A Happy Halloween to all of you monster hunters and welcome back to the campfire. Tonight’s interview is a treat to be sure, but there is also a bit of a trick to it. During the course of these interviews we have been entertained by the hunters and have laughed and explored the lighter side of monster hunting.
Tonight marks a departure from that theme.
We begin innocently enough, but if you will remember, I have on occasion asked the authors if they have ever encountered a real monster. Tonight’s interview ends with an answer that will steal your breath, I promise.
If you’ve authored a story in one of the LOTHH volumes, or read anything about them, you’ve probably already heard me mention that Brian P. Easton’s books were a major inspiration to me when I came up with the idea for Leather, Denim & Silver. And by inspiration, I mean that halfway through reading Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter, I looked up to my wife and said “the world seriously needs more monster-hunting tales like this one!”
Brian’s books are well known, have won awards and he’s been approached with offers to turn them into screenplays and graphic novels. Currently, Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter is among the top 10 free Kindle books on Amazon. His publisher, Permuted Press, is offering a sweet Halloween treat of 4 free Kindle books and judging from the response, many of you have just met Sylvester Logan James. Click the link below to treat yourself:
The books are not for the faint-of-heart. Nor is this interview. But it is Halloween and this ain’t our first hunt, so let’s get to it with the Godfather of Monster Hunters.
Please welcome Brian P. Easton, author of Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter and Heart of Scars.
MB – Thanks for joining us tonight. The timing couldn’t be more perfect as the autumn moon is definitely bright and if it’s not overcast where you are, you can easily read your Kindle out there.
BPE – It’s an amazing offer from Permuted Press. I’m glad that so many folks will get to enjoy the book during the appropriate season.
MB – Right on! And maybe next season they’ll be able to read the third book, which you are calling The Lineage?
BPE – Maybe. I’m very happy with what is written so far, but I can’t tell you exactly when it will be done and what the publishing schedule will be.
MB – Well, I think I speak for all of us when I say that our appetite is only growing…
BPE – Bad puns again?
MB – Sorry.
Let’s talk about another impending release. Judging from recent news, it looks like Creature From the Black Lagoon is back on for a remake. What are your thoughts on this?
BPE – From what I understand about previous screenplays for the projects we’re lucky they haven’t made one yet. Maybe this time around they’ll at least make the Gill Man an actual monster instead of the semi-transparent, gelatinous jellyfish thing they were considering a few jumps back. I love Blackie Lagoon and like every other monster-kid on the block I hope they treat him right.
MB – MONSTER 911 – Your phone rings – it’s Hollywood. They’ve just realized that their script for the CREATURE remake is complete rubbish and it dawns on them that only a real monster-kid can help them. What ideas would you give them? Stick to the original story or go with a brand new concept?
BPE – I’d start by showing (not narrating as the original) the Amazonian Rainforest as it developed from the Devonian era onward, adding a montage of the “Creature” species as they survived in dwindling numbers down through the ages. When the montage is over the film settles on a detachment of Conquistadors trudging through the South American marsh. Suddenly, they’re attacked by a Gill Man which kills several of the Spaniards before they manage to kill it with blunderbuss and saber. As its body sinks into the bloody mire one hand is left sticking out. Flash forward through the additional opening credits until the hand is the petrified fossil we all know so well.
From there I’d stay fairly faithful to the original story but make the Creature more fearsome and the Lagoon Hunters more driven, more combative toward one another and a cutthroat mercenary of a boat captain steering the ride.
The thing about the Creature of the Black Lagoon is that he’s the only major Universal Monster who was never human; a predator along the same lines as a Great White Shark operating in an element where man is most vulnerable. That’s pretty terrifying when you think about it.
MB – That’s brilliant. I love the addition of the Conquistadors to the mix – that fight is sure to be brutal.
We’ve seen remakes before – Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy and most recently the Wolfman. Which of these worked for you? Which of these made you sad?
BPE – Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins in Bram Stoker’s Dracula worked for me, despite that film’s sullied reputation due to some rather bad acting by their co-stars. On the other hand Robert DeNiro as Frankenstein’s Monster didn’t impress me as much, and the Mummy was a travesty. I hate it when monsters aren’t taken seriously and for my money it doesn’t get any worse than Van Helsing which seemed to go out of its way to put its tongue in the cheeks of our monsters. The Wolfman remake at least made no excuses for itself and was a no-bones-about-it monster movie. Hopefully that’ll be a trend that continues, but honestly at this point I just appreciate the effort.
MB – I actually can’t watch Coppola’s Dracula without dreading that Jonathan Harker will call Dracula “dude”. Oldman and Hopkins were great, as was Tom Waits as Renfield. But Theodore “Ted” Logan did, unfortunately, bring the rest of the cast down.
DeNiro as Frankenstein gets a meh from me as well, but I do admit that The Mummy is a guilty pleasure. I don’t consider it a true son of the original by any means, but it was the first monster movie I ever saw with my wife and I can’t slag it.
I can, however, slag Van Helsing to a bloody pulp, and Wolfman could have been so much better…but it could have been worse.
You’ve put together quite a tribute to the Universal Monsters on your website. Tell us about them and your other influences.
BPE – Starting with childhood where all influences begin I have to give credit to the Marvel Comics monster line: Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night, the Frankenstein Monster etc.
The effect of the Universal classics can’t be overestimated and go without saying, but I was also heavily influenced by Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns, the old Gunsmoke series and other westerns of the day. As I got older guys like Poe and Lovecraft left their mark; Blackwood and Derleth too.
Those old horror tales were all very fine and good, but I wanted something besides fiction to sink my teeth into to, and when I began researching the occult in the mid 80s I discovered the Reverend Montague Summers. Considered an eccentric or worse by most people, the Rev. Summers wrote whole bodies of real-world information on Vampires, Demons, Witches and Werewolves. Whatever his ecclesiastic credentials may or may not have been, his encyclopedic knowledge of monsters and his assumed role as their clerical adversary gives us an authentic example of a monster hunter.
I’ve said this in just about every interview I’ve done, but for the last several years the one book that’s exerted the most influence over my writing is Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.
MB – I suspect you are not alone with that choice.
Let’s take things in a slightly different direction – I’ve asked many an author to name the greatest monster hunters, but I’d like to ask an expert about any unsung heroes you’ve noticed?
BPE – In Dracula, Abraham Van Helsing often eclipses the other stout souls who fought alongside him to destroy the Count: Harker, Seward, Holmwood. But my first choice for a Hall-of-Famer would be Quincy Morris, the only American in that cadre of venerable vampire slayers. Something about a Texas cowboy with a Bowie knife killing a vampire makes me want a shot of Rye. My other entry would be Quint from JAWS. He’s a coarse and salty old sea-dog who’s learned his craft the old-fashion way via the USS Indianapolis. He, like Morris, doesn’t live to enjoy the fruits of his labor and that endears me to these two as well … lots of monster hunts don’t end well for the hunter.
MB – I’ve wanted someone to write about a Quint-like character since the first LOTMH book. He’s a great character and any imagery including a Bowie knife is always inspiring. Nice choices.
MONSTERS WITHOUT BORDERS – Moving away from Western monsters, are there other cultures you admire for their monster myths and legends?
BPE – I don’t consider myself a connoisseur or collector of international monsters, and there are others who know much more on the subject than I do, but I’ve always thought the Indians had a terrific demonology to go with their staggering pantheon of gods. I especially enjoy the mythos surrounding the Rakshasa, and the legend of Hanuman and his struggle against the demon king Ravana. The Australian Aborigines have a pretty frightening array of nightmare creatures too, most of them stemming from their Dreamtime tradition. It’s a unique cosmology that I’m always interested in reading more about.
MB – Very cool. I’ve admired Indian mythology for a long time and couldn’t agree more. The Aboriginal traditions are on my list of things to learn more about. So many myths, so little time…
And speaking of having little time:
5 MINUTES TO PACK – You are in your office when the red lights hidden in the eyes of your life-sized bronze statue of the Wolfman begin to blink. It’s time to go to work. You only have a few minutes before you have to take the secret vacuum tube to the airstrip. You are being sent to deal with the Mothman. What do you pack?
BPE – Since I consider the Mothman an alien presence rather than a cryptid or spirit, and because it seems to primarily work through human beings I’ll be relying almost solely on my grasp of human nature; our psychology and the way we react in certain situations and under certain conditions. Any firearms on my person will be held in reserve for the MIB who’ll be trying to kill me. I’ll have some basic gear with me in case I have to do prolonged surveillance, which is highly likely since to my knowledge no one yet has really learned to deal with extraterrestrial phantoms. So, this expedition will probably be more of a fact-finding mission than a search-and-destroy — depending on what is learned about Indrid Cold, that may come later.
Let me just add that fancy gear, the latest techno-whatzits and a pimped out ride are all well and good but being able to pack what you need in a single piece of carryon luggage is fast becoming a lost art. My advice to monster hunters would be to learn to work with less; learn to live uncomfortably; and don’t think of yourself as some kind of rock-star. You’re not posing for the cover of Heavy Metal magazine, and there is no monster hunter fashion show. Keep it practical, keep it tactical and keep it moving.
MB – That’s a summation of monster hunting and a kick-ass display of Mothman knowledge. For all of the monster hunters in training out there, that’s how it’s done.
And, because I can’t not mention it, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES is, in my opinion, one of the better horror movies in recent memory. What did you think?
BPE – Why do you keep asking me the same question night after night?
Seriously though, The Mothman Prophecies is an understated gem; moody, subtle and spooky. I can’t think of another instance when someone said the word … Chapstick … and gave me goosebumps.
MB – It’s a great scene, no doubt about it. John Keel’s book captures a lot of that same vibe as well – recommended reading for those who have not had the chance to enjoy it yet.
Speaking of scary stuff, and since you’re an expert, what is it about monsters that keeps us glued to the page and screen?
BPE – When you boil it down to gravy, monsters captivate us for the same reason disasters do. Mankind has always had a natural preoccupation with death, and what are monsters but death-bringers? That’s my take on monsters on the whole, but if we’re specifically talking about their role in print and celluloid then I’d have to throw in the fact that we like to be thrilled without being in actual mortal peril. Movies and literature allow us to experience horror vicariously. Of course, poorly written monsters are just plain repulsive.
MB – I think you nailed it by describing the aspect of mortal-peril in the stories that we love.
Let’s stick with scary stories and personal experiences. Have you ever experienced anything that you considered truly scary?
BPE – The best scary stories are true, and this is one I can testify to because I experienced it firsthand.
There was a family who belonged to the church my dad pastored, and they had a teenage daughter beset by more than your typical teen-angst. One Sunday night during service they brought their daughter to the altar for prayer. No biggie except she didn’t want to go and struggled against her parents like a crazy person in the aisle. When they finally got her down front she went into convulsions while my dad prayed for her. She eventually passed out but kept jerking in spasms. Now, this was a church where physical manifestations of spiritual matters were fairly common—speaking in tongues, being “slain” in the spirit etc—and so no one really gave much thought to the incident. In fact, the first mention that anything was irregular that night was as my family was leaving the church. My mom said something to the effect that the “Holy Spirit” had “really moved tonight,” to which my father (a wiser and godlier man I’ve never met) replied, “There was a spirit moving tonight, but I’m not so sure it was the Holy Spirit.” That got my attention and sent chills down my back. I was maybe 11 or 12 years old. We’ll call that Round One.
As I recall, Round Two came a few nights later when the girl’s parents called our house, frantic for help because their barely 100 pound daughter had just thrown her 200+ pound father across the room. She was hissing and spitting and things were “jumping off shelves and tables,” as her mother put it. Dad called on his first deacon and together they drove out to the family’s home where they found things pretty much as they’d be told.
When Dad got home that night he didn’t say much about it to us kids, but what I overheard was that he and his deacon had prayed for the girl through another wild frenzy until once more she’d collapsed. They’d prayed for whatever was vexing her to leave and when she went unconscious they thought perhaps it was over. Not so, as it turned out.
To my knowledge, the third and final round took place a few years later after the girl and her parents had stopped attending the church. In fact, in the interim the congregation itself had split and most of its members had followed my dad to build a new church. Anyway, one week the family showed up to a Wednesday night Bible Study and the daughter started acting out in the middle of service. Both Dad and his first deacon are there and start moving to deal with her. Dad stopped the service and asked for the girl to come down front and for everyone present to join hands around her in prayer. At first the girl was cooperative, crying even, and she came down with her mother and father and allowed my dad to anoint her with oil and pray. Then she flew into fits again, instantly falling to the floor and shrieking, except this time she was speaking words no one recognized. At this point I was standing literally three feet from her, and as she ranted in this “gibberish” her voice changed, and I mean an unmistakable guttural change. Dad and his deacon stay calm and one of them commanded the spirit inside her to name itself, and in the same raspy, “not-her voice” it said a single word, clear as day. Dad cast the thing out, commanding it to leave in no uncertain terms and when she passed out again everyone kept praying. She came around again once more, thrashing and Dad held fast. Finally she closed her eyes and slept. She didn’t jerk, twitch or frown but had a peaceful look to her face and I tell you the whole sanctuary felt like someone had turned on the lights even though they were already on. You could just feel something lift. As far as I know that was the end of it and last I heard all was still well with the girl and her family.
Here’s the rider to the tale: Some years later I was in the thick of my occult research. I’m reading books, conducting interviews with different practitioners, doing speaking engagements and what have you, and one afternoon I’m studying at the campus library of my alma-mater SIU-C. There’s no internet yet so I’m doing my research old–school, taking notes on a book about something to do with the Middle East. There in print was a word I’d only heard of once before, and my mind flashed back to that Bible study service and the voice that had spoken it. The word was Mastemah, a Hebrew word for hatred.
Later I even asked my dad to confirm my memory, which he did—hard to forget a thing like that.
MB – I think that the readers will probably want to read that again and let it sink in a bit, so I’m going to forgo the usual humorous wrap-up and just ask where we can find out more about you and your work?
BPE – The first two novels in the Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter trilogy (Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter and Heart of Scars) are available from online booksellers and on my publisher’s website, permutedpress.com. The third book of the series, The Lineage is in progress. You can find me on my FB page under Brian P. Easton, where I post updates and interact with my readers.
MB – Thanks again for spending this time with us and for sharing that story.
BPE – Thank you Miles, and not just for the interview but for all your hard work on the LOTMH series and for conducting these interviews. Your dedication to Monster Hunting is undeniable and laudable and if I didn’t hunt alone you’d be welcome to hunt with me any time. Happy Halloween.