eSpec Books interviews James Chambers, contributor to The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson, a tribute anthology, http://kck.st/1xu1DH9.
How did you meet CJ Henderson? Through a mutual friend, Christopher Mills, back in the days when Chris and I were editors at Tekno*Comix. Chris, an extremely talented author in his own right, knew CJ through his Jack Hagee novels and had even published a Hagee story in the indie magazine he ran, Noir. CJ was writing Neil Gaiman’s Lady Justice for Chris, and I talked to CJ about writing the graphic novel adaptation of From Dusk Till Dawn that I was editing. That project didn’t work out, but I later met CJ in person at comic convention and we became close friends soon after that.
What is your favorite memory of him? We shared a lot of good times over the years. He introduced me to the tradition of Howard Day, commemorating Robert E. Howard, and those were always fun events. To pick a favorite, though, it would have to be the hours we spent talking on road trips to conventions. Often it was just me and CJ, though sometimes others came with us, and we just killed the radio and talked non-stop about writing, life, history, pretty much anything and everything that came to mind. We’d get so intense we had to remind ourselves not to miss an exit.
Of CJ’s vast body of works, which one has impacted you the most? The Teddy London series. I love those books.
What was it about his writing that spoke to you? The vitality and audacity of it. Knowing how he approached writing, I can almost see him writing himself into tight spots again and again just for the sheer challenge of getting out of them—and he always did.
What is your favorite part of his sales pitch? CJ had the patter down cold and most people remember that, remember his trademark lines, such as “Come on by and meet the author!” or “I’d dance like a monkey for a nickel.” My favorite thing about his pitch, though, is that he didn’t want to sell you a book. Not that he wouldn’t do so eagerly, because he did many times. But what he really wanted was to make you one of his readers. He wanted to put the right book in your hand, something he felt confident you’d enjoy enough to come back for more. And if you didn’t, well, “That’s what makes horse races.”
Can you share with us a non-convention memory involving CJ? Some years back I was CJ’s editor for his Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies. At some point during his research, CJ invited me to hang out with him and our friend Bob Smith while he watched his way through as many of the films in the book as he could get a copy of—and this went on for months! We’d get together one or two nights a week and roll through everything from Black Scorpion to Zardoz, good, bad, or weird, and from second to second of each movie, I could tell exactly what CJ thought of it.
What is the one characteristic of CJ as a person that has stuck with you? His generosity.
If you were to recommend just one of CJ’s books for a new reader to read, which one would it be and why? The Things That Are Not There. I know a little about the history of its writing, and that was a breakthrough book for CJ creatively. It shattered a lot of doors in his imagination and set him off down the incredibly creative path he followed for many years after. And it’s a blistering read full of terrific characters. It doesn’t disappoint.
For the interested reader, what are some of the books where they can find works by both you and CJ? Probably more than I can remember right now. CJ always looked out for his pals and his fellow authors, and he opened the door for me to more anthologies than I can recall off-hand. To name a few recent ones: Bad-Ass Faeries series (Volume 1 through 3), Bad Cop, No Donut; Defending the Future series (Volume 1 through 3 and 5); Lin Carter’s Anton Zarnak, Supernatural Sleuth; The Avenger: The Roaring Heart of the Crucible; The Green Hornet Chronicles; The Spider: Extreme Prejudice; To Hell in a Fast Car; Weird Trails; and With Great Power. There are others, too many to list here.
What can you tell us about your contribution in The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson? I wrote “Every Second of Every Day” as a long-term sequel to one of my favorite stories of CJ’s, “All Around the Mulberry Bush.” It happens to be CJ’s first Monkey King story, and it was published in Weird Trails, an anthology which also included my first published piece of short fiction, “The Last Stand of Black Danny O’Barry.” CJ helped me connect with the editor and encouraged me while writing the story, so in that sense, my piece for the Society anthology comes back full circle to my short fiction beginnings. The title comes from one of the principles by which CJ lived, the idea being that we are free at any moment to choose another path, to be who we want to be or not, and that every second of every day, we make that choice. It’s a powerful idea that has stayed with me a long time.
Is there anything you have written that was inspired by CJ? “Every Second of Every Day.”
What are some of your own works readers can look for? My short story collection, Resurrection House, for which CJ wrote the introduction. My collection of Lovecraftian novellas, The Engines of Sacrifice. The novellas Three Chords of Chaos, The Dead Bear Witness, and Tears of Blood. Most recently my short stories have appeared in the anthologies Qualia Nous and With Great Power.
What projects of your own do you have coming up? My short story “Odd Quahogs” will be published in the forthcoming Lovecraftian anthology, Shadows Over Main Street from Hazardous Press. A few other things I can’t quite talk about yet.
Learn more about the Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson here: http://kck.st/1xu1DH9
Read an excerpt of James’ story here:
Every Second of Every Day by James Chambers
James Chambers’ tales of horror, crime, fantasy, and science fiction have been published in numerous anthologies and magazines. Publisher’s Weekly described his collection of four Lovecraftian novellas, The Engines of Sacrifice, as “chillingly evocative.” His other books include the novellas Three Chords of Chaos, as well as The Dead Bear Witness and Tears of Blood (the first two volumes in the Corpse Fauna series), and the story collections Resurrection House and The Midnight Hour: Saint Lawn Hill and Other Tales with illustrator Jason Whitley. His stories have appeared in the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries and Defending the Future anthology series as well as Allen K’s Inhuman, Bare Bone, Chiral Mad 2, Clockwork Chaos, Deep Cuts, Fantastic Futures 13, The Green Hornet Chronicles, Hardboiled Cthulhu, In an Iron Cage, Mermaids 13, Shadows Over Main Street, The Spider: Extreme Prejudice, To Hell in a Fast Car, Qualia Nous, Walrus Tales, With Great Power, and many other publications. He has edited and written numerous comic books including Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals and the critically acclaimed “The Revenant” in Shadow House. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the recipient of the HWA’s 2012 Richard Laymon Award. He is online at www.jameschambersonline.com.