Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pick Six with Norman Partridge

If there were a Halloween Hall of Fame, Norman Partridge no doubt would be a first-year inductee.  He provided an instant classic for holiday readers in 2006 with his Bram Stoker Award-winning novel Dark Harvest (which was also chosen as one of the 100 Best Books of that year by Publishers Weekly).  His various Halloween narratives (including a novelette-length prequel to Dark Harvest) are collected in Johnny Halloween: Tales of the Dark SeasonAnother seasonal treat is in store with the forthcoming publication of his book Oktober Shadows by Cemetery DanceBe sure to check out both the author's website and his blog American Frankenstein (the inspiration, by the way, for my own formation of Macabre Republic).

Mr. Partridge is the latest participant in the "Pick Six with __" feature here in the Land of the Red, Black, and Blue.  For those newcomers to the Republic: the feature is a variation on a traditional interview; in this case, the subject gets to choose any six questions--from a list of about 40--to answer, at whatever length.  So without further ado, here's a cool six pack to help stave off any Halloween hangover:

1.What is your favorite Halloween memory?

I'd have to open up my treat sack and toss in all the Halloweens I remember as a kid growing up in the Sixties.  For me, that was the holiday's golden age.  Every kid in the neighborhood hit the streets, and the doorbells didn't stop ringing all night long.

One year my truck-driver dad showed up on the big afternoon with cases of Crackerjack stacked in the back of his pickup.  My mom took one look at all those boxes and thought he'd blown the mortgage for the month.  All he said was: "Don't worry about it, Ev...they fell off a truck."  Anyway, the front hall was piled high with Crackerjack when I left the house that night to trick or treat.  We lived on a hill, but word got out.  All the Crackerjack was gone by the time I got home, and my dad was handing out change from my piggy bank.  I always have to laugh remembering that, though I didn't think it was particularly funny at the time.

2.What, to you, is the scariest place in your hometown?

I grew up in Vallejo, California.  The spot that really sticks out for me is Lake Herman Road, in particular the stretch of country two-lane that leads to the place where the Zodiac Killer murdered two teenagers.  When I was a teenager myself, we'd cruise out there in the middle of the night, kill the headlights and the engine, kill the radio, and let the car drift in neutral until someone freaked out.  Usually it didn't take very long.  Something lingers there.

3.Which person in your life has had the biggest influence on your writing career?

If we're talking writers, probably Stephen King and Joe R. Lansdale.  Other than that, I'd say my dad.  He was a born storyteller, and the first yarns I remember are the ones he spun in the backyard on summer evenings--especially the weird stories about a house with bloody footprints and the Green Man, which came from his boyhood in Pennsylvania.  I still remember the excitement I felt hearing those tales for the first time, and I try to recapture a little of that when writing my own stories.  I want to get the reader's blood pumping.

4.If you could change one thing about your writing career, what would it be?

I'd type "The End" more often.  Right now, that's my goal.

5.Three episodes you always try to catch whenever a Twilight Zone marathon airs?

I could probably give you ten, but here are three that come to mind:

"The Passerby": Serling's meditation on the Civil War, with a faded Southern belle and a wounded Confederate passing a dark evening together.  The ending always gets me.  Line for line, one of Serling's best episodes.

"The Grave": A weird western with Lee Marvin, Strother Martin, James Best, and Lee Van Cleef.  What's not to like?  Plus, it reminds me of those stories my dad told in the backyard when I was a kid.

"Nick of Time": A husband and a wife encounter a fortune-telling machine in a diner just south of Nowhere, U.S.A.  This episode is my favorite example of what made Twilight Zone special.  There are no special effects--just a great story, smart dialogue, and a cast that delivers (i.e. William Shatner as the desperate male lead?  I'm sold!).

6.What was your favorite horror movie monster when growing up (and today, if different)?

I'll stick with the Universal gang, and probably always will.  My favorite is the Wolfman (a.k.a. Lawrence Talbot).  And Kharis.  What can I say?  The cursed guys speak to me.

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