Down Peck’s Hollow Road the old truck lurched into Meadowpark Baptist cemetery.
A huge fellow got out, cursing to himself as he almost slammed the door against his hamfisted thumb, but the creaky door bounced back instead of clicking shut.
“Hey, keep it down,” said the wiry guy, who was emerging from the vehicle’s other side. The moonbathed cemetery whispered through fetterings of the pecan and oak trees, sashaying in the strong night winds.
“Where’s the new one?” said the larger man.
“Eddie the Retard said it was on the west end, over that way.”
The markers glowed from the moonlight, bathing them in an almost phosphorous evanescence. The big misfit and the little guy walked from the van to the west flanking wrought-iron fence, stomping over carefully placed flowers and cerements by the plots they trod upon to get to the business of digging up a Mrs. Ellie Wascom, just laid to rest two days ago. The men had their shovels and made use of them quite handily.
“Hey, Ralph,” said the big man. “I seen a picture one time. These guys were digging up a body and when they got the casket out, the lid flips up and an old woman starts screaming at them.”
Ralph had earned a little sweat on his brow. He mopped it away with his shirt-cuff and said, “Well, that ain’t gonna happen tonight so don’t worry about it.”
Christlieb frowned. “I didn’t say I was worried about it. I just said I seen it.”
An owl was keeping time, in the distance. Leaning on his shovel for a moment, Ralph tried to find it. He was already out of breath; this was strenuous work for a man with a hole in his heart. Poorly paid, too; but at least it would get a creditor off his back for another month – once they had delivered the corpse.
Christlieb set to, once more. The man was indefatigable, with no interest in money; in other words he was a perfect partner. Ralph watched him work for a few seconds. Then, bored with that, he followed the path of a battlecruiser cloud in the pacy night sky. It seemed to get snagged on the steeple arrowing up from the church; the cloud was punctured. A few seconds later, a few spots of rain were felt.
“Great,” said Ralph.
Christlieb loved the rain. When he felt the stray drops softly land on his bald spot, he started to dig with added fervour, added zeal. The rain reminded him of his childhood: of the times when he’d been allowed out of the house, which had been few and far between. Carefully he probed the periodontal problems he’d been having with his tongue. Pain also made him work harder.
Sooner started, sooner finished, thought Ralph. He helped his colleague. The dirt was sprayed all around as they dug deeper. The rain brought out the full fragrance of the earth. It wasn’t pleasant.
Standing on top of the coffin a half-hour later, Ralph was reminded of his time as a surfboarder, in his youth, before his health problems had been all too real. As ever at this point, he was nervous. The thought of the lid cracking open – planted by Christlieb – wasn’t helping much either. He took a screwdriver from the kangaroo pouch that he was wearing, attached to his heavy belt. It didn’t fit the screws.
“Shine the light down here,” he said to Christlieb.
The rain on the wood was making an awful racket.
He pried open the casket, lifted the lid, and gave the corpse a big wet kiss.
“Hey there,” said Christlieb. “That’s enough.”
“Sorry.” But Ralph was suppressing a smile.
Hauling the corpse from the pit was like dancing with a drunken bear. But between them, they managed to get the corpse in the van and the grave filled in, in less than an hour.
The rain pummeled the consecrated grounds of the cemetery as the van bumped its way back up Peck’s Hollow Road.
Cut to the brink of a lovemaking climax.
At approximately the same time, two people – two strangers, really – were emerging from the undergrowth of a bout of pounding lovemaking. Having macheted their way through a forty-five minute jungle, they could both see the light through the twitching branches.
A few more of these, thought Cameron, and she’ll be as right as rain.
Kathy, on top, was galloping on Cameron’s hipbone; it felt as though she were attempting to drive him through the bucketing mattress. He was nearly out of breath – but Kathy didn’t seem to be. The bedsprings were braying like a group of donkeys on a beach. The CD had just finished playing. But added to the din were the obstreperous gurgles and howls, now emanating from Kathy’s gullet.
Bingo, thought Cameron as he felt her body clutch at his groin. As he shared the moment – as his body sneezed into hers – he released the handful of buttock that he’d been gripping for the last five minutes. His wedding ring had left a mark on her skin.
Like a felled tree – timber! – Kathy collapsed to the side.
They breathed like sumo wrestlers for a few seconds.
“Ooh la la,” said Cameron.
“Woe,” said Kathy.
Cameron could scarcely believe his luck. Travelling as he did from state to state, it was frequent that he would end up for the evening in a juke joint such as the one in which he’d met this woman: The Bottom of the Barrel. But it was far from frequent that he would end up accompanying someone to her home.
At first he’d regarded her keenness as suspicious. It was just as well that Cameron had already had a good few bottles of suds, or he might have allowed the possibility that Kathy would end up, clothes off with the lights down low, to be a Kenny or a Keith more room. It was possible that he wouldn’t have gone through with it. But you couldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, now could you?
Just to be on the safe side he’d posed the question that often saved a lot of time.
“So what’s your baggage?”
“None. He’s left me for a woman who bakes muffins for a living. Yours?” Kathy had asked.
“Wife and kids. Two hundred miles away.”
Revenge hump, thought Cameron as he peeled his skin off the moistened sheets. No problem whatever did he have with his new friend’s motives; he was simply grateful for the chance to show how good he was.
“Do you want a cigarette?” asked Kathy.
“I don’t smoke. Could I get a drink, though?”
“Sure. Get me one while you’re at it, would you?”
Naked and flat-footed, Cameron moved slowly through the darkened, unfamiliar apartment. He closed the kitchen door and torched the light. His skin, in its glare, appeared wan. He opened the fridge.
More light, like an optician’s pen-light probe: spreading open his iris, in the same way that he’d…
No. Don’t think about more sex, not yet. Cameron poured juice into two tall beakers. Sipping at one, he thought: That’s a guy’s fridge if ever I’ve seen one. The picture formed in his head quite naturally. The boorish way that Kathy’s absconding spouse had ruled the roost… Cameron was hungry. He reached in to remove one of the many paper-wrapped packages on the top shelf. The bag said: BEEF ENCOUNTER. Cute. He opened it up and inside was a pie, the smell of which reached directly for his tastebuds.
Food was Cameron’s life – food and writing. Interstate highways claimed a good deal of his time, but when he arrived at his destination it was his job to inspect preparation conditions, and to compile an inventory of meat products on offer; to write about service and handling styles, baking styles. The five-year project was to end with a PhD thesis on the triumvirate correlation between hygiene, customer expectation, and end product receptability. While compiling his notes, Cameron worked for DOMASPEC: the Department of Meat and Savoury Products Examination Committee. It was a thankless task, but the money was good and he was able to earn himself a good suntan. Plus, he enjoyed the travelling.
His teeth clenched into the pie. Immediately – it was a similar experience to being on that bungee jump, over the rapids – the flavour made his endorphins glow. Did he start to sweat? Even after being left in the refrigerator, the pie was immaculate: the pastry was soft but full of body. The meat, tender; rich, ripe…
God damn it, he thought. This is one of the best savoury products I’ve ever tasted.
“Solomon?” came Kathy’s voice. He had told her his first name; that had been a mistake. “You okay in there? You got lost?”
“Be with you in a second, Kath,” said Cameron.
“Kathy,” he was corrected.
God damn it, Cameron repeated, but not as a result of the rebuke. He took an armful of Beef Encounter bags from the fridge, and laid them on the kitchenette table. Quite a spread: ropes of sausages; more pies; Scotch eggs, chump chops, hunks of beef – and leaves of ham and pink, pink meats.
He heard footsteps. Perhaps sensing that something was wrong, and indicating that any chance of further passion had passed, Kathy had donned a schoolmarmish robe to explore her own abode. When she entered, Cameron had his incisors into a fresh, spicy sausage. Guiltily he looked up.
A table top smothered with meat and paper. Juices running down Cameron’s chin.
“You might have asked,” said Kathy. “That stuff costs a fortune.”
“Sorry,” Cameron replied. “But where do I find this place?”
The van drove up Delling’s Boulevard into the city limits, made a left on Summit Street and turned into the rear entrance of Gaul’s Mini-mall, a strip mall of small businesses that as of late had revived the town’s business life; the businesses had aerated the municipal lungs of the once-upscale burg known to attract antique-shoppers and tourists alike. Whistling the Laurel and Hardy theme tune, Ralph got his keys off his belt and unlocked the big service entrance, a broad paint-blistered door. The odor of rotted food items wafted from the dumpster and several tomcats made that almost hidden service drive their home.
After the blistered door creaked open, Ralph and Christlieb lugged the corpse, wrapped in a wet bedsheet, inside out of the downpour. The sheet was clinging to the body.
Small Business entrepreneur Frederick Lawrence hailed the brutes’ arrival. He was snacking on an onion in one hand and a self-rolled cigarette in the other. Both of which items he placed down carefully, like a waiter laying cutlery in a snooty restaurant. “I spy, with my little eye,” he said, “something that starts with a ‘T’,” He had a softspoken, shrill, singsong voice.
“We got this one for you, Mr. L,” said Ralph. The big guy just exhaled heartily and sneezed.
“Play my game,” said Lawrence. “That starts with a ‘T’,” he reminded the workers.
“Trouble,” said Christlieb.
Lawrence turned to him with a pantomime sneer on his face. “You can’t see trouble,” he said.
Oh boy, thought Ralph. Here we go again…
“Takers?” he ventured.
“Of what?” asked Lawrence.
“The body, man!” Ralph snapped.
“And…” Lawrence was making a sign with his hands: inviting on the flow of traffic.
Both Ralph and Christlieb were stumped. To Lawrence’s unhidden disgust. “Can you say ‘torso’?” said Lawrence.
“Torso,” said Christlieb.
“We gotta get going to Greenhaven if we’re gonna get you our quota, Mr. L.” This was Ralph.
“Right you are, boys,” lisped the thin gaunt man.
“We’ll put her in the meat locker.”
“That’ll be fine, boys.”
Little Ralph eeked, “Oh, I almost forgot, Eddie the Retard says there are two derelict bum’s corpses at the city morgue, and they’re getting a pauper’s burial tomorrow, both of them, where we just came from, off Old Peck Highway.”
“Tell Eddie the Retard he gets another bottle of Ginlivet from me, then. I’ll see you boys later on. When you come back with that other body, don’t forget to lock up.”
“Yessir, Mr. L.”
Christlieb sneezed again. Elaborately, with great patience, he ran his face the length of his jacket sleeve past his nostrils. The end of his nose was ruby-red, and the deposit on the sleeve was the trail left behind after a snail’s dying waltz.
A chickenhawk named Stan sat atop a pole. The pole overlooked Summit Street.
Stan had been a resident of that pole for the last two years, and had been named after Stan Meloy, the manager of the Piggly Wiggly on Babel Drive. But it was not Stan’s pet: it was Lawrence’s.
As he finished his journey to work – the fifty metre walk from the oblique forward slashes of the parking slots, to Beef Encounter – Lawrence looked up and saluted his totem, his familiar. He and Stan – the chickenhawk, as opposed to the paper-pushing bully – had a good rapport. Lawrence didn’t care if Stan mussed about in the bins after hours, in search of goodies. In fact, the longer the relationship had lasted, the tidier Stan had become – thoughtfully tearing open only small beaks of bag-skin.
Stan squawked. Whether this was in acknowledgement of the salute, or in disapproval of the gaggle of young kids playing scattycat with the traffic… no one would ever know.
Lawrence opened up the shop and waited for his employees.
Woe betide Beatrice if she was late again, new baby or no new baby. Rules are rules. And if Geraldo turned up drunk once more, he was going to face a disciplinary: same reason.
Lawrence turned on the friers and the console-sized stove.
The air was ten degrees hotter in a matter of minutes.
First customer of the day arrived shortly after: a slim young man wearing a jacket and a shirt that was screaming out for a tie. His smile was broad and seemed genuine.
“I’ve come to talk sausages,” he said. “My name is Solomon Cameron. I think you’ve got the best-tasting sausage in town.”
“Well, thank you, sir. That’s very kind of you to say.” Frederick Lawrence took out a pack of Dunhills in a gold case. “You don’t mind, sir, if I smoke. I’m dying to quit.”
“Oh, no. Go right ahead.”
“So you were saying, about my sausages…”
“Sir, I’ve never tasted anything like it. I’ve had Andoille sausage from Louisiana, Kielbasha Polish, the finest Italian sausage, everything. Hot pork, boudin, mild beef.”
“But yours is different. I can’t put my finger on it.”
“I’ve strived to give it a unique flavor. Family secret, don’t you know. My grandfather taught me how to render the meat just so, with savory spices during the smoking process using hickory chips and mesquite.”
“I thought so. I’d like to distribute your meat product. You might want to go national.”
“Well, I do get a lot of antiquers and tourists, but I…”
“Sure. But I’m talking national. Possibly international. A good word from me can secure a certain amount of kudos, Mr…”
“Lawrence. Frederick Lawrence.” He did not invite the younger man to use his first name.” Lawrence paused. “Would you like a cigarette, Mr Cameron?”
“No, thank you, I don’t smoke.”
“Now that would be nice.” Business was always better conducted in a caffeine fug.
“Take a seat. I’ll be out in a minute.”
Kathy showered and got ready for work. She considered calling in sick, which wasn’t far from the truth; but there were some reports on her desk that needed finishing and filing. She took a morning-after pill.
In the car she received her first call of the day. It was Aidata.
“Like you to head on over to the cemetery, down Peck’s Hollow,” he said.
“A grave desecration.”
“Oh, boy,” said Kathy. “Witnesses?”
“Old Boy Jamn saw lights in the night,” said Desk Sergeant Aidata. “He was hoping it was a UFO. No such luck; it looks like our robbers are back in business.”
Kathy hooked a left on Muppet Row. A truck blared its horn in rebuke. After pointing the driver to heaven with her middle finger, Kathy put the hammer down. Fifteen minutes later she had arrived.
Not that there was anything much to see. Bella Emberg, from the Rag, was already on site, with her dictaphone and her notebook; with her Instamatic camera and her hennish enthusiasm.
“Got a quote for me, Officer?” she asked.
They were Kathy and Bella when they went out together to the tavern or the bingo; but during working hours, it was “Officer” and “Miss Emberg.”
“No, not yet, Miss Emberg. I just arrived.”
“Who was she?”
Kathy frowned. “You can read the headstone as well as I can, Miss Emberg.”
“I mean, why her? What do you know?”
The replaced dirt and soil had been packed down with care, but a trained eye could see a lot more than the casual disregard of criminals would believe. The deceased had not been known to Officer Kathy Maids. Ellie Wascomb was a woman who had suffered a short lifetime of medical problems. She had worked, packing toy monkeys and plastic fake guitars, in a warehouse – getting ready, year round, for the Christmas rush for children’s gifts. As far as Kathy knew, there was nothing awry about her demise.
“Do you think,” asked Bella, “there was a sexual motive involved?”
“A full report will follow,” Kathy replied.
Bella smirked. Lowering the notepad she said, “And what about yours?”
“Your sexual motive, you little minx! Rumour has it you left The Bottom of the Barrel Bar last night on the arm of a handsome stranger. Is it true?”
Kathy had learned not to display any panic she felt; but this – so sudden, so unexpected – was a stern test of the procedure. “And who told you that?” she not quite demanded.
“Oh, you know: ‘they’ did.”
“’They’ did, huh? Well, ‘they’ need to keep their damn mouths shut.”
“Don’t get snappy, Kathy. You know what this town is like. Fart in bed and ten people are asking about your digestive problems in the morning. There’s just not enough juice to go round.”
“Which is why you’re here,” said Kathy.
“Which is why I’m here.”
Both Beatrice and Geraldo had turned up on time. The latter had even arrived with his hair tied back, which Lawrence always took as a good sign: on days that he could be bothered to groom himself, there was less chance of his getting drunk in his coffee breaks.
Lawrence was still sitting with Cameron. “I can’t believe the number of tourists you get in here,” the latter remarked. For the last hour, there had been a steady stream of people, all asking to sample some of the state-famous meats, pies and sausages. A couple of samples had usually proved sufficient: the customer would then fill up with the delicacies, quite satisfied to have bought a piece of culinary history.
They didn’t even mind the top-dollar prices.
But Cameron did. “I can only see one problem,” he said. “The cost.”
“I can assure you that I don’t make a fortune on profits,” said Lawrence.
“Even so, your products are considerably more expensive than in neighbouring states.”
Lawrence shrugged. “Neighbouring states don’t have my secret ingredient,” he retorted.
“Which is what?”
“A secret, Mr Cameron.”
The door opened. In walked Kathy, on a traffic-flavoured breeze and a squawk from Stan, high above. Matching Cameron’s smile, she said, “I thought I might find you in here. Hi, Fred.”
“Hi, Kathy. Coffee?”
Lawrence tipped a nod to Beatrice. Everybody at Beef Encounter knew how Kathy liked her brew: oil-rich, unsweetened; muggy, scalding, in a great big cup.
“Negotiations underway?” asked Kathy. “Or can I interrupt?”
Lawrence appeared confused. “You two know each other?” he said.
“A little bit,” Kathy answered, and Cameron nodded.
Well, that put paid to Lawrence’s ideas of shoving Cameron in the freezer. Damn. He’d long since wanted to know if live meat allowed to freeze to death would have a different flavour.
Lawrence was called to the phone.
Kathy sipped on her coffee as Cameron asked: “Good morning?”
“A weird one. More grave-robbing.”
“Seriously. What about you? Is he biting?”
Cameron nodded his head. “He’s enthusiastic. Who wouldn’t be?”
Kathy was happy for Cameron to talk numbers for a few minutes. She needed the rest from thinking about Ellie Wascomb. She had spent the morning chasing leads; interviewing work colleagues and holding the woman’s widower in her arms, every time he broke down and cried.
She had driven to the clinic. Warned Dr Parry to inform her if any body part donations came his way in the name of “research”. But she had a good idea that she’d been wasting her time.
Cut to another lovemaking climax.
It was the middle of the afternoon. An aroma of azaleas pinched through the drawn curtains as they bellied in the breeze. In truth, the scent was aggravating Cameron’s hay fever; but he wasn’t about to suggest an alternative location. Kathy had already received her jackpot, and had moved her nose down on him, like a diviner seeking water underground. She eased him into the peaceful country.
Briefly she napped, with her chin laid down on what was dwindling beneath it.
When her weight had become uncomfortable, Cameron eased himself out of bed. He went for a drink. He took a Coke from the fridge, and looked again at the wide variety of Beef Encounter paper bags. Although it was too early for dinner, he helped himself to a few bites of speciality sausage.
He had to be back on the road tomorrow morning. What he’d do is ask her out for a final meal.
Surprisingly, Kathy shook her head. “I can’t. I’m working.”
“After your shift, I meant.”
“It’s not as simple as that,” said Kathy, feeling pricklish at having to explain herself. Her husband, Don, had always been just as unreasonable. It wasn’t fair. “I’m a cop,” she said, unnecessarily. “It just doesn’t work like that. I have a hunch there’ll be another robbery at the cemetery tonight. A couple of down-and-outs are getting buried as we speak.” She reconsidered. “Or rather, there won’t be a robbery: because I’ll be there…”
“With back-up?” asked Cameron.
“No. On my own. In my own time.”
Cameron paused. Then he said, in a what-they-hey spirit, and confident that she would refuse the offer, “Why don’t I be your back-up?”
She laughed. “You want to spend your last night in town in a graveyard?” she asked.
“Why not?” This was gallant. “At least I can be with you.”
“…So what do you say?”
“Are you serious?”
“Sure. It might be fun.”
“It won’t be fun.” She frowned. “Don’t belittle my work, Solomon. I wouldn’t do that to you.”
She waited for a retraction to the offer. Then she said, “Okay.”
Grave robberies are more likely when the body is fresh. This was what Kathy was thinking as she showered. This was what she was thinking as she applied more bodyspray than she needed.
Christlieb was driving. He was singing “The Saints Go Marching In” as the van bowled along. Humouring him, Ralph said nothing; instead he picked at his fingernails with a knife-point. When the van started to follow the holes down Peck’s Hollow Road, the cabin leapt, and Ralph gashed the mons of his thumb with the blade.
“Godddammit, Christlieb, can’t you drive a little flatter?”
Christlieb frowned. He didn’t know what he’d done wrong. Not even bothering to turn, he continued to stare out at the miserable rain – as if he could will it away.
By the time they’d arrived, the blood was dripping steadily through the leather gardening glove that Ralph had donned to cauterize the flow. Plus, it hurt like hell.
“Let’s get on with it,” said Ralph.
They found the first of the pauper’s graves. Sighing loudly, they set to. Christlieb was still singing “When the Saints Go Marching In” and it was starting to get on Ralph’s nerves. It seemed so inappropriate a choice as to be positively jinxed. He asked the big man if he would kindly keep his trap shut. So Christlieb started humming a rap tune from the hit parade.
Light and sound arrived simultaneously.
The flare of a torch and the click of safety catch being released.
Then Kathy’s voice said, “Wanna tell me what you’re up to, boys?”
Ralph swore. Christlieb froze. Neither of them spoke.
“What’s the matter?” Kathy went on. “You lose your dinner money down there or something?”
Getting paid to be sarcastic was one of the best parts of the job.
Still, neither Christlieb nor Ralph said a word.
“I might’ve guessed it’d be you two jokers again,” said Kathy. “Well, what are you waiting for?”
Christlieb dropped his shovel and stepped aside from the foot-deep pit; they had not got very far.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going, genius?” Kathy demanded. “You got a date?”
By her side, Cameron arched his eyebrows and said, “Kathy…”
“Shut up. Finish the job.” The angle of the light changed as Kathy turned to Cameron. She was pointing the gun at his groin. Christlieb sneezed. “You, get in there and give them a hand.”
“Just do it. Three pairs of hands are better than two. I don’t want to be here all night.” She used the gun to usher Cameron over the growing molehills of displaced dirt. “You got another shovel for your new friend?”
“Sure, Kathy,” said Ralph.
The scene was static. Kathy growled. “You’ve all got two seconds to start digging,” she said, “before I start filling the grave with some extra bodies. You got me?”
The three men started digging.
Frederick Lawrence rubbed his eyes. He was in the back room of Beef Encounter, alone, with the CD player gently offering Fur Elise. He was drinking hot chocolate, and waiting for a couple of phone calls.
The first came from Geraldo. He sounded stoned, but what he said was: “Done.”
“Good. How much did they want?”
“Two hundred. And they’ll pulp it in the morning.”
Geraldo had been referring to Ersatz Automobiles, with whom Lawrence had enjoyed a long-running professional relationship. When a car needed to be disposed of, that was where Lawrence went.
“Yeah, I’m still awake,” said Bella Emberg. She was watching a Friends rerun. “Something up?” She could hear the upset in her friend’s words.
“He’s left me, Bella,” said Kathy. “I was just a pit stop.”
“Oh, honey…” What did you expect? she wanted to say. “Do you want to come on over?”
“I’d like that.”
They’d known each other for the better part of a decade. At moments of crisis, they invited each other over for a sob and a smoke. Bella went to the kitchen to see if she had any hash left in the spaghetti jar.
“You’ll never get away with this,” Cameron promised.
“Away with what?”
“Don’t be numb! With grave-robbing!”
“I was never there, baby. Neither were you, if that’s any consolation.” Kathy smirked. “I was at a friend’s house. Come on: you wanted to know about the secret ingredients, didn’t you?”
The thoughts became cursive, but very slowly. A bag of pennies seemed to spill out inside Cameron’s stomach; he tried to roll the window down, but he wasn’t fast enough. Vomit gargled from his parched throat.
“I don’t believe you,” said Cameron.
“Your belly does,” said Kathy. “Tell him, Christlieb.”
The big man was in the back of Kathy’s unmarked car. He was holding Kathy’s gun to Cameron’s crown. Ralph, meanwhile, with his wounded thumb was driving the corpses to Beef Encounter.
“You mean I’ve been eating… people?”
“Among other things.”
“Oh, dear Lord… Look, Kathy, what you do is your own business, I swear to God. I won’t say a word. Just let me out and I’ll catch a cab back to my car. I’ll be out of this town ‘fore you say Jack Robinson.”
Kathy didn’t have the heart to tell him that he no longer had a car. She was silent.
They drove round the back of Beef Encounter. As quickly as possible, Christlieb – having returned the weapon to its owner – Ralph, and Cameron hauled the derelicts’ bodies into the store.
Lawrence was there to meet them. He had turned off the music.
“I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with ‘T’,” he said.
“Torso, Mr L!” said Christlieb.
“Inside the freezer, please, fellas,” said Lawrence.
It took only a second for Cameron to realize that he meant for them to transport the corpses inside, but his blood did not thaw quickly. He could not get his head round the fact that he had eaten…
No. It wasn’t possible.
The freezer was stuffed with shanks and hanks, some on hooks and some on trays, on tables that resembled autopsy slabs. It all smelled reassuringly meaty. These were animals, he was sure of it. There was nothing to worry about, he thought as he laid down the first sheet-covered corpse.
“Hi, Darling,” said Kathy.
Cameron turned with a quizzical expression on his face. He thought it was an odd – perverse, even – thing to say at this point; but he immediately noticed that the remark had not been addressed at him.
It had been addressed at the blue-white corpse that was hanging from a hook on the back of the door through which they’d entered. The hook was embedded in the back of his skull. The eyes were wide open and laced with frost.
“Solomon,” said Kathy. “I’d like you to meet my two-timing husband.”
Dear God, the blue lips – the snow on the prow of his naked belly.
“Please, no,” said Solomon Cameron. “I won’t say a word.”
Lawrence pointed. “You asked about the secret ingredient,” he said. “It’s not spices. It’s not sauces. It’s embalming fluid. But Kathy just happened to have an idea for a new recipe. Didn’t you, girl?”
“I did indeed.”
The door slammed.
A lifelong resident of Louisiana, M.F. Korn writes sort-of-surreal dark fantasy, quiet weird horror and strange science fiction. He is the author of twelve novels, two screenplays and two hundred and forty five short stories.
M.F. Korn Catalog visit here now!
A short story “The Strange Case of the Lovecraft Café” cowritten with DF Lewis and Jeff VanderMeer was mentioned in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror: Twenty First Annual Edition.
His webpage is http://mfkorn.com.
His literary blog is http://www.mfkorn.blogspot.com.
His myspace page is http://www.myspace.com/mfkorn
His facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/mf.korn
His twelfth novel, CREATURE FEATURE is coming out in February 2010, cowritten with David Mathew of Britain.
About THE AUTHOR of twelve novels and 240 published stories:
Three of MF Korn's books, CONFESSIONS OF A GHOUL AND OTHER STORIES, and ALIENS, MINIBIKES AND OTHER STAPLES OF SUBURBIA, and also SKIMMING THE GUMBO NUCLEAR were mentioned in The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror: Fifteenth Annual Collection. CONFESSIONS OF A GHOUL AND OTHER STORIES was mentioned in The Mammoth Book Of Best New Horror edited by Stephen Jones. RACHMANINOFF'S GHOST was also mentioned in The Mammoth Book Of Best New Horror edited the following year.
|Korn's twelfth novel, CREATURE FEATURE cowritten with David Mathew of Britain is going through required rewrites by a publisher. The cover has not been chosen yet. Currently they are at work on another novel via correspondence. He just finished writing a screenplay with another writer who just got a movie deal on another project. He turned over the first draft to his coauthor who is to do a second draft.In other news, Korn's four books with Silverlake press are out of print in paperback but available in Kindle or as ebooks at Fictionwise and most ebook outlets.
NOVELS AND COLLECTIONS:
SWAMP WITCH PIQUANTE AND SCREAM QUEEN BISQUE --
(OUT OF PRINT IN PAPERBACK, AVAILABLE IN KINDLE, EBOOK)
By M.F. Korn
Format: Cover art by Jason Just
ORDER at Amazon.com for 11.16. Or $12.55 at Barnes and Noble.
Two short novels.
In "The White Trash Witches Coven", Keith Ogden accidentally meets a witch in a Super-Usav-Mart. When she invites him to join the coven, he accepts, thinking of fun sorceries and lots of whammies. The gaggle of chatty women he encounters severely disappoints, with their baby pictures, recipes, and addictions to trashy afternoon TV. Is this "coven" just a group of wannabes, or is something more sinister lurking underneath the chicken grease?
In "Pavane for a Scream Queen", Jeff Vincent, freelance writer for Filmland Magazine and as-of-yet-undiscovered novelist, has landed the interview of a lifetime with cult favorite Aurora Sterling, scream queen of the 1950's classic B-movies. But when Dame Aurora cancels and those who worked with her die or go into hiding, Jeff finds himself in the middle of a mystery. What is the secret behind this gorgeous, elegant woman? Is it just Hollywood hype, or something else much older and eternal?
(OUT OF PRINT IN PAPERBACK, AVAILABLE IN KINDLE, EBOOK)
Available at Amazon.com for 10.36. Available at Shocklines bookstore, it's available at Barnes and Noble for 11.65.
Format: Paperback, 160pp.
Publisher: Silverlake Publ
Pub. Date: January 2003
Korn's first horror novel, Rachmaninoff's Ghost, (51,000 words, 160 pp) written eighteen years ago.
History: Sold to Papercapers, resold to Silverlake Publishing: Silverlake under new mgt, resold again to Silverlake publishing.
A blandishment about Korn's first novel written eighteen years ago:
"...Michael Korn has fed upon Poe, Lovecraft and Richly Sinewed Music, but above all upon himself! I thought the first two-thirds of RACHMANINOFF'S GHOST splendid, but its last third of Jungian nightmare literally took my head off. If Korn's photo is not on the front of TIME magazine, as a result, injustice will sure be done..." -- D.F. Lewis
ALL THE MUTANT TRASH IN ALL THE GALAXIES four novels by M. F. Korn
ORDER at Amazon.com for 11.87. Or $14.49 at Barnes and Noble.
A collection of four novels by M F Korn, describing lovesick stalkers, synthetic tramps, abused robots, conmen, robber barons, oilfield and nuclear blue collar workers off-world, schizophrenic aliens, video outlaws, rednecks, thieves, indentured androids, barflies, pharmaceutical overlords, squatters, smut merchants. Each novel has a separate introduction from one of these writers: D.F. Lewis, Sherry Decker, Jeffrey Thomas, H Chimera (book size: approx 145,000 words).
Four novels by M. F. Korn
ORDER at Amazon.com for 11.87. Or $14.49 at Barnes and Noble.
The Man Who Loved in Light Years (a very early first SF novel): A drug-addled philosophy professor stalks a pheromoned person through known space.
Movietone Mars: Cinema is illegal—Movie stars purged—everyone has his own television show.
Tilting Planet (The Trouble with Xenodes): Terran shrinks sent to cure schizophrenic artistic alien race, but who caused the outbreak?
Galactic Smut Merchants: Alien pay-per-view –something new for grunts on mining planets—But could they conquer the Terran pay-per-view market?
SKIMMING THE GUMBO NUCLEAR
Out by Eraserhead Press. Available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Available at Shocklines bookstore. Regular Price $16.95. At Amazon for $11.87.
Format: Paperback, 292pp.
Publisher: Eraserhead Press
Pub. Date: November 2001
A grand epic wasteland of surreal pandemic plague. Pollution quotient in the southern delta nether regions of the state of Louisiana, the dustbin of the Mississippi river and the nation, whose motto is the "Sportsman's Paradise", a paradisio of colorful denizens all grappling for a slice of lassez bon temps roule, "let the good times roll", but now all are grappling for their very lives. Nature had to fight back sooner or later, and now what will happen to this tourist state gone amuck with middle-ages plague?
ISBN: 0-9713572-6-9 — 292 PAGES — Regular Price $16.95. At Amazon for $11.87. 14.95 at Shocklines.
Confessions of a Ghoul and Other Stories
(OUT OF PRINT IN PAPERBACK, AVAILABLE IN KINDLE, EBOOK)
Format: Paperback, 122pp.
Publisher: Silver Lake Publishing
Pub. Date: January 2001
Order from (at 10.75)Barnes and Noble, (11.95) or from Amazon. 9.56 or (11.95) at Shocklines bookstore.
Introduction by D. F. Lewis Cover art by Lawrence D. P. Miller Trade Paperback $11.95 CD $9.95 Disk $5.95 Download $3.95 Horror Collection 120 pages 50,000 words
Aliens, Minibikes and Other Staples of Suburbia
(OUT OF PRINT IN PAPERBACK, AVAILABLE IN KINDLE, EBOOK)
Format: Paperback, 114pp.
Publisher: Silver Lake Publishing
Pub. Date: January 2001
Out in paperback (at 14.95) at Amazon(11.95). Available at Barnes and Noble. 14.95
"While reading, you'll be picked up and dropped straight into your own history while visiting various, imaginary neighborhoods...It's nostalgia at its finest."
--Sherry Decker, from the Introduction
"M. F. Korn's richly detailed, highly idiosyncratic portraits of America call to mind a Bradbury on magic mushrooms...he's a Norman Rockwell speaking in tongues with a voodoo doll in one hand and a flaming paintbrush in the other." --Jeffrey Thomas, author of Punktown
Trade Paperback $11.95 CD $9.95 Disk $5.95 Download $3.95 Speculative Fiction Collection 114 pages 47,000 words
DIE EARTHMAN DIE: TALES OF HORROR AND SF -- 34 STORIES OF HORROR AND SCIENCE FICTION
by Cosmic Eyeball Press
Order at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.
Cover art by Rafael Maza
Horror and Science Fiction Collection
Cosmic Eyeball Press
Thirty Four Stories by Four Talents in the Horror / Science Fiction Field
* DF Lewis - Winner of the British Fantasy Award and 1500 stories, editor, Nemonymous
* M Philbin - author of 100 stories and several novels
* David Mathew - former reviewer, Interzone; author, several novels, 400 stories
* MF Korn - Louisiana author of twelve novels and 240 short stories
The Less Fashionable Side of the Galaxy
by M. F. Korn, D. F. Lewis, and H
Chimera $2.25, 24 pages
From Eraserhead Press. Order from Shocklines bookstore.
Three masters of bizarre speculation combine
talents to create five experimental tales of insane fiction. Featuring M. F. Korn, author of Skimming the Gumbo Nuclear, H Chimera, author of SZMONHFU, and the king of the weirdmongers, D. F. Lewis.
The White Trash Witches' Coven
Tanjen Ltd, Paperback, April, 99: CANCELED. Sold to Gargadillo, CANCELED. SOLD. Even Shakespeare had his "Pericles"...
Movietone Mars: Hartwick Electronic Press, 1994
Translated into Russian after was sold to Baziat Literary Agency in 1993, Russia CANCELED.
The Trouble with Xenodes (Tilting Planet), serialized, Weird Stories
The Man Who Loved in Light Years: D&S Associates, (Electronic) 1994
Galactic Smut Merchants, Tanjen, Ltd. paperback, 2000
Alone Against a Revolution
Golden Meteorite Press,
hardback, 1997, Library Binding - 89 pages (August 1, 1996) Golden Meteorite Press Limited; ISBN: 1895385539
Stygian Relics of the Lachrymose
Golden Meteorite Press, limited edition. 1998 Hardback collection of short stories: Library Binding - 178 pages (January 1, 1998) Golden Meteorite Press Limited; ISBN: 1895385636
The Spectral Carnival Show and Other Stories
Golden Meteorite Press, 1998, limited edition, Library Binding - 140 pages (January 1, 1998) Golden Meteorite Press Limited; ISBN: 189538561X
Pavane for a Scream Queen, SOLD.
SHORT STORY ACCEPTANCES:
- Two to Vision Magazine
- Dark Tome
- FEAR magazine
- Forty stories in P L
- Potent Aphrodisiac
- Sweet Dreams Baby
- Left-Footed Wombat
- a mag named "V-Pulp"
- A forgotten small mag out of New York City
- 2 to Premonitions
- Zero Hour
- Killer Frog Anthology
- Spider Eyes
- Fast Lizard
- Cacophony Hardback Anthology
- Project Mars
- Two to Razor
- Two to Blue Lady
- Seven to Silver Shadows
- Two to Taler's Tale
- The Ultimate Unknown
- Hundredth Anniversary Lovecrafter
- Louisiana State University magazine Delta
- Sixteen stories to Fading Shadows Pulps
- Weird Stories
- Startling Science Stories
- Forbidden Lines
- a few to House of Pain
- Cosmic Visions
- Midnight Gallery
- Classic Pulp Stories
- Artstar Journal
- Northern Fusion
- Dark Corridors (can't confirm)
- Australian paperback AntipodeanSF
- A few to Brazilian magazine Megalon
- Iconoclastia (wordhunger)
- Words (mag whose charity is London's St. Mary's Hospital)
- 3AM Publishing (wordhunger)
- Winedark Sea paperback (Vol 3) w/ DF Lewis and H Chimera
- The Dream People Chapbook
- Five stories to Gathering Darkness w/ DF Lewis and H Chimera
- Grail paperback anthology w/ DF Lewis and H Chimera
- The Ministry of Whimsy
- 21st Century Bitch Goddess
- Imaginary Worlds (wordhunger)
- Spooky's F.O.D. w/ DF Lewis
- Ministry of Whimsy (also a review of GHOUL Collection)
- Driver's Side Airbag w/ H himera
- Three stories with H Chimera to REDSINE paperback anthologies
- Alternate Species (w/ Dave Mathew and H Chimera)
- Apocalypse Fiction Magazine w/ H Chimera
- Thomas Deja's Underworlds Anthology w/ H Chimera and Dave Mathew
- Three to UNDERWORLDS w/ H Chimera
- another to The Dream People w/ H Chimera
- another to UNDERWORLDS w/ DF Lewis and H Chimera
- sale to German May-2002 anthology SPLATTERPUNK:A NEW GENERATION w/ H Chimera
- The Dream Zone w/ Dave Mathew
- another to Apocalypse Fiction magazine w/ H Chimera
- The Storyville Anthology
- Eleven story run of "Eli" series to Apocalypse Fiction w/ H Chimera
- Frightwriters, w/ DF Lewis and H Chimera
- story w/ Dave Mathew to "Flesh and Hunger" anthology
- Five stories at Tland horror site
- sale to Muse Apprentice Guild
- sale to Thomas Deja's Amicus paperback anthology
- wrote dozens of stories w/ DF Lewis, a collective called WORDHUNGER (collection now w/ Double Dragon Books)
- sale to anthology GHOSTBREAKERS: Sinister Sleuths (w/ Dave Mathew and H Chimera)
- sale to Thomas Deja's anthology about Warren Zevon
- sale to Cpulp Halloween paperback anthology
- article for Wicked Writers Carnival
- sale to "Trip the Light Horrific" anthology(w/ H Chimera)
- sale to "Travel a Time Historic" anthology
- sale to "Grave Tappings" anthology
- sale to "Mind Scraps" anthology
- sale to "Vintage Wine: Werewolves and Vampires" anthology
- sale to Scattered, Smothered, Covered anthology, collab w/ Jeff VanderMeer and DF Lewis
- sale to RED SCREAM (w/ David Mathew)
- sale to "NEW WRITINGS IN THE FANTASTIC" anthology(w/ H Chimera RIP)
- sale of "Weird Western" story collab w/ DF Lewis to DEVIL'S GULCH paperback anthology
- sale to DEAD ENDS Anthology by Screaming Dreams Publ
- reprint of collab w/ Jeff VanderMeer and DF Lewis in German collection by J VanderMeer
- reprint of collaboration "The Strange Case of the Lovecraft Cafe" (mentioned in Year's Best Horror: 21st Annual Edition) w/ Jeff VanderMeer and DF Lewis in A SURGEON'S TALE
- Twisted Twins
- German: Masters of Unreality anthology
- NVH Magazine
- Fear On Demand Podcast Edited by Sidney Williams
- Eleven volumes of Epistolary Discourse
- A screenplay, "The Revival Theatre"
- Best Stories of the Year by P L Mag, 1998
- Honorable Mention by the Soft Science Fiction Writers Association
for story "The Old Man and the Cyborg" , 1996
- Won a category of Killer Frog Contest, approx. 1992
- Best Stories of the Year by P L Mag, 1990
- During College, wrote Science Fiction novella, now lost mss
- Wrote numerous stories for High School Literary Magazine, now lost
- Wrote novelettes as a teen, now all mss lost
M F Korn's books are at Fictionwise, Double Dragon Books, and ebook outlets.
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