4-Question Interview: Tony Walker

present-tensionsWhile hunting for ghosts on the Web, I came across a site titled simply: Ghost Stories. It’s “a blog to discuss, present, curate and review classic ghost stories, Gothic fiction and Weird Tales,” and it’s managed by Tony Walker.

Tony is also a writer, and the plot of his novel Unreal City is introduced this way: “Hard-boiled detective Christian Le Cozh is hired by a man who thinks his wife was killed by a vampire.  Le Cozh is sceptical but he needs the money. He accompanies his client to a graveyard at midnight to persuade him to get medical help. Then things go wrong and he has to hunt the beasts, before they hunt him.”

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4-Question Interview: C.A. Verstraete

present-tensionsI met author C.A. (Christine) Verstraete during the October Frights Blog Hop of last year. I quickly ordered her new book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, intrigued by the notion of turning the most famous matricidal/patricidal figure in American history into an occult detective. Though I admit I haven’t yet read the novel, it seems like a very promising next step from — and a clever spin on — Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009) and his Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2010).


A mystery runs through Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, a sinister puzzle that Borden must solve. As I say, she’s presented as an occult detective, and as I do with my Vera Van Slyke chronicles, Verstraete interweaves historical fact with supernatural fiction in this novel. Her other work has been published in various anthologies and magazines, including Mystery Weekly, Siren’s Call and Happy Homicides 3: Summertime Crime. She’s also the author of a young adult novel, GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie.

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4-Question Interview: John Linwood Grant

present-tensionsAs one gets to know John Linwood Grant, one learns certain canine-related words. Lurcher, for instance. And since looking that up, I now know what a sighthound is. I’m a better man for it.

Really thin dogs — think greyhounds and whippets — appear a lot on John’s website, greydogtales, which is dedicated to “weird fiction, weird art, and even weirder lurchers.” There’s a lot of information about authors working in the occult detective cross-genre and related areas of supernatural fiction. Like myself, John both writes about the stuff while also writing the stuff. His The Last Edwardian series is rooted in the same era as my Vera Van Slyke chronicles, but his stories are based much more on a cast of characters. He’ll introduce you to them.

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4-Question Interview: Brian P. Easton

present-tensionsBrian P. Easton grew up on the south end of Illinois — with its corn and coal. He writes about werewolves. I grew on the north end of that state — with its corn and cows. I write about ghosts. And, of course, Abe Lincoln was a vampire-hunter. We’re pretty much ready for any supernatural contingencies in the Prairie State.

Brian has written a trilogy of novels about a character named Sylvester L. James: Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter, Heart of Scars, and The Lineage. A prequel is nearing completion. I asked Brian to answer my four usual questions to introduce us to his werewolf hunter. Continue reading “4-Question Interview: Brian P. Easton”

4-Question Interview: Robert Valentine and Jack Bowman

present-tensionsAbout the time that I was writing scripts for Marvellous Boxes, my Twilight Zone-ish audio drama anthology, Robert Valentine and Jack Bowman were already winning awards for their work on The Springheel Saga. This audio drama series is told as a trilogy of trilogies: three episodes establish The Strange Case of Springheel’d Jack, three more continue The Legend of Springheel’d Jack, and the final three episodes reveal The Secret of Springheel’d Jack.

It’s a series I’ve been enjoying and recommending for a few years now. Yes, it features a distinctive occult detective character named Jonah Smith. However, I’m more drawn to the high quality of the writing, the cinematic feel of the production, and the performances of the actors — most all of them with lengthy and impressive credentials.

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4-Question Interview: Josh Reynolds

present-tensionsI have a special fondness for the characters and world that Josh Reynolds has created for this Royal Occultist series. Its interplay of history, mystery, supernatural chills, and a good bit of humor, I hope, are key ingredients of my own Vera Van Slyke ghostly mysteries. And while Vera, no doubt, would have much to discuss with Charles St. Cyprian, the spotlighted holder of the position of Royal Occultist, I’d much rather see her share a beer with Ebe Gallowglass, St. Cyprian’s snarly assistant.

But I’ll let Josh clarify what I’m talking about.

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4-Question Interview: Bob Freeman

present-tensionsI do a lot with early occult detectives and ghost hunters here at The Merry Ghost Hunter. I want to make space for new authors, too. Along with reviews of recently published adventures, I plan to include interviews. These interviews will pose the same four questions, which leads to the ingenious title for the series: 4-Question Interview.

It makes perfect sense to start with Bob Freeman. His excellent website, after all, is Bob Freeman: The Occult Detective. There, one can find not only original occult detective fiction, but also a good deal of information about the cross-genre in general. Bob also posts many of his impressive illustrations. And, each year, he gives virtual awards for novels, short stories, comics, television shows, meritorious service, and more. Though he’s created several fictional characters and worlds — including those found in the realm of federal agents, Wolfe & Crowe  — I asked Bob to focus on his other occult detective character, Landon Connors.

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Sarah P.E. Hawthorne’s Mr. Curtis: Poster Boy for Novice Occult Detectives

Unearthing the Unearthly

I added yet another character to the Chronological Bibliography of Early Occult Detectives a few days ago. His name is Mr. Curtis, and he’s one of the fairly few occult detectives who’s also a professional detective (albeit in the crime-solving business).

For a moment, I wondered if he might be the list’s first professional detective. But, no, this honor belongs to Mr. Burton from Seeley Regester’s The Dead Letter, which was published in 1866.  Mr. Curtis appeared in 1888 in Sarah P.E. Hawthorne’s short story “The Ghost of the Grate.” Still, unlike Burton’s use of his daughter’s clairvoyance and his own semi-psychic abilities to conduct a criminal investigation, Curtis confronts a supernatural manifestation — and he accepts the reality of it before solving the mystery. In fact, in the concluding paragraph of his first-person narrative, he says: “I had never been a believer in the supernatural, and this was my first and only experience with the great unexplainable.”

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“This Thing Ought to Be Reported to the Psychic Research Society”: Henry C. Mercer’s Charles Carrington

Unearthing the UnearthlyI was reading Henry C. Mercer’s November Night Tales (1928) because I knew that at least one character appeared in at least two of these spooky stories. I wanted to see if perhaps this Charles Carrington fellow might be an occult detective in some form.

Yes, it turns out that Carrington acts as a ghost-hunter in “The Dolls’ Castle,” though he’s more or less an astonished bystander in “The Blackbirds.” (He doesn’t appear in any of the other stories. Another character named Pryor, a painter, also appears twice. While Pryor faces the strange and even the supernatural, he’s much more a victim than a detective.)

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Enough to Unnerve the Most Hardened Investigator of the Unearthly: Henry S. Whitehead’s Gerald Canevin (and Lord Carruth)

Unearthing the UnearthlyA couple of my colleagues in detecting occult detectives suggested I take a look at Henry S. Whitehead’s Gerald Canevin. The character appears in fifteen tales. They’re very well-told stories with a fine balance of setting, character, and creepiness. Though from the U.S., Canevin is mostly found in a Caribbean milieu of Voodoo practices and local folklore, reflecting Whitehead’s own years spent on Santa Cruz. However, without much explanation, the character also springs up in England and in New England.

For the most part, Canevin is not an occult detective per se. Though he does have a strong interest in studying the supernatural, weird things just seem to pop up around him. And he chronicles them. In fact, in “The Projection of Armand Dubois” (1926), “The People of Pan” (1929), and “Passing of a God” (1931), Canevin has no real role other than narrator. I’m tempted to say he’s less an occult detective and more an occult reporter — or even an occult neighbor, since he so often unintentionally finds himself in the company of the haunted.

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