PageHorrific Interview with Norman Partridge
by Mark Justice, December ’05

1) The new edition of MR. FOX AND OTHER FERAL TALES is an interesting combination of memoir, writing advice and short story collection. Why did you choose this unique format? And why at this point in your career?

When I pitched the idea of doing a new edition of FOX to Bill Schafer, we talked about doing a book that would be something more than a reprint of the collection that earned me my first Stoker. One thing we decided to do was include fourteen other early stories that hadn’t appeared in the original MR. FOX, along with several chapters from an unpublished zombie novel. We had the idea that we’d do something with FOX similar to what Bill did with Lansdale collections like FOR A FEW STORIES MORE—we’d focus on my early stuff, and put together a book that would spotlight the stories that first got me noticed in the business.

Of course, Bill wanted me to write introductions for the stories. I figured, hey, no problem… I’d talk about the good ol’ days of the small press when magazines like CEMETERY DANCE were first rearing their dot-matrix heads, tell a few war stories, give a little advice to writers starting out today, stuff like that. But when I sat down to write those intros, things got out of hand. They turned into twenty-plus essays that weighed in at nearly 50,000 words. As it turned out, those essays contain the best advice I can give to writers starting out today. In some ways, they mirror early conversations I had with guys like Joe Lansdale, Ed Gorman, and Ed Bryant. And, of course, they draw on conversations and correspondence I’ve had in the last few years with young writers like Kealan Patrick Burke and Geoff Cooper, too. So you might say that the new edition of FOX gave me a chance for a little payback, and that makes me more than a little happy.

2) In MR. FOX (as well as in other interviews) you tell the story of how your early Mac (sans fan) jump started your career. What do you write with now? And what sort of schedule, if any, do you keep?

Like a lot of writers, I have a joe job. I’m a night supervisor at a college library, and I usually work four – midnight. That means mornings are my writing time, and I like it that way. I try to get up, go for a walk, get in the saddle. As for the machine I use—it’s a big ol’ Sony something-or-other. I don’t know if I’ll ever be sentimental about it. There is a picture of John Wayne from THE COWBOYS taped to it. I’m sentimental about that. Between the Duke’s stare, and the gun in the hand of the Snake Plissken action figure that’s aimed my way from behind my pencils, I tend to type a little faster.

3) Was America a cooler country when nearly every town had a drive-in theater?

Oh, you bet… and if you weren’t there, I can’t really explain it to you. I’ve tried. In the introduction to my collection THE MAN WITH THE BARBED-WIRE FISTS, I spent about thirty pages detailing how I became a writer at the drive-in movies, and I didn’t even get to the point where I was actually old enough to drive my own car to the theater!

But I did get to talk about riding around on the hood of a muscle car driven by a hunchbacked snack-bar manager, and watching NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD for the first time at a theater surrounded by cemeteries, and the psychotic caretaker who was said to lock up wayward teens in the embalming room attached to that very same cemetery. Now, not to sound like one of those old farts who say that kids never have any fun today, but, hey… I really can’t imagine any of that stuff happening to you while your behind’s safely planted in a seat at the multiplex, or while you’re snug at home in front of your parents’ plasma screen TV.

Besides that, there were those Flavo Shrimp Rolls. You want to talk about teenage rites of passage… well, there you go. You ate a couple of orders of Flavo’s, that would sure enough take your measure as a man.

4) What happened to ATOMIC HIGHWAY? Did I miss it? Was it only published as a limited edition in an alternate dimension?

I had an idea to write a novel based on the character from my teenage monster story, “ ’59 Frankenstein,” that appeared in IT CAME FROM THE DRIVE-IN. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get that book to take off the way I wanted it to. Looking back on it now, I think the problem was that making that particular character the focus of a book turned out to be a very bad idea.

So the novel stalled out, and we did the new edition of MR. FOX instead. I still have that ATOMIC HIGHWAY concept kicking around in my head, though. I have a few things started… and I’m sure you’ll see a few of them sooner or later. But with a different character in the lead.

5) Have you written under any pseudonyms? Are there any romances, westerns or media tie-ins collectors need to be scrambling after?

Nope. If it doesn’t say “Norman Partridge,” it isn’t me.

6) Do you harbor a desire to try other genres? A big fantasy novel, perhaps, or science fiction?

Fantasy… maybe. Not “guys in tights” fantasy, though. But maybe apocalyptic, dystopian fantasy—now, that would be fun.

I’d definitely like to do a western. If I could ever write a book as good as LONESOME DOVE, or THE SHOOTIST, or TRUE GRIT, I think I’d die a happy man.

7) Do you have any plans for more comic book work?

Nothing cooking currently, but I love comics. Just ask my wife. She’s got my Christmas list.

8) Your novel THE CROW: WICKED PRAYER was adapted into the movie of the same name. Were you involved in the film's production? And how did you feel about the final product?

I don’t have feelings about it one way or another. I wasn’t involved in the production apart from the fact that they adapted my novel, and I haven’t seen the movie.

It worked like this: early on, I got the pretty solid feeling that that particular apple was going to fall pretty far from the tree, so I decided to cash the check and be happy with that. Sometimes that’s the best way to go.

9) What was the last book you read that made you want to race to the keyboard and start writing?

I’ll give you a few. Marc Norman’s OKLAHOMA CRUDE: a great Depression-era story about a woman with a wildcat oil rig and the misfit guy who stands up with her against the powers that be. That novel worked just about every way for me. Also, I’ve been rereading a bunch of dark westerns to keep me in the mood for a book I’m working on—Cormac McCarthy’s BLOOD MERIDIAN, Richard Sale’s THE WHITE BUFFALO, Loren Estleman’s JOURNEY OF THE DEAD, Charles Finney’s THE GHOSTS OF MANACLE, Lansdale’s DEAD IN THE WEST and THE MAGIC WAGON. All good stuff. Between that and the great Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack for HOUR OF THE GUN that was re-released not long ago, it’s pretty easy for me to get myself situated in one particularly dark corner of Arizona Territory.

10) After MR. FOX, what will we see next from you?

For starters, a new story in SUBTERRANEAN #3, a new novella in Joe Lansdale’s RETRO-PULP TALES, a story in IN LAYMON’S TERMS, and a new DRIVE-IN column coming up in the next issue of HORROR GARAGE. Besides that, there are a couple of book-length projects that I’m still putting together with publishers, so I’ll keep my mouth shut about those for now. What I can say is that there will definitely be a couple new books with my name on them before we batten down the hatches on 2006. I hope the readers of PageHorrific will enjoy them!

 

Copyright © 2005 Mark Justice. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Copyright © 2007 Norman Partridge