Book Tour Part II: Monsters, horror fans and indie bookstores

Independent bookstores are some of the most important cultural institutions in the world. You can find almost anything at a big box bookstore—at least almost anything that has come out in the last few months from a major press. Moreover, much of the store will be built around books that are largely corporate creations…franchises tied into films that are tied into video games that are tied into the general influencing machine of the global media. Teams of people write some of these floor space-chewing books under the auspices of some media/political personality who is more brand than person and more celebrity than author.

If you bought Monsters in America in such a place, I don’t fault you. We have copies in stores like that and we don’t mind their business and certainly we don’t mind yours.

But you may have missed out on a special experience by not visiting your local indie bookstore. These are places where you can buy a new book like mine and find a cheap copy of David Skal’s older, but wonderful, book The Monster Show. You might also see a book you’ve never heard of from the 1930s or the 1890s. You might talk to the bookstore owner who turns out to be a horror nerd like you and points you to some little known pulp writer in the 1920s (“Oh you like H.P Lovecraft…well, you’ll love…..).

Other than local libraries (including the Greenville county library that gave me access to books and ideas that made my rural, and provincial, teenage years barely bearable) independent bookstores have given me some of the most important cerebral and cultural experiences in my life. So I was more than delighted that last week’s “Circle of Horror” book tour took me to a number of independent bookstores in the Southeast.

I had the chance to do signings and talks in upstate South Carolina and in and around Atlanta and reconnect with some of the bookstore owners we had the chance to meet at SIBA ’11 (Southern Independent Bookstores Alliance). Stops included the Fiction Addiction in Greenville, Hub City Books in Spartanburg, Yawn Books in Canton, GA, Peerless Books in Roswell and Eagle Eye Books in Decatur. All of these proved great fun.

Lots of folks wanted to talk about zombies, which I was glad to do. Plenty of people wanted to talk about their favorite horror flick and gave me the sense that lots of fans out there have already thought long and hard about the relationship between America’s monsters and American history. Many wanted to talk about the role of the monster more broadly in America experience…what is a monster, why we do love them, why do we fear them.

In other words, I got a week of talking about more or less what I love talking about with smart people. I also picked up plenty of good books along the way.  Monster kids everywhere will be jealous that I found a wonderful copy of Monster’s Who’s Who from the 70s at Eagle Eye Books (which has a great, great horror section) like it was sitting there waiting for me. Filled with pics and descriptions of everything from Godzilla to the Hammer films, it’s the kind of book you might sit with for hours when you were a kid (or, actually, an adult).

Thanks, deep thanks, are due to the bookstores that made this possible. Go buy books from them, people.

I made it home in time for Halloween and, in fact, I made it home in time for Beth’s annual Halloween party (and surprised her by calling her from the front yard…it was THE NIGHT HE CAME HOME we joked).  Also made it home in time to do a ton of fun interviews for CBS radio’s Late night with Esme, Doug Padgitt’s progressive radio show, the David Boze show in Seattle and Minnesota Public Radio’s Midmorning program with Kerri Miller (what great fun we had…I will be back on there soon). While on the road, I also had the chance to do an interview with Twitch magazine and with Dave Canfield’s Fangoria Blog. We are posting links to all this various stuff as quick as we can and as it becomes available for anyone who missed it live.

Hey, more soon on my responses to reader questions and comments as Monsters in America walks forth upon the earth. Keep those coming on the Facebook page and write me directly through the site. Reader reflections and comments, even about stuff you maybe don’t like so much, is great fun.

Next week I’ll be going to Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC where I’m a visiting scholar in the English department. I’ll be giving a talk to students about my adventures with SC’s cryptid, The Lizard Man. I’ll also give a public lecture on the themes of Monsters in America.

What I’m watching: Halloween night was Nightmare on Elm Street night (the original, of course). I also caught the Bride of Frankenstein for maybe the 17th time after I got home this week. Chicago trip plus last week’s tour has seriously cut into my film viewing/TV watching. Beth and I did finish watching the latest season of The Guild last night (I loved this season’s Neil Gaiman appearance and all the inside Con jokes).

What I’m listening to: I uploaded The Complete Brownie McGhee to my IPod for a Piedmont Blues listening experience as I made my way through the piedmont. Also have to mention that friend of the book and my new friend Jeremy LC Jones literally gave me three boxes of LP’s when I was in Spartanburg. I simply have not had time to begin exploring these treasures but I’ve already found some pretty special stuff…more on this later.

What I’m Reading: I’m reviewing Jonathan Lethem’s new essay collection Ecstasy of Influence and am starting to get into it. I have to say its less fun than some of his earlier collections, more abstract, more self-consciously learned. Haven’t decided about it yet.  My students are reading Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter so I will be spending some time with that so we can discuss how historians respond to or criticize alternative and fantastical histories.

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