What do I write about? It’s a common question. The common answer is I write horror and mysteries. That satisfies most people. The truth is different. For the most part I write about broken people. Story is plot, what happens to characters. But the core, the spine that holds story together and gives it meaning are the characters. After all, the events have to happen to someone, right? I prefer my spines broken.
I know, I know, that sounds strange and violent. Just what you expect from a horror writer. The meaning is, people who are damaged, are more interesting to read about. We all have damage from a life that seems to do everything it can to break us down. Some of us just take a lot more damage than others. It is those people, the funhouse mirror reflections of ourselves that show our flaws in full relief.
Let’s face it, no one wants to sit in their living room and discuss life or the soul crushing horror of choosing between two people to sacrifice, with a smelly, homeless, drunk. But it makes great reading. Take the funhouse mirror and smack it a couple of times with a rock and what we see is barely recognizable but the reading becomes a roller coaster to find what we can recognize.
The secret is in the flaws. None of us is perfect. The flaws are like tiny fault lines running through our cores. Apply the pressure and we crack. Take a cracked core and throw it into extraordinary circumstances and the shattering shows what people are really made of. Those are the people I like to write about, the ones that have been cracked along the fault lines, then I add a monster or a loss, something to break upon and watch them shatter. That’s not enough though. To make a story you have to give them the monster to break them and something to make them endure the breaking. Hope or duty, love or hate.
No one wants to read about me. I’m a normal, every guy with bills and health issues, kids and an ex that thinks I’m the monster. I bend. I come back. My truck needs a new starter. I get it towed, and repaired. I pay the bill and worry about the cost. Where’s the drama or revelation in that. So I create people like Paul Souther. He was a selfish, self-absorbed man who experienced war and came out, something other than what he believed he was. He was fractured. His wife killed herself when he was too drunk to help. Fractures. He ran away to live on the streets, homeless and drunk until one day he encounters a killer that, for a moment, appeared to have wings. After that, the woman on screen at the XXX theatre starts talking directly to him. Fractures. How do I break him? What would split the fractures of a man like that until he splinters or finds a new way to hold together? I chose to take away his ability to get drunk and gave him a dwarf companion that farts and quotes poetry. Then I added the ancient god that wants Paul to kill a baby on a fiery alter.
Broken people shatter in such pretty ways. That’s pretty much the entire idea behind my latest novel, THE RED HIGHWAY, breaking already damaged people and seeing what they put themselves together as. I hope you will take a look. Here’s a peek.
In January of 1992, the fading life of Paul Souther, a homeless veteran, is changed by two events. He witnesses a murder committed by a big black man who, for a moment, seemed to have wings. And, as Paul hides from the man in a XXX theater, Mary Prince, the adult actress on screen, begins to speak directly to him.
On the other side of the country, the real Mary encounters the same big man when she visits the site of the Rodney King beating. He infests her life and her mind then traps her in a mental health ward, impossibly, pregnant.
In LA, two other black men, a tabloid reporter, and a celebrity TV preacher, are on the trail of the same mysterious man. They follow the tracks of rage and race leading throughout the city. At every hot spot the man is seen pulling strings and spreading the message of race war.
Paul and a mix of outcasts is called to Mary’s side just as the baby is born. None of them have any idea that the city of LA is sitting on a ticking bomb of anger. As riots explode, the big man, who now claims to be a god, reveals himself to be an ancient, dark power using the rage of the people to stoke his own, literal, fires. He demands the child as sacrifice to keep the city, and perhaps the nation from burning. It falls to Paul, a faithless man, and a drunk with blood on his own hands, to make the impossible choice between a child or a city and to save the people he has come to care about.
Twenty years later, as the grown child is spreading her own message of practical faith, as protesters picket and shout a new hate, a mysterious man shows up in the new crowds. This time his message is, God Hates Fags.
The Red Highway, Synopsis~
Necro Publications/Bedlam Press
ISBN: 978-1-939065-82-7 Trade Paperback (List: $12.95)
Distribution: Trade Paperback: Amazon, LSI and CreateSpace eBook: Kindle, Smashwords, Baker & Taylor, Nook, LSI, Apple, Kobo, Sony and others
In 1992, as Los Angeles begins to simmer in the heat of racial injustices, one dark man appears everywhere, spreading his message of race war. At the same time, Paul Souther, a homeless drunk, joins a strange group of outsiders. Some black and some white, they all carry the weight of broken lives and lost faith. They are all drawn to LA, for the arrival of a child, impossibly carried by Mary Prince, a sterile porn star.
Through back roads and freeways everyone is pulled into LA and Mary’s side just as the baby is born. None of them have any idea that the city is a ticking bomb of anger. As riots explode, the mysterious man reveals himself to be an ancient, dark spirit using the rage of the people to stoke his own, literal, fires. He demands Mary’s child as sacrifice to keep the city, and perhaps the nation from burning. It falls to Paul, a faithless man, and a drunk with blood on his own hands, to make the impossible choice between the child and the city, and to save the people he has come to care about.
Robert E. Dunn, Biography~
Robert E. Dunn was born an army brat and grew up in the Missouri Ozarks. He wrote his first book at age eleven, stealing, or novelizing, as he called it at the time, the storyline of a Jack Kirby comic book.
His college course of study, philosophy, religion, theatre, and film/TV communications, left him qualified only to be a televangelist. When that didn’t work out, he turned to them mostly, honest work of video production. Over several years he produced everything from documentaries, to training films and his favorite, travelogues. Still always writing for the joy of it he returned to writing horror and fantasy fiction for publication after the turn of the century. It seemed like a good time for change even if the changes were not always his choice.
He lives in Kansas City with three daughters, a young grandson, and an old dog. He tweets sometimes as @WritingDead but makes no promises how interesting those little posts will be.
Praise for The Red Highway
“The Red Highway is not one of the best books that I’ve read so far this year, or that I’ve read in a long time…it’s one of the best books that I’ve ever read! It was an incredible read, one that has so many layers that I was completely enthralled with the story.” –2 Book Lovers Reviews
“A thoroughly gripping read. Dunn is a writer with guts and the chops to grab his readers by the eyeballs and dare them to look away.” –Hunter Shea, Author of Tortures of the Damned
Barnes & Noble
Enter for your chance to win either a copy of The Red Highway, Behind the Darkness, or a print of the beautiful cover artwork from The Red Highway done by Erik Wilson! You can do multiple things each day to gain more entries! Just click the rafflecopter link. Forward any questions to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.