Review of “Living Dead at Zigfreidt & Roy” and Interview with Axel Howerton

 

It starts with a jolt—the bang of a door, the manic tinkling of the bell above it; suddenly, shockingly, you find your legs sticking uncomfortably to a naugahyde bench and your elbows resting on a formica tabletop while your palms burn around a white ceramic coffee cup. The weather is suddenly oppressively hot (and forget about that “dry heat”
crap because those of us who have lived in the desert Southwest can tell you
certainly that it’s crap–112°F is 112°F and “dry” is just a sick myth), it’s night, and the world around you is about to explode into chaos.

Several breathless moments follow that initial shock, and, as a reader, you hope against hope that you can pull yourself out of the situation—that you can believe the voice in your brain that verbally slaps you around—telling you that you’re sitting safely at home with a Nook or a Kindle cradled in your hands and cold weather just outside the door.
Yet, as the elderly man who just burst through the door and sucked you out of your closely-guarded reality approaches the counter, you find your eyes closing.  You see the glint of his revolver reflected against yellowed countertop rimmed with stainless steel… Yeah, well.  Give it up.  You’re there.

Living Dead at Zigfreidt & Roy is a short story. Keep remembering that as you
read it. It’s tight, it’s fast-paced, and it does more in 19 pages than some novels manage in 100,000+ words. The characters are expertly drawn; the author offers little by way of description, but these characters are people we’ve already met.  We instinctively know them—the elderly Texan, the cook who eyes him suspiciously across the counter, the eager-to-please busboy, and the customers in the diner. The dialog flows naturally, expletives and all, and there’s no doubt these conversations really took
place … somewhere…

I suppose it’s fitting that all Hell breaks loose in Las Vegas.  I love the premise. I love the execution (sorry). It is a truly enjoyable, bloody, fantastic, pulse-pounding read. Moments after finishing it, I got on Twitter and made a comment to the effect that Mr. Howerton’s story had me cowering in a diner booth whimpering, “Don’t look here…. Don’t look here…” I stand by that statement.  I will also add this: here’s to sincerely
hoping and praying that what happened in Vegas STAYS in Vegas. (5 Stars on
Smashwords for originality, realism (Heaven help us), and absolutely fantastic
characterization).

Axel Howerton’s story LIVING DEAD AT ZIGFREIDT & ROY is always 99¢ at Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/97194)
and on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Living-Dead-Zigfreidt-Roy-ebook/dp/B005V5QT04/

A CAREER GUIDE TO YOUR JOB IN HELL is available at all online booksellers including Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Career-Guide-Your-Job-Hell/dp/0976943425

Now, Axel also sent along a giveaway!  Hooray! The first two people who comment on this post will receive Living Dead at Zigfreidt & Roy FREE from Smashwords!  Be sure you include your email address so I can send you the coupon code!  THANK YOU, Axel!!

AND, as promised, an interview with the Founder of Coffin Hop, who, apparently, is a survivor of the cubicle wars that have claimed so many in the name of such futility… I sent Axel four questions, and his responses blew me away!  Enjoy these insights into the mind of a Canadian horror writer who’ll scare you … you know –

JM: Where did you grow up and, when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Axel: I was born in Edmonton, Alberta Canada (home of fellow hopper Jamie Friesen of the awesome Zombie Night in Canada) and immediately demanded a less Edmonton-like, so I ended up spending my most formative years in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. I have distinct memories of horrifying nightmares after seeing The Shining and Saturn-3 at the all-night Drive-In when I was 6. I also remember hunting the tree lines of Kelowna looking for Bigfoot after watching The Six Million Dollar Man; and looking for vampires in the underbrush. By 10 it was Dark Shadows reruns after school and by 12 I was writing stories. My grade 6 teacher asked me to contribute to some kind of school board project and I was hooked. After that it was always storytelling, be it sketches, plays, scripts or action stories. I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller, at first I thought I’d be a director, a screenwriter or a playwright. Studying for a B.A. in English somehow led me to 15 years-ish as a film, music and DVD reviewer and entertainment ‘journalist’ before I floated back to writing fiction.

JM: Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?

Axel: Obviously that grade 6 teacher, Mrs Frenette. My dear ol’ Grandaddy, who seems to seep into my every word. My High School English teacher, Al White, who steered me towards the greater ‘literature’. My wife, who’s spent 16 years trying to convince me to ‘get on with it’. My pals Scott Phillips, Scott Duran and Shane MacDonald (my boss/partner from www.eyecrave.net)who’ve led me to believe I have some kind of talent. W.P. Kinsella, who told me I could make it. Richard Brautigan, Mark Twain and Elmore Leonard who are probably terrifically frustrated with trying to teach me.

JM: Who is your favorite author and why?

Axel: Oh sweet fancy Moses. How can I pick one? Michael Chabon? Twain? Chandler? Hammett? Piers Anthony? Tolkein? Frank Herbert? Poe? You notice there’s not a ton of horror authors there. If I have to absolutely pick one right now, right this second? Ray Bradbury. He’s got the way with words, the boundless imagination, the pure devilish talent for every genre. That’s what I aspire to. To be able to transcend genre and write stories that stick to your brain forever, be it sci-fi, horror, comedy or straight-up literature. That’s my goal, just to write good stories.

JM: Do you ever come up with anything so FREAKIN’ WEIRD AND WILD that you actually scare yourself? Do you wonder where that comes from?

Axel: My story “Hum” in the anthology *A Career Guide To Your Job In Hell* ended up being so balls-out crazy and batshit insane that I honestly had to step back and wonder if the cubicle-life that inspired it really was driving me out of my mind. Several people have quite literally backed away from me in conversation after reading that story. Really, I was just venting at the mind-numbing wretchedness of that kind of job, and the glad-handing, two-faced, backstabbing soap-opera kind of environment that sprouts up in an office situation where people spend all day stewing in their own misery. I was working for a huge oil company, in records management, and was just surrounded by the most awful, bizarre and incredibly stunted people. Nobody did more than an hour or two of real work in a day, they spent all their time gossiping and stirring up shit and scheming against each other like some sick and twisted reality game-show nightmare. I was on contract there, and they ‘let me go’ the day I came back from my honeymoon, without so much as an inkling of why. I remember feeling like I could cry, I was so happy to be out of that place. To hell with sparkly vampires, shirtless werewolves and undead hordes – being ground to dust in a cubicle with the fluorescent lights buzzing through your brain – that’s real horror.

 

Those of us participating in Coffin Hop 2011 are supremely happy that Axel survived the cubicle experience and has gone on to become … um … “well adjusted” just doesn’t seem to work in this case, so we’ll go with … become an inspiration to horror writers and purveyor of bloody-good stories that keep us up at night (*jerk* … I mean that in the most respectful way … ^___^)

COFFIN HOP 2011 CONTINUES!!! 
KEEP HOPPING!

13 thoughts on “Review of “Living Dead at Zigfreidt & Roy” and Interview with Axel Howerton

  1. Thank you so much! You really have blown me away with all this praise. I want to make sure to give equal, if not exceeding, credit to the amazing Julie Jansen who is my most excellent partner in all things #CoffinHop and the one who had the idea in the first place. None of us would be here without her.

    Now keep on hoppin’ on, you readers of Fic and lovers of horror! There are so many absolutely incredible authors involved with this event, including your wonderful host on this site. Thank you again, Amy. You kick an unassailable amount of ass!

  2. Okay … so dude up there ^^ isn’t the REAL second poster ’cause he can’t win the prize of his own story … and Michael, if you come back, PLEASE email me thefishingwidow@akmarshall.com so I can send you the FREE code! ^__^

    And…

    YAY JULIE JANSEN! You ROCK! What an all sorts of awesomesauce idea you had! I’m meeting writers from everywhere and having a caffeine-fueled, sleepless-night-induced BLAST (seriously … ask Axel about the email I sent .. it showed in that.. I hope some of it made sense… >.<). COFFIN HOP is the best! ^___^

  3. Okay, so I’m too late to win (unless Michael doesn’t contact you again), but I wanted to comment anyway. It’s been a pleasure getting to know Axel better these past couple of weeks. Great interview. So many things I would agree on. Ray Bradbury stood out. Fahrenheit 451 made it on my post, “My own Works Cited: 10 books that have inspired me.” Axel’s short, “Living Dead at Zigfreidt and Roy” sounds great.

    And as a fellow Coffin Hopper, it’s nice to be visiting your blog.

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

  4. Great Post Amy and Great Review/Interview.

    I always love finding out about the writer behind the words…it is a bit like the saying behind every strong man there is a good woman….while behind every strong story there is a good writer.
    Nice meeting all the coffin hoppers. Kudos to both Julie Jansen and Axel for starting the Coffin Hop. Been meeting the most interesting writers and reading the creepiest posts. Gotta love a good blog hop.
    – Kim

    • Thanks! ^.^ It sounds like, in Axel’s case, it was a good woman dope-slapping him for 16 years, and that’s all sorts of awesome! To have that kind of loving support and poking is great. My husband named me and this blog. I was down one day and he shot me a wicked smile, nudged me and said, “C’m on, sweetheart. You’re just a diamond in the dark. Light’ll shine on you one day.” One in a million, that boy is. This fishergirl’s best. catch. ever. ♥

  5. Thanks for the tip on this story and for the interview. Very cool. It was so good to tap into the mind of one half of the braintrust behind the coffin hop.

    -Jimmy

  6. okay so after typing in all the fields, I kinda forgot what I wanted to say. I think it was about liking Axel’s work but…shoot, I hate this short attention span. ScheiBe. Anyways, I think Howeton was just effing with everyone because he’s high on Canadian bacon. At least that’s what I heard.

    Great blog! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Ash

    Kraftmatic Adjustable Blog
    #8 on the Coffin Hop
    http://ash-krafton.livejournal.com

    ashkrafton@gmail.com

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