A month ago i sent the following set of interview questions to Garrett Cook. Being the thorough dude that he is he re-read Blood Meridian to give the DEATHMATCH the attention it deserved. This is an overall example of his talent. A Garrett Cook story is darkly twisted, darkly humored, and darkly uncompromising. I read his story 'Hit And Fun' and knew right away it had to be in Houdini Gut Punch. This year Mr. Cook is working hard spreading the bizarro word and his novel Archelon Ranch has been nominated for A Wonderland Award. Truly one of my new favorite talents, Ladies and Gentlemen....A few words with Garrett Cook...
Q. Let’s start from the beginning, what made you want to write? Please include any social influences as well as other authors and their work.
A. This question’s exhausting. I’ve been reading since the age of two and could usually either be found reading a book or drawing on reams upon reams of copier paper. I’ve always needed plot around me. When there is no plot going on, I feel jumpy. So, I’ll be reading a book, watching a movie, writing or else speculating on a story wherever I am. My first influences were horror movies, mythology books and folk tales. Then I moved onto comic books and then great works of literature. As a teenager, I was about as comfortable in my own skin as everybody else tends to be. I would say I was uncomfortable in my own skin as a teenager but that’s a revelation on the same level as “cookies sure are yummy”. I wanted to be a literary writer and a more straightforward magical realist. I wrote fables and dark fantasy stories that blurred genre boundaries a lot. Some of them, I still try to publish places. In college, I began my translation of Dante’s Inferno, which I hope to finish someday. That had a big influence on me. It’s just the best story, the soul’s progress beyond the dark into the light. You can’t beat that. But, I came to realize that we’ve created a hierarchy of stories that isn’t always healthy. We say something’s great art and something else is crap just because primal, visceral or silly things happen in it. Those things are the best things. Why write books without the best stuff? Literary fiction as we know it is a product of the age of the cheeseless pizza. We think it’s good for us because it’s bland. Intercourse, swordfights and jokes at the expense of everything that thinks it’s too relevant to take our phonecalls and everything that’s too sad to escape are good for us. I like combining that sensibility with a strong message which hopefully makes something you won’t find anywhere else.
Q. As a fan of crappy, cheap, and underground film I’ve become a fan of Dollar Bin Massacre as I think many more people should, (seriously no one has discussions about Battle Field Planet Earth but you guys). Can you tell us about it?
A.Dollar Bin Massacre is a movie site where me, my girlfriend Leza and Bizarro author Jordan Krall deconstruct, deface, lift up and bring down works of unique, cheap and unusual cinema. If you like that kind of thing, yeah, check it out. We’re sort of on hiatus right now because we’ve all been doing our own things, but I hope to get back to it soon. Until then, there’s plenty up for you guys to read.
Q. ALL TIME favorite bad guy from film of book?
A. Reverend Harry Powell from Night of the Hunter. I haven’t read the book, but Robert Mitchum is dynamite in that movie. He’s a guy who in his head and in his heart has made a covenant with a god that isn’t nice, that isn’t forgiving and that agrees with everything he does. People like that in this world are terrifying. Pure LaVey Satanism posing as Christianity. Like these conservative bloggers who are saying that letting a family’s house burn down because they didn’t pay seventy five bucks for fire department coverage is a Christian thing to do. It’s not a Christian thing to do. It’s a Satanic thing to do. It’s a “no mercy for the weak, what’s in it for me?” thing to do. The god they serve is a bloated, selfish shithead and nothing’s scarier than people that do that creature’s work on Earth.
(Interviewer note: Robert Mitchum can't help but be dynamite.)
Q. Jimmy Plush is a bizarro crime noir about a stuffed teddy bear. How does a teddy bear survive in a brutal Garrett Cook reality?
A.He survives and he doesn’t. His body is meaningless. It’s only stuffing, so it’s reparable. And he’s hungry for the truth. He’s not by any means a good detective. He’s no Hercule Poirot, that’s for damn sure. He’s no different from the other monster heroes and victims that populate my work because he wants answers, he wants meaning and a sense of self and to get back things he’s lost. And he’ll do anything to do it, even things that cause him to lose a little bit of his soul and his self respect.
Q. Your Murderland books (which I am currently addicted to) are based in a reality where serial killers are celebrities. One of the things I enjoy about them (aside from the ultraviolence) is the cynicism wrapped in humor. The world within the novels is rich and dark but not really that far off of ours. What are your feelings about the our world’s obsession with killers?
A. We live with a lot of boundaries. Some of them come from laws and some of them come from our own sense of ethics. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins. When we see somebody who lives without those boundaries, this person is, on an unconscious level as unusual to us as somebody who exists outside of time or bypasses the laws of gravity. Our literature and culture are full of people for whom sociopathy is a superpower. So, unfortunately are our news programs. We fear the mix or weakness and potential these abnormalities exhibit. On a gut reaction level we think that somebody who can reason their way into doing anything is capable of anything. Because a lot of us see ethics and laws as boundaries, lines we cannot cross and places we cannot go, we believe this is so. I feel that we need to stop looking at ethics as nothing but a list of things we can’t do and start thinking about things righteous and good people can do that the superbeing who doesn’t have a conscience to hold them back can’t. That’s why I like to write about characters whose weakness is their lack of ethics and good judgment. A Garrett Cook book is kind of like a Goofus solo comic. They’re usually about people who can get what they want but do so at the expense of actual meaning in their accomplishments, something that they have to crusade, with varying levels of effectiveness to undo.
Q. What are you working on right now?
A. Too much. Way too much. Sequel to Archelon Ranch (yes, you read that correctly), collection of novellas for Eraserhead for which I am being piquant, nervous and indecisive, traits that messrs. Mellick and Burk and Miss O’ Keefe have encountered in me before that I hope I shall overcome by the next thing I do. A horror novella that is sort of Pan’s Labirynth as directed by Rob Zombie and an idea I brought up in jest on Permuted Press’ Facebook page that I’ve been encouraged to jump on. It will all be done. Whether it’s done as fast as I’d like it to be done is the question.
(Interviewer note: Can't wait!)
Q. How far would you make it through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory?
A. Knowing that it’s a blatant allegory for Hell, I would not enter the place. If I had to go in, I think I might be able to go the distance. I don’t drink water out of streams that I suspect spooky midgets bathe in, I don’t chase special squirrels, I don’t chew gum, drink experimental soda or let myself be teleported through a television. Maybe that makes me a square, but it also makes me not a total dipshit. What is wrong with those people?
(Interviewer note: Self Control is a rare commodity when the walls taste like Snozzberries)
Q. You won the first ever Bizarro Showdown, are you gonna show them kids how it’s done again this year?
A. Yes. I will do it the tune of Montell Jordan’s This is How We Do It as well.
Q. Who said, “This isn’t ‘Nam this is bowling, there are rules.” ?
A. Walter Sobchak. Say what you want about The Big Lebowski, at least it’s an ethos.
(Interviewer Note: Ten bonus points.)
Q. If you had the chance to kick one comic book character in the balls with no repercussions who would it be and why?
A. Harvey Pekar. Because he would have made something out of it. Sure, it would be great to kick Wolverine in the balls, but that’s just a moment and nothing becomes of it. If you kicked Harvey Pekar in the balls, people would get to read an irritating but still somehow wonderful rant on fairness in life. So, in that way, hipster douchebags are right in thinking Harvey Pekar was a real comicbook hero. He was a big loss.
Q. If you could pick 6 horror movies for an all night movie marathon what would they be?
A. Tough, tough call. I’d start out ugly and get classier as the night progresses. So, I’d begin with H.G Lewis’ The Gore Gore Girls, move onto Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, then The Abominable Doctor Phibes, after that Tenebre, followed by Mad Love and I’d cap it all off with either The Body Snatcher or Mark of the Vampire.
Q. If you had a fifth of whiskey, one adjective, two nouns, and one verb how would you describe yourself?
A.If I had a fifth of whiskey:
Drunk, classyman, lothario, dragonwrestling
So it’s a good thing I don’t’ have one.
Q. Quick namedrop five bizarro talents!
A.Cameron Pierce, Forrest Armstrong, Jordan Krall, Andersen Prunty, Eric Mays
(Interviewer Note: Everybody loves Jordan Krall.)
Q. I’ve always been the kind of guy that roots for the bad guy and in my 32 years I’ve found a lot of bad asses that keep me entertained. Your chocolate bunny eatin’ virgin slayin’ hot rodin’ bad ass Ronnie Ray became an instant favorite of mine. So much so that I want to see him do battle with another of my top five bad asses…The Judge from Cormac McCarthy’s aptly titled Blood Meridian. Since this battle includes not one, but two, of my favorites I’ll even give you an extra five hundred words! Feel free to include Ronnie Ray’s Slashcats and The Judge’s merry band of scalphunters if you see fit. You have 1500 words to describe the carnage and the outcome!
Deathmatch: Ronnie Ray vs. The Judge from Blood Meridian
Ronnie Ray was proud of himself. It had been a great night for running over virgins and defiling their dead bodies in the name of Satan. Boy, tonight had been so good, he was sure Satan would thank him in person. And he would hug Satan and thank him for everything he’d given him in life and offer to give him a blowjob that would not be gay at all. It was gonna be great. Ronnie Ray had thought this would happen the last time he did it, but he hadn’t done enough that time. It was stupid to think it. This time, it would definitely be true. Satan would have to come with this much carnage and defiling having been done in his name. And he was going to have a wonderful nongay time.
As usual Satan looked upon Ronnie Ray’s sacrifice and actions and couldn’t decide whether he wanted to vomit or sigh. Ronnie Ray’s sacrifices had been annoying at first, but now had grown disquieting. Satan had no desire to continue to see such egregious displays, displays that would no doubt alienate a lot of other people from Satan worship. Ronnie Ray was the worst thing that had happened to Satan since Richard Ramirez. Just then, he happened to notice a golden parchment on his desk.
“Do not send Ronnie Ray back in time.”
Satan, being as unfamiliar with time travel paradoxes as most other people, read the parchment and assumed that he had already done so and since he had already done so, there could be no harm in doing it. The Wild West seemed like a good time to send Ronnie Ray to. Satan was a tad shortsighted in this, since he did not understand that if Ronnie Ray were killed back then, he’d have to endure his presence in Hell for 150 years retroactively. Satan could sometimes be that way. He had, after all been the one to decide he could overthrow an omnipotent omnipresence with an army of things it had created. But, everyone makes mistakes.
Satan decided that the best time to do this would be when Ronnie Ray was sleeping. It was hard to time this since Ronnie Ray only slept eleven minutes every night because of his constant rape and chocolate bunny buzz. Satan got Ronnie Ray when he was sleeping and dropped him in the middle of the desert. If Satan had done this to most men, that he did not want to see in Hell relatively soon, he would’ve had to deal with the bastard in short order. Not so with Ronnie Ray.
Ronnie Ray woke up in blistering heat with sand in his teeth. He was surrounded by Indians, who he assumed wanted to kill him. Or, he decided on the fly, surrounded by armed Indian braves that Satan had sent him out in the desert to kill. Ronnie Ray did not take any time to think about his situation. He drew his switchblade and before the Indians knew it, two of their throats had been cut. Maybe there were twenty of them and one of him, but he’d been given a mission. Seeing two of their own fall, they lunged at him with their spears. But, Ronnie Ray was sheer poetry in a knifefight, he knew when to move, when to strike, when to hit low, when to hit high. And he was fast. Ronnie Ray drove fast, Ronnie Ray raped fast and Ronnie Ray killed fast. There was no good reason for hostility between Ronnie Ray and these Indians, no good reason for twenty of them to lose their life to a knifewielding sociopath that was too quick to impale.
When the Indians were dead, Ronnie Ray removed their heads and had sex with them to appease the devil. The devil was not appeased, so wrote himself a note, one that he would find in the future that would initiate this fiasco, a fiasco that would no doubt be the progenitor of bigger fiascos. Like the one riding toward Ronnie Ray, the great, fat, bald giant of a man. The devil had not anticipated this meeting between the two, each a master of slaughter, each a prodigy of hate, each an agency of tasteless chaos. The devil cringed seeing the big, bald man spot Ronnie Ray making his “sacrifice”.
“A sight for sore eyes!” said the big, bald man with a laugh.
Ronnie Ray turned, switchblade in his hand.
“You stay right where you are, you fucking faggot!” he screamed, “You don’t know who you’re fucking with!”
The big man raised an eyebrow. He’d not expected so much hostility. A white man that hated Indians that much should have been eager to see another white man out in the desert.
“I have no intention of doing you any harm, friend,” said the big man, “I was admiring your handywork. You’re the sort of man I’m looking for.”
“I ain’t no faggot!” Ronnie Ray shrilled, “You try to kiss me and so help me, I’ll cut off your balls!”
Most men would’ve taken this warning and run away. But this man wasn’t most men. This man was cunning, deadly and full of hate. This man respected Ronnie Ray as a great killer of Indians, saw him as a knife that could cut through the great dark savage multitudes.
“I want your help. I got work for a man like you. I want to find you a horse and I want you to help me collect some scalps. There’s good money in it.”
Ronnie Ray did not hear good money and did not like the idea of work. He had never worked a day in his life and he didn’t plan on starting to. Especially not for some friendly stranger. But more scalps was good. Maybe the devil would like some scalps. That would be great. Worth even working for, especially if the working was killing, which was something Ronnie Ray would do anyway.
“You gonna get me a horse? You gonna help me find more Indians?”
“I assure you, I will.”
“I’ll take your job! But I work for Satan! I don’t work for you!”
The big man shrugged.
“Fine with me.”
At the next town, the big man found Ronnie Ray a horse. The big man tried to recruit more men for his scalping mission, but Ronnie Ray kept screaming at and threatening every potential candidate with his knife. There wasn’t a man brave enough to ride out with them. The big man was confused, wondering whether enlisting Ronnie Ray was worth it. On the one hand, Ronnie Ray was really good at scalping. On the other, Ronnie Ray was a psychopath that had prevented anyone else from joining the mission. Perhaps this could be smoothed over.
“You know, Ronnie Ray,” said the big, bald man, “if we don’t have more men to ride with us, we won’t get as many scalps.”
Ronnie Ray was not listening. He was busy slicing his horse’s tendons and thinking about how happy Satan would be to get a dead horse, head thoroughly raped. In all of his days as a Satan worshipping juvenile delinquent, Ronnie Ray had yet to bring Satan a dead horse. Perhaps Satan, who never responded to Ronnie Ray’s prayers in any way but bringing him back in time, was disappointed with this.
The fat, bald, angry gentleman beheld this senseless horsehobbling and realized that this man was no better than any of the savages they had gone out to vanquish. In fact, he was a savage of the first and worst order. He reached for his rifle and took aim. It was hard to do so, because his vision was blurred and he was hurting very bad. Ronnie Ray had cut him from one end of his belly to the other. Looking down at his wound, the next thing he saw was Ronnie Ray’s switchblade slicing off his nose.
“I heard ‘em!” Ronnie Ray screamed, “In town, I heard ‘em callin’ you judge! You’re a fuckin’ square! I kill fuckin’ squares!”
The knife retraced the cut, expanded it, deepened it. It went back following its trail of blood and scarification and the square who had tried to trick him into doing honest work opened up real wide. The big, bald man died regretting that he had ever met this unstable young madman, a thing of random, unrestrained hate, the worst of human nature.
Ronnie Ray developed a reputation as the man who killed The Judge. All through the West, the name was good as sayin’ the devil, good as sayin’ death. In 1885, Ronnie Ray discovered an abandoned Delorean in a mineshaft, which he recognized as a time travel device. He tied it to a locomotive and set off for the moment of his conception. The older Ronnie Ray sacrificed his father to Satan and raped his mother, because he’d always wondered what it would feel like. And that’s how Ronnie Ray conceived himself.
Hot Damn! Ronnie Ray is a BAD ASS!!!!!
Thanks Garrett for the wicked cool interview! Best O' Luck at the Bizarro Showdown!
You can check out Garrett's blog and get his echap book, Heresy and Hearsay,here
You can read all the movie madness of Dollar Bin Massacre here
Or check out any of Garrett's ultra killer work here
NEXT UP: Jeremy C. Shipp!!!!!!!