Hunter Shea’s a busy guy and–from an author’s perspective–is having an awesome summer. Pinnacle released The Montauk Monster (TMM) last month, and earlier this month my publisher, Samhain Horror, released Hell Hole.
I’ve yet to read Hell Hole, a horror Western that’s queued in my Kindle, but have tackled TMM, and this much stands out to me: Hunter must’ve loved the original Jaws.
I couldn’t help but think of the 1975 blockbuster upon reading the first chapter of the book, which involves a man and woman with raging hormones and a desire to act on them on a Long Island beach. Now, I’m not gonna say what happens, but if you saw Jaws, you know two things:
1. The movie opens with a man and a woman frolicking along a Long Island beach, and the woman goes skinny dipping–resulting in the summer not ending well for her.
2. Based on Jaws’ movie poster, you know what happens to her:
Now, I’m not spoiling anything when I say that a shark is not responsible for any shenanigans at the start of TMM. But something is. Something indescribable. No, really, Hunter does a great job masking what the hell is running (and swimming) around Montauk causing all sorts of problems. Hunter lives in New York, and you can tell through his writing that he knows and loves the area. He also creates likeable protagonists in Suffolk County Police Officers Gray Dalton and Meredith Hernandez, and animal control officer Anita Banks, who are tasked with trying stop these ravenous monsters (that’s right: monsters–plural), whose origins reside on nearby Plum Island, a mysterious U.S. research base where scientists play god and brew up strange creatures with gruesome faces like this one!
I’m sorry. Did I just get slightly political? Let’s avoid any unpleasantness and move along to a question I asked Hunter–a question I ask of all horror authors: What makes a horror novel? It’s one of those genres that encompasses so many things, making it tough to pin down. Here’s my take. And now, we welcome Hunter Shea!
OK, Matt has asked me for my definition of horror as a genre, which by no means is the definitive explanation. Perception is unique to the perceiver, so as a species, we can never have full consensus on anything. That’s what makes us so darn interesting (and frustrating).
Look, I’ve been a horror hound since I was a little kid. When bookstores took down the horror section years ago, I nearly wept. How the heck was I supposed to easily find my horror fixes? Do I really have to get on my knees to find John Saul’s books crushed under the weight of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye?
As I’ve gotten older and supposedly wiser, I’ve come to realize that horror shouldn’t be segregated at all. Horror is everywhere. It wears a multitude of disguises. So while the general public will deem anything supernatural, paranormal themes, monsters or crazed killers as horror, it goes much deeper than that.
Horror is about evoking an emotion. Those emotions can be fear, dread, suspense, anticipation, revulsion and on and on. Anything that picks at those scabs, makes us face our worst nightmares or discover new ones has entered into the realm of the horrific.
I was just at an author panel where we had to reveal our favorite horror movie, book and story. For me, the movie choice was easy – Alien. To me, this is the greatest horror and sci-fi movie of all time. Yes it’s set in space, but damn, nothing scared me more than watching Dallas crawl through the ventilation shafts searching for that creature. Talk about dread and fear walking hand in hand.
Someone on the panel brought up a book about war from varying perspectives. Sure, it would never be officially categorized as horror, but the theme and the scenes sure should. Horror can be found everywhere, from the Bible to the most far out fantasy novels and movies. Game of Thrones is bursting with great horror moments, but no one would ever categorize it as such. Zombie armies, The Imp going on a killing spree, the terror of the Red Witch’s hellspawn. You can’t tell me that’s not horror in its most classic form.
You don’t have to turn on the news to know that horror is all around us, waiting for those brave enough to plunge headlong into our most hidden fears. Open the pages of any book and you just may find it, hiding behind a senseless genre classification.###
Thank you, Hunter! Well stated. As for TMM, it’s the ultimate beach read because it never slows, makes you wonder what the hell’s out there stalking Montauk, and people literally get ripped to pieces on the beach! And elsewhere.
The characters in Jaws can be heard screaming, “Stay out of the water!” It doesn’t matter where you’re staying in TMM, because they can, and more often than not, will get you.