works may not remove embarrassing stains, but they will provide you with hours of reading enjoyment.
THE LONG SHADOW OF A LEGEND
This summer – 2012 – we lost a keystone to our cultural heritage. Ray Bradbury was to fantasy fiction what Hemingway was to literary fiction – the alpha and omega, the seminal influence on generations of storytellers. Bradbury was also the reason I became a writer. I still read his work to my kids, and they’re teenagers now, and they are still in awe of the butterfly effect in “A Sound of Thunder” and the heartbreaking dream of “Frost and Fire.” Born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois – a stone’s throw from where I currently live – Bradbury grew up writing of green towns and wondrous and horrible miracles. He wrote – occasionally on brown butcher paper — some of the greatest short stories in the English language. I still have my dog-eared copy of R IS FOR ROCKET, which I purchased for 75 cents when I was twelve in Peoria, Illinois… another green town with the same sounds of summer running as Waukegan. I bring all this up not only as a brief tribute to a mentor but also with great pride – pride that my work briefly met the Maestro’s eyes shortly before he passed. I was fortunate enough to sell to the stalwart editors Sam Weller and Mort Castle a short story called “Heavy” for their new anthology in celebration of Bradbury’s legacy, SHADOW SHOW (William Morrow, July 2012). Bradbury wrote an original introduction for the book just weeks before he died. Mort is a dear friend of mine, and also a mentor, and I owe this honor to him. Order your own SHADOW SHOW today HERE.
It has been over a century since mild-mannered Irish theater manager Bram Stoker set down in words the epistolary novel that would indelibly stamp itself on the midbrain of human culture. DRACULA (1897) was considered a straight-forward horror tale in its day, but on deeper levels it reflected the collective unconscious of the Gilded Era, crystallizing a mythos that is still as potent today as ever: the attack of the repressed. DRACULA was the embodiment of latent sexual urges worming their way into puritanical society. Forget the Freudian symbolism, the piercing of virginal white napes. Forget the stake through the heart. The Count resonated for the Victorians like no other avatar of literature. And even today, teenagers assaulted by sexualized media and raging hormones connect with the vampire myth in books and movies for the very same reasons that turn-of-the-century Londoners clicked with DRACULA: it makes sense to the subconscious.
Enter the zombie.
The modern zombie archetype has not been around for nearly as long as Stoker’s creation. Arguably, the rebel indie filmmaker George Romero is the closest we can come to a Bram Stoker of contemporary zombies. Romero’s seminal 1968 film, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, laid out almost biblical rules of the game for future incarnations of flesh-eating dead: cadaverous-looking, slow-moving, ravenous, and “all messed up.” The idea resonated for Vietnam era audiences burned out on Cold War paranoia and a constant stream of body bags on the nightly news. Again, in its day, the film was thought of by many as a simple, lurid, gruesome version of an EC comic – VARIETY called it an “unrelieved orgy of sadism” – but the archetype connected with people in unexpected ways.
The shambling, cannibalistic, reanimated dead touched an irritated nerve-ending in our culture’s deep, primal subconscious.
All of which brings us to today, and the real reason I’m blogging about this in the first place. I suppose I should just be happy that I’m gainfully employed, co-writing a series of original novels with the great Robert Kirkman, creator of the Eisner-award winning comic THE WALKING DEAD. I suppose I should just basically be satisfied with the ecstasy of working on such an amazing project – each of the three books we’ve been contracted to write for St. Martins Press expands upon the back-stories of the comic’s most popular characters. I suppose I should just shut up and be content to ride the Kirkman juggernaut of AMC’s smash hit series of the same name. But like my fabulous and beautiful ex-wife Jeanie says, “Bono… you always have to pick at stuff, over analyze things, and just gnaw at the bone until there’s nothing left.”
Pardon my rumination but I cannot stop wondering why zombies – and specifically Kirkman’s incredible universe – are so resonant today. What chord have we struck in the year 2011? Sure, the comic book series is a page-turner of the first order – an epic survival quest that plays like Homer’s ODYSSEY on mushrooms. Certainly that has something to do with the phenomenon. If THE WALKING DEAD sucked we wouldn’t be here right now, you and I, geeking out so heartily. But there’s a deeper meaning to Kirkman’s creation – and by extension, the zombie archetype in general. I think I know what it is.
For millennial America, the zombie is the wolf at our nation’s door – the stubborn, lumbering danger that just keeps coming, regardless of what we each do individually to shoot it in the head. The economy. Gridlock. Terrorism. Global warming. Unemployment. The zombie is the Roman Circus – the rotting underbelly of an empire in decline. On a more personal level, the zombie is your mortgage sinking underwater, your property taxes skyrocketing, your foundation festering with termites. The zombie is a lymph node. It’s that microscopic, unseen cell beneath the thin flesh of your armpit – a ticking time bomb — just waiting to become cancerous. Maybe you can destroy one of them, but they keep coming. They are legion. It sounds grim but the zombie is the personification of the blunt, impassive, inexorable obsolescence lurking beneath the shiny surface of modern life.
The good news is, art itself can offer a remedy. The horror genre in particular is best at providing catharsis – a poignant vehicle through which people can experience the worst case scenario, and ultimately, at least on a virtual level, find mastery over these impenetrable threats. That is the key to THE WALKING DEAD. It’s got all the slam-bang shock value of a great zombie-thon, but what it’s really about is the Living. What it’s really about is survival. Family. Even love. Which, let’s face it, is all we really need to survive.
That and a 12-guage shotgun.
Which brings me to THE WALKING DEAD: RISE OF THE GOVERNOR. The first original novel in Kirkman’s and my planned trilogy, the book is due out from St. Martins on September 27th, 2011… choreographed to coincide with the hotly anticipated second season of the AMC series. But for my money, the comic is the real driver of these books. The comic exists in a world by itself – a sui generis blend of horror and human drama – which is so rich with off-panel back-story that we could write en entire library of supplemental prose.
This one is the first.
Yes, I’m proud.
BUY IT NOW on Amazon.
Been away for a few months. Dealing with life’s rich pageant. But to paraphrase Gene Autry, “I’m back in the swivel chair again!” The good news is, I have not forsaken my compulsive, addictive, obsessive need to scribble words on the cathode ray page. Truth is, I have spun more yarns over the last year than any other 12-month period of my life. And one that I am exceedingly excited about is the eighth book in CD Publications’ wonderful “Signature Series” – a little ditty I like to call The Miniaturist.
Let me explain. I like to cook. It’s a hobby. I know actual chefs, and I would not in a month of Sunday dinners pretend to count myself among this gonzo fraternity. Being a chef takes a special brand of creativity, courage, stamina, taste, the ability to curse a blue streak, and a willingness to work for minimum wage. But I do dig futzing around the kitchen. My specialties are slow-cooked fare: Pork shoulder, short ribs, gumbo, brisket, pot roast, and veal shanks.
However… the origin of The Miniaturist comes from the same place you go to get a good sauce.
First you create a tantalizing hybrid by incorporating disparate ingredients – say veal stock, sage, Pinot Grigio, rosemary, and lemon juice – and then you whisk the hell out of it. For The Miniaturist I incorporated three genres that I love: Hard-boiled noir, high fantasy, and Lovecraftian pulp… and then I whisked it like crazy. Finally I applied the most important step: Heat. I raised the temperature through a classic suspense structure.
As with all good pan sauces, the heat can do something magical. It reduces the liquid into a silky, succulent ambrosia. Reduction intensifies all the flavors.
The Miniaturist – in its cooking stage – got reduced from a planned novel into a very concentrated, intense, savory novella. And I hope it is as delicious to read as it was to cook up!
But no meal is worth its salt without a great table setting… and no chef is worth a damn without a great wait staff and environment in which to serve it all up (also known as “the front of the house”). The front of this house – Cemetery Dance Publications – sets an amazing table. With original illustrations by the great Vincent Chong, and a haunting cover, this little novelette is a bargain for collectors and casual readers alike. Check it out! (Click image for ordering information.)
I am absolutely ecstatic about a new book deal that’s come my way, which finally, at long last, will facilitate the release of a book with which I’ve been utterly obsessed for years: “PINKERTON’S WAR: Assassins, Insurgents and the Birth of the Secret Service, A True Historical Thriller” – to be edited by Mr. Keith Wallman of Lyons Press, an Imprint of Globe Pequot, due out in 2011 on the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.
The story follows the tough, nerves-of-steel Scottish immigrant, Allan Pinkerton, through the central events of his career. The book starts in 1847 in Chicago, where Pinkerton establishes himself as one of America’s first undercover cops. A master of disguise, a brilliant investigator, he soon creates his own private detective agency… which leads him to a terrifying, historic, epochal case: The first – and largely unknown – plot to assassinate the new president elect, Abraham Lincoln, on his inaugural journey to Washington. Pinkerton saves the president’s life and is ultimately caught up in the tides of war, becoming one of the central architects of the Secret Service.
PINKERTON’S WAR will read, I promise you, like a page-turning thriller novel, and it’s all true, corroborated by both historic record and Pinkerton’s own accounts from his private files. This is history as heart-pounding Hitchcockian suspense! I will be blogging like crazy about this work – so stay tuned – and keep your eyes on the past!
In the years immediately following World War II, the American myth curdled and darkened. On-screen, heroes no longer saved the day and got the girl and walked into the sunset at the end, their white hat spotlessly clean, their soul cleansed. In the late 1940s, celluloid heroes grew cranky. They wore fedoras that shadowed their whiskered, paranoid faces, and they usually lost everything by the closing credits. In the 40s and 50s, heroes became cynical, jaded, wounded, flawed, traumatized, and most of the time….doomed.
The French call this cultural cycle “Film Noir” – don’t ya just love the French and their names – and the term has come to be associated with the look of these flicks more than anything else. The low-key shadows, the smoke curling from cigarettes, the ubiquitous Venetian blinds, and the wet, dead-end streets. But the subtext of these motion pictures was as poignant as it was telling.
In DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) the movie begins with Fred MacMurray already bleeding, shot in the gut, terminal… and he slowly dies while he narrates. In D.O.A. (1950) Edmund O’Brien, already full of poison, stumbles into a police station at the outset and says, “I’d like to report a murder… mine.” At the start of SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) we see William Holden floating face-down in a pool, already dead, the recipient of a scorned woman’s bullets… and Holden narrates the rest of the story from the grave.
Why so glum? Were we still stinging from the blood and treasure lost in the War-to-End-All-Wars? Was post-traumatic stress putting the squeeze on Hollywood’s heart? At the core of all the great Noir films was pessimism, true, but maybe beneath the pessimism was a perverse form of schadenfreude – don’t ya just love the Germans and their names – a lovely word which refers to the pleasure we take in observing someone else’s demise.
I submit, in the pits of our latest economic calamity, we should make more Noir! It’ll make us feel better… or at least convince us there are folks out there with problems worse than ours. I’m talking about stories of people double-crossing each other, stealing, spying on their neighbors, lying, betraying their best friends, having affairs with each others’ wives, taking bribes for nefarious deeds… but enough about the U.S. Congress.
Let’s drag our cinema down into the gutter as well.
We need to see Adam Sandler gut-shot and bleeding at the fade-in… we need Steve Martin with a body in his trunk… Sandra Bullock with a nine millimeter in her fanny pack… Hugh Grant with a time bomb shoved up his keister.
It’s the American way… the comfort of knowing it could always be worse.
In the film “Manhattan” there’s a scene where Woody Allen lies on a sofa with his trademark furrowed brow and tries to list things that make life worth living. In these cold, cruel days of winter and recession, I keep going back to that scene. I keep thinking of all the unemployment and foreclosure and misery. I wonder if we’re on the road to recovery or still spiraling.
People have a bunker mentality now. We’re circling wagons, cutting losses, staring at the bottle. Is it half empty or half full? Fingernails are getting chewed to the nubs. Flags are at half-mast. Lights are low. The “better angels of our nature” (as Lincoln said) are now folded up and being sold on Craig’s List. Dogs are hungrier. Streets are meaner. Harsh words come quicker. Is all this good for us? Are we learning what matters? Or are we dying with a watery gasp in a flood of corporate greed?
In the spirit of Allen’s melancholy Isaac Davis, I have come up with my own reasons for living. In no particular order, here are the things that keep me going:
1) THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY. It’s a novel that came out in the year 2000. It was written by Michael Chabon. It’s about comic books. And it makes me glad to be human and proud to be a writer.
2) MY KIDS’ LAUGHTER. Ultrasonic whistles will rouse dogs. Snake charmers use their pungi flutes to mesmerize cobras. When I hear my kids giggling I melt. My kids’ laughter should replace antidepressants.
3) FRANK ZAPPA’S GUITAR SOLO ON “PENGUINS IN BONDAGE.” It’s the first song on ROXY AND ELSEWHERE. The lyrics have something to do with kinky sex and Kleenex wrapped around coat hangers. But the solo – a blues epic channeled through a hive of effects – sends me.
4) BRAISED SHORT RIBS. Marbled USDA choice. Brown them off in butter. Then roast them slow and low in soy sauce, scallions, brown sugar, ginger and Pinot Grigio. Closest thing to God you’ll ever find on a plate.
5) THE SOUND BARRIER SCENE IN “THE RIGHT STUFF.” Phil Kaufman directed it. Brilliant guy. But credit Levon Helm, the greatest singer in rock and roll, who says, when he drops Yeager from the B-52, “Put the spurs to her, Chuck!”
I could go on.
Maybe that’s good.
I feel better already.