given a very brief overview of your life. Is there
anything you would like to add? What was you childhood
Very normal childhood. I
never even played frog baseball. When I was about six,
a baby-sitter threw me in the back of his convertible,
picked up a bunch of his greaser friends, and went
straight to the drive-in. PSYCHO was playing.
What I remember most about that night was that the
greasers were screaming but I was giggling. Hmm.
Were you a
fan of horror from an early age? Who did you enjoy
reading or watching on TV or at the movies?
sure. I’d sneak into the 25-cent matinees with my
friends to see stuff like THE HAUNTED PALACE and
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. I recall reading a lot of
Poe as a kid, plus a fascination with the old EC
Comics. My earliest TV memories are shows like
ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, OUTER LIMITS,
ONE STEP BEYOND, and, of course, TWILIGHT ZONE.
See, more normal childhood. And when I was in 8th
grade, I–like many horror writers my age–hot-footed it
home from the bus stop every weekday to catch the end of
DARK SHADOWS. I suppose all of this comprises my
initial horror foundation. In the D.C. area, we never
had an Elvira, we had Sir Ghastly Graves and Count Gore
Dival. Oh, what wonderful times!
you receive you formal education and what did you study?
to University of Maryland and majored, naturally, in
English. I loved literature–particularly philosophical
literature–Ibsen, Sartre, Camus, etc.--but I was in a
curriculum to get a teaching degree. One day it
occurred to me that I had no desire nor aptitude to be a
teacher. I had this revelation while sitting in a
History of the English Language class: “I don’t want to
be a teacher! I want to be a writer!” So I got up in
the middle of the class and walked out. Left my books
on the desk, even. I quit college, in other words, with
a 3.89 GPA and only about 15 credits left till I’d get
my degree. Damn it, I was going to be a writer!
Everyone said I was out of my mind–and they were
probably right–but within 12 months I sold my first
“Ghouls”, your first horror novel, is very
different but not as extreme as you will
eventually become. What was the inspiration
Route 450 in Maryland,
a creepy, winding stretch of road that leads
through a forest between Bowie and Annapolis. I
was working in Annapolis as a night watchman, and
I’d drive this road every night. The “look” of
this road inspired the entire novel. Just a few
months ago, I’d returned to Maryland to help my
mother recover from a medical emergency, and I had
occasion to drive this self same road in the
middle of the night during a rain storm. It
hasn’t changed a bit!
“Ghouls” you seemed to escalate in the amount of
grue and perversity until you hit an apex with
“The Bighead”. Was this a conscious decision – to
see how much you could get away with? What
inspired “The Bighead”?
I wasn’t necessarily
trying to see what I could get away with, but
after selling a string of mass-market paperbacks
to Berkley and Zebra, I just wanted to write a
novel “my” way without worrying about pissing off
my agent or a New York editor. Two-way
catheterizations, oral prostate massage, and
forced auto-emetic ingestion just won’t cut it in
the mass-market. Ah, but in the independent
market? No censorship there! I had "Bighead"
on the brain–the title and character inspired by a
poem by Wayne Allen Sallee. I just HAD to write.
I loved the Alexander character. So I quit
writing the sci-fi novel I was in the middle of
and devoted all of my time to "Bighead".
In the distant future, there will be a sequel
novella entitled "The Bighead's Autopsy".
collaborated with John Pelan in a number of works
including the gastronomic “Family Tradition” which seems
to play on your love of seafood albeit in a
stomach-churning way. Will you continue to collaborate
John and I will definitely
write a sequel to "Goon", which is actually
already in outline, but it won’t be for a long time ‘cos
we’re both too backed up with current work. It’ll be a
blast, though, when it happens. I’ve collaborated with
about a dozen people, and I can honestly say it was
always a lot of fun. Every collab is different, but
they’re all unique.
have also collaborated with Elizabeth Steffen, a
forensic expert/crime analyst for two books,
“Portrait of the Psychopath as a Young Woman”,
which is sort of a female version of “American
Psycho”, and “Dahmer’s Not Dead”, about one of
America’s most horrifying serial killers. What
was behind your decision to do this collaboration?
The plots, for one, and her technical expertise,
for another. The time was right. These books
predated the CSI craze by about a decade, but
they’ve got all the same stuff as that show. It’s
kind of interesting watching it, ‘cos I recognize
all these nifty techniques that were in our books
so long ago. Steffen, by the way, is working on a
solo novel now, in the crime-thriller vein.
"Creekers", which is one of my favorite of your
books, is set in rural Maryland and the
protagonist is a police officer. Are there any
real-life connections to the books and the time
you spent as a cop?
Of course! If you
were a smart-ass critic you might even point out
that the cop in "Creekers" is howlingly
similar to the cop in "Ghouls". I imagined
and infused aspects of myself into both
characters. And any author who says he or she
doesn’t do that on occasion...is a liar!
your titles have been published by “mainstream”
publishers, mainly Leisure Books. Would you consider
those titles “milder” or more “reader friendly” than the
small press titles?
Actually, between Leisure,
Berkely, and Kensington, I’ve sold 16 mass-market
novels, and my stories have appeared in 13 mass-market
anthologies. The majority of my published wordage is in
the mass-market. No, these projects aren’t as explicit
but they’re still harder than a lot of what I’m seeing
in the mass-market. In the small press and collector’s
market, I get to do the “darkest heart” thing the
exact way I want, but even if I were allowed to do that
to the same level in the mass market, I’m sure I
wouldn’t. It just doesn’t seem that it would serve the
work. I’m frequently accused of injecting gratuitous
gore in my work, and that’s pure bull-hockey. There’s
nothing “gratuitous” in my stuff, and I can honestly say
I’ve never once written gore for gore’s sake. It’s the
nature of the story, not the treatment of the story that
dictates those levels. Some people don’t seem to get
that, but it doesn’t matter. I get to do what I love,
and I’m very grateful for that opportunity.
What are you
currently working on?
My next novel, "The
Backwoods", comes out in hardcover from Cemetery
Dance this summer, and the Leisure paperback comes out
this fall. I just can’t get away from my redneck
obsession. The book I’m about to turn in is still
officially untitled, and I don’t want to jinx it by
telling you what it’s about. I will say, however, that
there are a lot of women in bikinis in it, and a little
of the old trans-rectal-evisceration. There’s even a
little sex in it, if you can believe that. I’m just
about finished with it, and it’s a hoot. It’s
Gilligan’s Island, from Hell.
movies have you seen recently that you thought
SAW and MALEVOLENCE. I also loved THE
VILLAGE, and everyone laughs at me for saying that.
Didn’t like THE GRUDGE, and everyone laughs at me
for saying that as well. I judge a “favorite” movie in
terms of how often I re-watch it, and in that case my
favorites in the last 20-30 years would be films like
THE SENTINEL, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY,
THE INCUBUS, ANGEL HEART, DEVIL’S ADVOCATE,
and THE NINTH GATE. I’m also addicted to old
horror movies; I think the original HOUSE ON HAUNTED
HILL and 13 GHOSTS, plus HORROR HOTEL
and THE SCREAMING SKULL are all masterpieces. I
re-watch them incessantly. I also love “bad” horror
movies, and I could probably have a decent crack habit
with what I spend on DVDs. NUDE FOR SATAN,
THE DEVIL’S NIGHTMARE, CRIMSON CULT, THE
HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, are all very important to
me, yet not particularly good from a critical
standpoint. Now I know how some housewives can become
addicted to Home Shopping Network, because I’m the same
way with Amazon’s DVD selection. Some other movies I
can’t live without would be: ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS,
SATAN’S SLAVE, THE ATOMIC BRAIN, THE
NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF HER GRAVE–oh, oh, and
LADY FRANKENSTEIN and GRAVEYARD TRAMPS. My
all-time favorite horror movie? Paul Naschy’s HORROR
RISES FROM THE TOMB. My God! What wonderful pulp
horror! As for film prospects of my own, HEADER
was shot in upstate New York about a year and a half
ago. Jack Ketchum and I appear in cameos (we’re police
officers who’ve just discovered a corpse, and I’m happy
to say that Jack and I nailed our lines.) The producers
are finishing up the post-production and I’m told the
film will be officially released “soon.” I’m really
looking forward to seeing it. A company called X-Ray
Productions recently bought an option on "Messenger".
Their first movie, CUP OF MY BLOOD, is really
cool, and they want to do "Messenger" next.
These guys have their shit together big-time, and I
really hope they can do "Messenger"; it’s the
perfect vehicle for them. I actually might be meeting
with the director this summer. Plus I’ve got a couple
other film options going but I don’t really want to talk
about them at this point ‘cos it’d be bad luck. In the
past, whenever I’ve run my mouth about film options, the
projects tank. This happened with "Incubi"
(twice), "Ghouls", "Dahmer", and "City
Infernal". Ultimately, if I never get a novel made
into a feature length movie, I’m still very grateful to
just be able to be an actively published novelist.
you read in the horror genre that you would highly
It wouldn’t be practical to
list all my favorite modern writers–there are too many
to name. My favorite horror writer working today is
Ramsey Campbell. Every sentence that man writes is a
nightmare. He’s like a drug or something–it’s an
inexplicable talent that pours from Campbell’s pen.
Read “Loveman’s Comeback”, in his "Scared
Stiff" collection; it’s my favorite horror story.
My favorite horror novel is "Our Lady of Darkness"
by Fritz Leiber, followed closely by Peter Straub’s
"Ghost Story" and King’s "The Shining".
is a typical day like for Edward Lee?
get up at 10 a.m., walk five miles on the beach,
appreciate the creative visual stimulus of so many
attractive women in bikinis. Then I sit down and
write 1000 words. Sometimes it take two hours,
sometimes it take ten. Then at night, I watch a
“bad” horror movie. Three nights a week I go out
with my middle-aged pals, drink cheap draft, and
watch baseball scores. That’s my life. I dig it.
a few of your titles, especially the earlier ones
like “Ghouls” and the phenomenal “Creekers”, are
out of print. Any suggestions for how readers
might get a hold of copies?
I’m afraid the
original paperbacks you have to order from the
used market, and they can get pricey, plus they’re
never in good condition. But Necro is re-issuing
"Creekers" in hardcover pretty soon.
"Ghouls" will be reissued one of these days,
too, as a limited hardcover. I own all the rights
to my backlist now, so eventually all my Berkley
and Kensington titles will be reissued.
Many of your
works have made the preliminary ballot for the Stoker
Award; do you think it’s because of your “notoriety”
that you’ve never made the final ballot, much less won a
That’s not quite true.
“Mr. Torso”, from Pocket’s "Hot Blood IV",
made the final ballot for best short fiction in 1994. I
lost to a tie between Jack Ketchum and Nancy
Holder–pretty good company! I’m sure I’ll never win a
Stoker, though, because, in all honesty, I’m not
“respectable” enough. I write pulp horror. I think I
do it well, but it’s still the kind of fiction that
exists as escapism, not literature–and I’m fine with
that. I’m not in this for awards–I‘m in it to do what I
love, and to pay my rent. I get my award every day when
I sit down and work on my latest novel. I’ve sold a
total of 27 books, and I pray God I get to write more.
Just being a writer is my dream come true.
have you found the HWA to be for writers in the genre?
Oops, you asked the wrong
guy! I quit HWA almost ten years ago! It’s a fine and
vital organization but there was no reason for me to be
in it. I’m not a “writer’s group” kind of guy. I’m
simply a writer.
You are good
friends with several other “Bad Boys” of horror
including Jack Ketchum who you have collaborated with in
the collection “Sleep Disorder”. Who else would you say
is considered one of the “Bad Boys” and should be read
by fans of all things gruesome?
Charlee Jacob. Read her
novel "Dread in the Beast". It’s the best
hardcore horror novel ever written. Period. Charlee
Jacob makes Edward Lee look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook
Farm. And as for the inception of hardcore horror into
the genre, I’d name these three books as being the most
important: Ketchum’s "Off Season", Laymon’s
"The Cellar", and Shirley’s "Cellars".
those recipes for spicy crayfish spring rolls and deep
fried shrimp heads stuffed with lump crab? Care to
asked for it, you got it...
EDWARD LEE’S SECRET CRAB CAKE RECIPE,
VARIATION NUMBER ONE
I may not be the best horror writer in
the world. In fact, I may be the WORST horror writer in
the world. However, I do cook the best CRABCAKE of any
horror writer in the world. Does this sound like a
flagrantly arrogant statement? It is. But it’s also an
incontestable truth. Don’t question it. Believe it.
After ignoring requests and pleas by,
literally, millions of fans and culinary experts, here,
for the first time, bestowed upon the world for free and
without patent, is the recipe for Edward Lee’s Secret
Crabcakes, Variation Number One.
My gift to you all...
and ½ pounds freshly cooked crabmeat
- 3/4 cups of mayonnaise (Don’t be a
bonehead and use store-brand mayo. Use Kraft.)
teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce (that’s
probably spelled wrong. I can’t even pronounce
Worcestershire much less fucking spell it. But
you know what I mean. An important note, however,
must be made. Even a pinch too much of this can
royally fuck up crabcakes, but when you leave it
out, something’s simply missing. Most great chefs
would use a little more than I do for this amount
of crabmeat. Experiment on the less side, to suit
- ½ teaspoon of pepper (fresh ground is
best, including the $1.99 bottles of McCormick
whole peppercorn pepper with the built-in grinder.
If you like some kick, substitute some or all of
the pepper with Fire Dust, a mix of ground dried
peppers, including habanero peppers. It’s made by
the Cajohns Fiery Foods company, of Ohio).
- 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
(Don’t use the bottled lemon juice or those
dumbass plastic lemons. Fresh lime is an
- 1 tablespoon of Far East Mustard Sauce
(Sounds petty but you MUST use this specific
brand because it works better than anything else.
Some grocery stores have it and most oriental
markets have it. It’s made by the Far East Spice
Company of New Jersey, a buck-fifty per 5-ounce
bottle. Get it. Trust me. Also, a superior
steamed shrimp and/or Dungeness crab dipping sauce
can be made by adding Far East Mustard Sauce to
mayonnaise. The more mustard sauce you add, the
- ½ cup of Italian bread crumbs (Get
quality bread crumbs.)
Always cook your crabs live, then pick the meat. Even
the best fresh jumbo lump Blue Crab meat bought in a
plastic container ain’t good enough. Not for Edward Lee
Secret Crabcakes. And don’t use pasteurized cans of
crabmeat. Don’t be tight. The best crab in the world
for crabcakes is the Asian Swimming Crab, but unless you
live in Ho Chi Minh City, you can’t get those, so use
Blue Crabs. When it comes to crabs, Edward Lee knows a
lot of things you don’t, and here’s one of them. There
are two kinds of live Blue Crabs available to
Americans. One is called the Calinectes Sapidus, and
the other is the Calinectes Bellicosus. The Bellicosus
has bigger claws but a squattier carapace. It’s found
in Mexico and surrounding areas, and also the Everglades.
It’s a fine crab to sit down and eat at a big redneck
Fourth of July but it’s not as good for cakes ‘cos it
comes from waters with higher salinity. The Sapidus is
the best for cakes ‘cos it’s sweeter meat (lower
salinity). These grow in the Chesapeake and the Gulf of Mexico.
Get them alive and kicking. (There’s actually a third
blue crab available in the U.S., on the Left
Coast–called the Calinectes Arcuatus, but it’s a
watery. What else would you expect in a crab from California?
It’s just not as good. Take my word for it.) Steam
(never boil) your live Calinectes Sapidus crabs in Old
Bay MIXED INTO an inch of water and an inch of vinegar.
(Don’t put Old Bay ON the crabs while they’re
cooking–not for cakes. Don’t argue.) Also, make sure
crabs are topside down when you put them into the
steamer. Steam the crabs till they turn red and their
“trapdoors” come away easily with a fork. Next, and
VERY IMPORTANT for the best crabcakes: lay the cooked
crabs on a tray (topside down!) and put them in the
fridge for an hour or two. When they’re cool, pick all
the meat of them, and don’t do it half-assed, or you’ll
have shells in your mix.
Whisk all of the other ingredients
above together in a big bowl, excluding the
breadcrumbs. Slowly fold in the cool crabmeat.
Try not to mush the pieces of crabmeat up, you
want big pieces. Then slowly mix in just enough
breadcrumbs to make the mixture shapeable. The
fewer breadcrumbs, the better. (If you have
balls--like me--you won’t use any breadcrumbs, and
instead of pan-frying your patties, you put them
on a greased pan with an ice-cream scoop, and bake
them. They don’t look as good, but they taste
better than anything.) Anyway, after you’ve mixed
in the fewest breadcrumbs possible, put the whole
bowl in the fridge and let it set for several
hours. Perfection is never rushed. This gives
all the ingredients time to incorporate. When
your party has arrived, shape the mixture into
inch-plus-thick patties, pan fry in butter (or
butter infused with lemongrass) till they’re brown
on each side. Finish in the oven.
And there you have it.