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Exclusive: Author Dave Zeltserman Talks The Boy Who Killed Demons

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Author Dave Zeltserman Talks The Boy Who Killed DemonsNext week author Dave Zeltserman is heading to the New York Comic Con with The Overlook Press in support of his soon-to-be-released The Boy Who Killed Demons, but before he faces the masses in the Big Apple, he spent a few minutes chatting with Dread Central about the book.

Dread Central: The Boy Who Killed Demons has a teenage protagonist.  Would you say, then, that the book is geared toward teens or more so the adult crowd?  Or a bit of both?

Dave Zeltserman: I’d say both. Demons is a heroic and straightforward story of a 15-year-old boy who must find a way to stop demons from destroying the world and should appeal to all readers. It’s not as graphic and violent as some of my adult novels, but otherwise I didn’t make any other concessions to write this as a YA novel, and I think adult readers will enjoy this one every bit as much as my previous novels, if not more. My protagonist, Henry, is a smart, resourceful, and I believe honestly written character whom both teen and adult readers will identify with and root for.

DC: How are the adults treated in the tale?  Are they involved in Henry’s world or more on the sidelines?  Does he have anyone mentoring his demon hunting?

DZ: Henry is all alone in his fight against the demons, and he needs to keep this fight hidden from his parents and everyone else, including a neighbor down the street who’s one of the demons.

DC: The book’s synopsis mentions Henry’s alienation from his parents, friends, teachers, etc.  That seems to be a fairly common occurrence among teens, but no doubt in Henry’s case it’s even more extreme than usual.  Can you talk about how you incorporated this theme into the book?

DZ: Henry knows that if his parents find out he sees demons, they’ll have him loaded up on psychiatric drugs, and there will be no one left to stop the demons. There’s a lot of stress between him and his parents as they can’t understand how their well-adjusted, outgoing son has become a sullen loner. Henry also knows that if the demons ever discover he can see them, he’ll be dead soon afterwards. His having to fight them in secrecy takes a toll, and he has to sacrifice so much of not only a normal teen existence, but his life, including a budding romance, to save the world.

DC: As for the ancient texts that Henry studies in the course of his research on the supernatural, did you use actual, existing writings, or did you create your own for the book?

DZ: I created my own. There were really two texts—an eighteenth century German text that Henry has to translate (for a good part of the text he thinks the author was a quack) and a rumored seventeenth century text, L’Occulto Illuminato, which only a handful of people know about. Henry has to go to great lengths to get a copy of L’Occulto Illuminato, including betraying a close friend.

DC: Without spoiling too much, what can you tell us about the “demons” of the title?  Is there a variety of them, or are they mostly similar?  How detailed are the descriptions of them in the book?

DZ: A description of the demons is given on the first page of the novel so I’m not giving anything away. The demons are described in explicit detail, and they’re similar and with a singular purpose. Outside of Henry, and perhaps a handful of other people, everyone else is fooled into thinking these demons are normal, everyday people. The gift Henry has is sort of like the gift Roddy Piper has in They Live, except Henry doesn’t need special glasses to see the demons for what they are.

DC: The Boy Who Killed Demons was written in diary form.  What motivated you to select that format for this particular tale, and did it create any particular challenges for you, or did it perhaps make things easier since you could write more in the “train of thought” format?

DZ: The journal form seemed the most natural way to write this book, and it allowed me to mix standard first-person narrative with Henry’s musings and rants while being able to be more playful with it. It also allowed a more natural way to parcel out Henry’s journey. I don’t know if I’ll ever write another book in journal form, but the form worked nicely with Demons.

DC: You’ve written noir, mystery, and horror novels.  Do you have a preference, and is there a difference in how you approach each genre?

DZ: When I started out writing, I thought of myself as a noir writer, but the simple fact is most of the great classic noir writers, like Jim Thompson, Gil Brewer, Dan Marlowe, died broke. While I love reading the dark journeys that noir novels can take you on, most readers want someone somewhat likable to root for and don’t want to follow a vicious, borderline-sociopathic character on a one-way ticket to hell. And most publishers will not publish true noir. I feel very fortunate that the London publisher Serpent’s Tail published my first four noir novels, but after that it was time to move on and find other types of books that I wanted to write. Whether it’s noir, horror, or something else, I approach all my books the same way—getting into the heads of my characters and living the book in my mind as I write it.

DC: What are your horror influences?  Favorite authors, films, etc.?

DZ: When I was a kid, I was heavily into Lovecraft, and read everything of his I could find, and there’s some Lovecraft influence in Demons, although the writing style is very different. My favorite horror novel is I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. An absolutely brilliant novel. Shelley’s Frankenstein is another favorite. It can be a tough go through the first half, but once you get to the monster’s story, it’s spellbinding. After I wrote Monster, I went on a kick of reading other Frankenstein retellings, and I thought Peter Ackroyd’s The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein was superb and found it fascinating the directions he took it.

My favorite horror films are two from John Carpenter: They Live and The Thing. Also George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead—it may be low budget, but it’s still one of the creepiest movies out there. Others are Psycho, The Birds, The Howling, Fright Night (original), The Exorcist, Child’s Play, 13 Tzameti, and the recent The Cabin in the Woods. Also, as a kid I could not get enough of “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”; quite a few of those episodes have stayed with me over the years.

DC: Lastly, now that The Boy Who Killed Demons is being released, what’s next for you?  Any upcoming projects you can share with us?

DZ: I’m in the process of putting together a Julius Katz Collection that I’ll be publishing as a paperback and ebook. This will be made up of the first six Julius Katz mystery stories that were originally published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine plus a new and previously unpublished long novella. These stories are the polar opposite of my noir novels—very lighthearted and charming—and have so far won a Shamus, Derringer, and two Ellery Queen Readers Choice Awards. I’ve also just finished a noirish PI in hell novel that I’m very fond of and will be looking to get that published. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that one of my film deals goes into production next year.

Look for Dave Zeltserman’s The Boy Who Killed Demons on October 16th from The Overlook Press.  The 2014 New York Comic Con runs October 9th-12th. You can visit Dave in Booth #128 on Friday, October 10th, from 1:00-4:00 pm ET.

Our thanks to Dave for his time and to Kait Heacock at Overlook for setting up the interview.

Synopsis:
“My name’s Henry Dudlow. I’m fifteen and a half. And I’m cursed. Or damned. Take your pick. The reason? I see demons.”

The setting is quiet Newton, Massachussetts, where nothing ever happens. Nothing, that is, until two months after Henry Dudlow’s 13th birthday, when his neighbor, Mr. Hanley, suddenly starts to look… different. While everyone else sees a balding man with a beer belly, Henry suddenly sees a nasty, bilious, rage-filled demon.

Once Henry catches on to the real Mr. Hanley, he starts to see demons all around him, and his boring, adolescent life is transformed. There’s no more time for friends or sports or the lovely Sally Freeman; instead Henry must work his way through ancient texts and hunt down the demons before they steal any more innocent children. And if hunting demons is hard at any age, it’s borderline impossible when your parents are on your case, your grades are getting worse, and you can’t tell anyone about your chosen mission.

The Boy Who Killed Demons

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Fearsome Facts – Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

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Sir Christopher Lee returned to portray the charismatic count of Transylvania in Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) for the first time since taking on the iconic role in 1958’s Horror of Dracula – an eight year absence. 

And while Lee endured a love/hate relationship playing the Carpathian Count over the years, the actor reluctantly tackled the role a total of 10 times for the Silver Screen. Three of those performances came outside of the purview of Hammer Horror, but this list is dedicated to the first Hammer Dracula sequel to feature the return of Christopher Lee in the lead role.

Now, here are 5 Things You May Not Know About Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

5. Dracula: Speechless

Dialogue never played a crucial part in Christopher Lee’s portrayals as Count Dracula, but this film is the epitome of that contentious notion. Lee doesn’t utter a single word during Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ 90 minutes of run time. In interviews over the years, Lee said that he was so unhappy with his lines that he protested and refused to say them during the filming process. “Because I had read the script and refused to say any of the lines,” Lee said in an interview at the University College of Dublin.

However, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster insisted that the original script was written without any dialogue for Dracula. There was even a theory that circulated for a time which postulated that Hammer could not afford Lee’s growing salary, so the studio decided to limit the Count’s screen time. Did this lead to the demise of Dracula’s dialogue? Regardless of whom you want to believe, Dracula is the strong, silent type in Prince of Darkness. 

4. Double Duty for Drac

Hammer Film Productions doubled down, so to speak, on the production and post-production aspects of Dracula: Prince of Darkness. First, the studio filmed the vampire flick back-to-back with another project titled Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966). In doing so, Hammer used many of the same sets, actors – including Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer – and crew members to shoot both motion pictures.

Second, Dracula: Prince of Darkness was featured in a double billing alongside the film The Plague of the Zombies (1966) when it screened in London. Insert cheesy cliche: “Double your pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint Gum.” 

3. Stunt Double Nearly Drowned

Dracula: Prince of Darkness introduced a new weakness in the wicked baddie, but it nearly cost a stuntman his life. During the film, it was revealed that running water could destroy Dracula. Wait, what? Apparently, leaving the faucets on at night not only prevents frozen pipes, but blood-sucking vampires, too.

All kidding aside, it was during the climactic battle scene in which Christopher Lee’s stunt double almost succumb to the icy waters on set. Stuntman Eddie Powell stepped in as the Count during that pivotal moment, as Dracula slipped into the watery grave, but Powell was trapped under the water himself and almost died.

2. Lee Loathed What Hammer Did to Stoker’s Character

Christopher Lee’s return to Hammer’s Dracula franchise was a stroke of genius on the part of producers, but Lee was more than a little reticent when it came to initially voicing his dislike for playing the iconic role. As mentioned above, a lot of speculation swirled around the lack of dialogue given to Lee in the Prince of Darkness script. And if you don’t count the opening flashback sequence, which revisits the ending of Horror of Dracula (1958), Count Dracula doesn’t appear on screen until the 45-minute mark of the film.

Dracula’s lack of character, and presence, began to affect Lee particularly when it came to signing on to play the character in the three films following Prince of Darkness. Indeed, the lack of meaningful character development led to Lee initially turning down Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Scars of Dracula (1970). Lee said in countless interviews that he never got to play the real version of Count Dracula created by Bram Stoker, at least via Hammer Studios. This was a true disappointment to the late actor.

But Hammer guilt Lee into taking on the role over and over again, because the studio claimed to have already sold the aforementioned films to the United States with Lee’s name attached to the projects. Hammer informed Lee that if he didn’t return the company would have to lay off many of their workers. The tactic worked, since Lee was friends with many of the Dracula crew members. Fortunately for fans, Lee kept coming back for blood.

1. Faux Pas

Outside of the character of Dracula only appearing on screen for the last half of the movie, Dracula: Prince of Darkness had even more pressing issues that unfortunately survived all the way to the final cut of the film. One of the most appalling of these occurrences happens during the picture’s climatic confrontation. Watch the skies above Dracula and you will see the trail of a jet-engine plane staining the sky.

Another faux pas occurs in this same sequence when Dracula succumbs to the icy waters. Watch closely as the camera’s long shot clearly reveals the pivots holding the ice up underneath Chris Lee. Finally, watch the dead girl who is being carried during the opening funeral sequence. She is clearly breathing and quite heavily at that.

***

Which Dracula: Prince of Darkness moments did you find the most interesting? Were there any obscure facts you would have enjoyed seeing make our list? Sound off on social media!

 

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Carnivore: Werewolf of London Howls on VOD

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Joining the ranks of The Curse of the Werewolf, An American Werewolf in London, The Company of Wolves, and Dog Soldiers, Carnivore: Werewolf of London is the latest in a long series of fantastic British werewolf movies. Directed by Knights of the Damned’s Simon Wells, the film focuses on a couple trying to save their relationship by taking a vacation in a remote cottage, but rekindling their old flame soon proves to be the least of their worries as they learn that something with lots of fur and lots of teeth is waiting for them in the surrounding woods.

Carnivore: Werewolf of London stars Ben Loyd-Holmes, Atlanta Johnson, Gregory Cox, Molly Ruskin, and Ethan Ruskin, and is available to purchase now on Google Play, Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, although it doesn’t appear to have received a physical release as of yet.

More information about Carnivore: Werewolf of London is available on the film’s official Facebook account, along with a ton of production photos.

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John Carpenter … NOT DEAD!

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We currently live in a world of false alarms. Within the last several days we’ve suffered everything from warnings of doomsday to Rotten Tomatoes accidentally celebrating the passing(!) and career of the very much still alive John Carpenter.

That’s right, kids; earlier today RT tweeted, “John Carpenter would have been 70 years old today! We celebrate his birthday by looking back at his five favorite films.” The tweet… has since been deleted.

We are here to tell you… John is very much alive! Alive and well, even. Carpenter himself responded on Twitter by alerting the site that “despite how it appears, I’m actually not dead.

This is great news indeed. One of horror’s best and brightest is still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Now then, let’s take this time to celebrate the man’s birthday PROPERLY by talking about our favorite films of his. Speaking personally for myself…

Prince of Darkness is a movie that both unnerves and scares the hell out of me. One of Carpenter’s most thought-provoking works is just as frightening now as it was when we first received that grainy transmission as a dream from the year…

Tell us your favorite Carpenter movie in our comments section below.

…and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN!

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