American Ghoul - kindle ebook by Walt Morton

Walt Morton's new horror novel AMERICAN GHOUL will be free for three days on Amazon --  June 27 to June 29, 2013.

It's a great chance to grab a copy of this funny, scary 5-star horror novel. The story is a combination of coming of age tales, humor, and stark horror. Plus it has one of the most original monsters we've ever seen in fiction. 

AMERICAN GHOUL features Howard Pickman, a teenager with weird problems. It's 1978 and he's stuck in the worst high school in the state of New Jersey -- but that's nothing compared to his secret family history of digging up corpses. This novel celebrates a bygone age of punk rock and muscle cars roaring through sticky summer nights. It explores the beauty of teenage friendships and the darkness at the heart of American youth. It's a fun, scary, zany memory of being a teenager in dangerous times, when you needed to be a monster in order to survive. Rated "R" for language.


Eric Coyote: What motivated you to write American Ghoul?

Walt Morton: I've always been attracted to science-fiction, fantasy, and horror. So I wrote a book that like-minded people could enjoy.

EC: But American Ghoul is primarily horror, correct?

WM: It has elements of horror but also dark humor. It's intended to be a fun novel to read. An adventure. A book with a ghoul as the main character is certainly horror, but there is a lot more in there as well.

EC: Such as?

WM: It's a commentary on Americana and on being a teenager.  And how different it was to be a teenager in the 1970's. It's about being an outsider and pressures to conform. American Ghoul also taps traditions in American literature from Huck Finn to The Catcher in The Rye. Stories of young men learning who they are. In my novel, it's Howard Pickman learning to live as a ghoul.

EC: I don't think most people are specifically aware of what a ghoul is, though they may have heard the word.

WM: Right, people only say "ghoul" at Halloween. But the dictionary says a ghoul is a legendary evil being that robs graves and feeds on corpses.

EC: Grave-robbing cannibals.

WM: Essentially, yes. And that idea encompasses two big taboos. There are major cultural fears about those ideas, either one tends to freak people out and when you put them together it's very powerful. In part, the double-whammy explains why we haven't seen too many books about ghouls while there have been so many novels about vampires. With a vampire the reader is on somewhat safer ground, and the whole vampire metaphor is one of sexuality and contamination. You are "infected " by the bite of the vampire and it changes you. Zombie stories are metaphorically about fear of contamination. I'm not exactly sure why our culture -- particularly American culture -- is so engrossed in these stories about the end of the world by means of contamination or zombies. Possibly it's a fearful reaction to globalization, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and a lack of moral direction.

EC:  So it's harder to write about ghouls?

WM: It's hard to make ghouls interesting and sympathetic characters. I think writers have avoided them for that reason. Ghouls are the one major monster-figure that has not been popularized. So I had to create the rule book for ghouls from scratch since it didn't exist. Bram Stoker wrote the rule book on vampires and established the form. After you define the genre, you may see someone refreshing the idea like Anne Rice did in Interview with a Vampire or Stephanie Meyer did with Twilight.

EC: A lot of people think these monsters were always out there in pop culture, they don't realize what kind of intentional creations they are.

WM: Exactly, it's like people's idea of the werewolf. Almost all of what you see in popular culture derives from screenwriter Curt Siodmak's ideas that were filmed as The Wolfman (1941). There were some decent werewolf stories before that, because the legend comes from folklore, but Siodmak crystalized the rules and presented a sympathetic victim bitten by a wolf.

EC: And the werewolf is another kind of contamination metaphor where the bite of the wolf infects you.

WM: Yes, and Siodmak emphasizes that in his movie. In old European tales, you didn't need the bite to become a wolf, you just made a pact with the devil. But you can't deny this idea of contamination via a bite makes for good drama. Part of that appeal is most people like to imagine some kind of exciting change might sweep over their bodies.

EC: But ghouls aren't a contamination metaphor?

WM: No, the ghoul story is about other things. First, it's about being an outsider and a minority. And it's about having a double-life. The outer face you present to the world and then the dark secret inner life as a ghoul. One of the things that interests me is the idea that there may truly be monsters living among us. And I don't mean human monsters like serial killers, I mean beings that look completely human but aren't. How would we know they are among us? We don't do broad genetic testing (thank goodness) so for all we know there are creatures among us effectively masquerading as human, who are in fact "other." Howard Pickman is one of these creatures, and American Ghoul is the story of his attempt to integrate with everyday human society.

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