About me

I've been writing stories for years. I think I'm a good writer and I'm willing to bet you'll feel the same way. So here they are. Enjoy them, comment on them, tell your friends about'em, reblog them, retweet them, reread them. I have four stories in my archive so far:
"One day on the Mountain", a story of Lycanthropy, a father, and a son.
"The Boy", a story of a very ambitious and sociopathic fifth grade boy.
"The Easy Girl, A story of infidelity and unpaid sexual debts. This story is very dark.
"Brick The Mighty", a story of an aging superhero.
Although this is primarily a blog of horror, I also write about things that are important to me. I have more stories tucked away; they just need editing. There's even a few novels. There will be more to come.
PS. Feel free to leave a comment. I love comments.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

My candidacy for the Republican Nomination

Good evening, my fellow Republicans.

Who is this strange man who has appeared on my television screen during prime time? you’re probably asking. Why has he not even given his name? I’ll get to that. I’ll get to everything. 

I’m the newest Republican candidate for president. Yes, I know Mitt and Newt are ostensibly the front-runners. Newt may even beat Mitt if he can persuade Santorum to… um… to get behind him. But I’m here now. If I can persuade you that I’m your man, then Newt and Mitt will simply concede. So please have a listen.

You’re in a pickle, aren’t you, Republicans? You’ve got a popular, smart, and telegenic president; an economy that’s in the crapper; a stand-off with Iran and North Korea; and a debt that so massive that in a short time the richest man in the country won’t be able to afford three months interest on the national debt.

So this is my platform - it’s the platform of a left-wing Canadian, but at least you’ll know where I stand. I’m a placater, a mollifier, a consensus builder, and an old pro at kissing babies and grandmas.

First, and I need get this out of the way. I’m not a social conservative, and that’s that last thing you need anyway. I promise not to do anything about abortion - that might offend you, but the last spate of Republican presidents didn’t do anything about it either. Abortion gets out votes and no one ever follows through on it. Same-sex marriage is coming to most states, so don’t bother trying to stop it. The gays and the Gay Agenda aren’t destroying marriage, Kim Kardashian, Sinead O’Connor, John Edwards, and Newt Gingrich are destroying marriage. I’m not pro-gun, but I’m not going to try to take them away from you, since all the police budget-cuts mean you’re going to need them more than ever. So I want you to put all the social stuff aside; that’s not going to defeat Obama. Don’t look to me for religious guidance - leave that to your minister. 

The keys to getting the United States out of this mess (which is no fault of yours, by the way) is not great change. I know: the President ran on change, and every four years the Republican candidate threatens to throttle the machinery of government in the bathtub and kill it down to size before he promptly spends the country into the ground. 

Here is what I propose. There’s a lot to running a country, but I think this one-plank platform will do be worth the price of admission alone. I guarantee President Obama hasn’t thought of this. 

Let’s look at the cause of conflict - profit, religion, and beneath all of that is a little undercurrent of sex. In the past too many societies have raised young men on a strict diet of no sex, and then sent them out into the world where they become frustrated killing machines. I don’t think there is any way you can change people’s minds about religion - the middle east will be fighting over Jerusalem until that area is a giant pile of radioactive dust, and we should leave them to it. I think we need to bypass all that silliness and concentrate on making something exciting happen within our borders. 

Sex - that’s an Achilles heel in every human being. 

I don’t want to bother with legalizing heroin or Marijuana. I propose we legalize and tax sex. The sale of sex, specifically.

The US, one of the worlds great producers of porn and beautiful people, can become the world’s greatest destinations for sex tourism in the history of our planet. Do you want it hot and sultry? Hot-lanta, baby! Like it edgy, with some clunky-rimmed glasses alongside? The Big Apple beckons! Like it spicy and with just a hint of violence? LA’s your lady! Like your men buff and shaved? That’s… well, that’s the entire west coast. Like your women wholesome and polite, and willing to talk politics and unions before, during, and after? The ladies of Madison, Wisconsin will debate at the drop of a hat! Like muscles and stamina? Our pro-sports teams have off-seasons, and sometimes our fellas get bored and would love to meet up with some European policy wonkettes! 

Once this thing takes off, the tax implications are incredible. We could pay down the debt. You can’t outsource living genitalia when it’s right at home. There is nothing outside of our borders that can compare to a young God-fearing debutante, or a fresh-faced Christian quarterback. Best of all, you’ve got droves of them in your party, and if you told them they’d be helping to defeat Obama, I’m willing to bet they’d get with the program mighty quick!

We’d have to have a sea-change in our sexual mores, of course. ‘Prostitute’ is an unpleasant and clinical term and should be replaced with something softer and more pleasing: Pleasure Professional. Senator. Pleasure Deacon. Something along those lines. 

The best part? Government regulation. Yes, I’ve already foreseen the possibility that we might give rise to massive sexual conglomerates that kill all healthy competition and funnel their profits to tax havens. There will be no lobbyists, no CEOs with ties to big government, no tax holidays. This will all be done by a the new Department of Pleasure Provision. Uncle Sam will get his share and we will pay off that debt!

I’d like to talk a little more, but I’m hearing some ominous thumping noises at the back door. I think the eff-bee-eye have tracked down my signal, and I’m sure they didn’t appreciate me beaming in during a Patriot game. So I’ll be going now and don’t worry about me - there’s a tricked up little Civic with a motor like a f-15 jammed up inside and they don’t stand a chance of catching me! 

Vote for a steady course and a legalized adult playland. Vote for a Campbell/Flint ticket! Vote for fluid exchange we can believe in!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Photos from the weekend

This is a Costa Rican Owl Butterfly next to my hand. My hand is not small.
    Not much happened this weekend. It was beautiful, not rainy, so we went to the park, and went to the lookout where all the tourists go. We fed ducks and did lots of family stuff.

   We went to Stanley Park yesterday because the park staff were giving a talk on raccoons. Let me tell you something about those little black-masked bastards - they're smart, have opposable thumbs, and can problem solve. If they figure out how to unlock your raccoon-proof garbage can, they will somehow teach that skill to other raccoons in the neighbourhood. I can almost see three hundred years in the future, where we're all retarded internet denizens, completely insensate, and human-sized raccoons are harvesting our physical bodies for meat. I bet we taste pretty good to something that considers stale cookies and stolen dogfood a treat.

Feeding ducks and an American Coot.
A lovely scene that belies their violence.
That view I mentioned. Please click.
 My wife parked the van while I took the two boys on a hike around Lost Lagoon. The older one was being a twit and holding back, so I texted my wife to keep an eye out for him and took the younger one along the path.

  There was a sharp, rippling shriek, and a bestial hiss from the bushes by the shore. We went closer; I imagined that a skunk or raccoon had taken on a goose for a challenge.

  We looked into the bushes. Some idiot had taken a large box of cream-filled cookies and dogfood and put it in the bushes. Two enormously fat raccoons were stuffing their faces.

  Later on, the park staff complained to us that the Stanley Park raccoons had become diurnal (active during  the day) and were at risk of becoming diabetic from all the sweets they were eating (this is a downtown park). I'm not worried about them. They're becoming like us and one day they're going to want a twitter feed. They just want  piece of the action.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Win a Night with Tim Tebow

Spend the night with TIM TEBOW!

This Saturday, February 5th, 2012, in Indianapolis, as the Saints face off against the mighty upstarts, the Denver Broncos, the NFL is auctioning off its most precious resource for charity. For the kids! 

We’re selling tickets now so no one will miss out on this outstanding opportunity! Go to http://climbmounttim.com to buy’em before they run out! Tickets are $150 dollars each. There is no by limit, so the more you buy, the greater the chance you’ll win. There can be only one woman. 

Tim Tebow is 6’3” and 245 fat-free pounds of untouched Christian wilderness, and a week after the Superbowl he’ll be all yours for the taking! 

If you win Saturday’s draw, you will be flown to Denver the following Friday to stay at the Denver Ritz-Carlton. That evening, you’ll be treated to a make-over courtesy of the experts at Sephora Beauty, a free massage from the Ritz-Carlton Spa, and a $2000 shopping trip to Mona Lucero and Twice as Haute. 

On Saturday morning, Tim Tebow himself will pick you up at your hotel. Take your tongues off the floor, ladies! He’s not coming to your room until later that evening. A whole day of Tim-time awaits you. 

First, a moment of mutual tebowing in the Curtis street lobby of the Ritz (offer void if participant refuses to tebow). Then it’s off to Summit Church to meet Tim’s pastor. There’ll be loads of fun bible study, a rousing round of Speaking in Tongues (Participant is permitted to speak gibberish if she does not feel The Spirit), and a quick round of song with the Summit Church Grandmother’s Chorale, which is among the many groups Tim’s charity supports. 

A quick lunch (Refreshments provided by the Ladies’ Auxiliary. You’ve never tasted cucumber sandwiches like these!), and then to the gym to watch Tim work out. Feast your eyes as he does the Monster Tire Jump! Revel in his manly triceps as he tebows yet again! But don’t worry, ladies, he’s going to leave a little something extra just for you! 

That evening, after dinner at the Elway restaurant in the Ritz, you and Tim will head up the honeymoon suite, and there you will take possession of Tim’s highly-prized virtue *,**,***,****! 

* A Condom must be used. For his protection, not yours. 
** Participant must sign a waiver that acknowledges a refusal to press a suit in the event that Tim 1) fails to perform 2) his prayers for performance are not answered 3) weeps in shame 4) tebows all night. 
*** Enjoy your conquest while you can, because  the moment Tim comes home, he will be signing an abstinence pledge, which these days is a good as a virginity ring.
**** In the event of Tim being unable to attend for reasons of illness, injury, or uncontrollable fear, Demaryius Thomas will substitute. He’s not untouched. 

Lulu the Cat

Many years ago, sometimes during the mid-nineties when I was perpetually in school, one of my best friends in the music faculty asked me something.

“Mac,” he said. “You know anything ‘bout cats?”

I looked at him. He was a heavily built Italian guy, with jet black hair and a brilliant smile that he’d had even as a baby. In the time he’d been at school, he’d gotten to know the backstage guys, got keys to every door in the building and kept them in a ring on his belt, and had a small female labour pool who warmed his bed, did his homework, and helped him learn his music. God had given him so much in his way with people, and somehow God, in His infinite wisdom, had given him a mild learning disability. He couldn’t read music. 

That year he’d become the general dogsbody for our music teacher. He did things for people, free of charge. Whenever he asked me for a favour, I jumped at the chance; I had to somehow pay him back for all his meals I’d eaten, the drinks he’d bought, all the millions of things he’d done. Now he was asking me something about cats. 

“I had cats when I was kid,” I said. “I guess I know a few things.”

“David wants me to take his cat to the vet. It needs shots or something, I dunno. They gave me a list for the vet to read. Help me bring it to the vet?”

“Absolutely,” I said eagerly.

We took a cab over to our teacher’s apartment. David and his wife were big, hard-working, and very hard drinking Southerners. They had a house in Vermont, but they’d done their best to make the Saint Catherine’s street two-bedroom a home: A black baby grand, a wall full of mirrors (I was told they made a place look larger), autographed posters, enormous poofy couches, shag carpets, and (this was something many people had remarked on and it had never been explained) black candles on the dining room table. 

When we arrived, the gigantic Lulu waddled daintily out to meet us. She was black and white, a mixed breed, but carried herself like a prize-winning Persian. Anthony stood back as I scratched Lulu behind the ears and then unceremoniously rammed her into a carrier. 

To this day I don’t know why David and his wife sent Anthony, a big Italian who throughout his life never had so much as a pet rock, to oversee the medical care of their prize kitty. A few years later, I heard that they’d hired an untrained music student to care for David’s senile and incontinent mother in-law, but that’s another story. 

The vet was a burly man with a heavy gallic moustache. He tossed poor Lulu onto his metal examining table, shoving his large hairy fingers into here and there, taking her temperature, and finally giving her several needles into the bulging nape of her neck. Lulu, although a mouser of reputed savagery and sadism, lay there and peed herself, her furry limbs spread like a dead octopus over the smooth stainless steel.  The vet had an Italian name and Anthony chatted with him (“E voi che siete Italiano?”). I knew just enough Italian to remember this exchange, while the vet was weighing Lulu. 

“Thirteen pounds. That’s a very heavy cat,” said the vet.

“You should see the owners,” said Anthony.

We left. Anthony had paid the vet bill and put the receipt into an envelope. On the cab ride back, Anthony bent down and took a look at Lulu inside the cat carrier.

“Did the vet give the cat a sedative or something?”

“No. Why?”

“Because she’s so quiet.”

On the way to the vet, she’d cried unhappily with a high, kittenish meow that belied her size. Now she was quiet as a stone and stared straight out the window. She didn’t seem angry. 

We got back to David’s apartment. Lulu emerged from the carrier, and seemed to grow and fluff out as she put the vet’s big and knobby hands out of her mind. I looked around the kitchen, opened a small pantry, and there, against the wall, were several hundred cans of Fancy Feast. I opened one and poured it into Lulu’s bowl. The meat, or whatever it was, came out the same shape as the can, with the can’s metal striations shiny, perfect, and straight against the wet mess of cat food. Lulu dug into her food. Her tail rose in pleasure, and I noticed something down there. I bent over to take a closer look.

Sticking unobtrusively out of Lulu’s ass was the vet’s rectal thermometer. 

“Jesus,” I said. I grasped it, pulled, and it slid firmly out. I stood there for a moment, aghast, upset, and as of yet unaware that later in the day I would tell of this several times and I would be laughed at, by both my friends and Lulu’s owners. After a moment, I went to the sink, and washed catshit off the thermometer. As the person whom Anthony had designated as a animal expert, I felt ashamed and somehow responsible that Lulu got violated. 

I placed the thermometer, spanking clean, on the coffee table with a note. Dear David, The vet left his thermometer up Lulu. Here it is  - Mac. PS. Don’t worry, I washed it.

A few years later, I heard that David’s mother left Lulu outside all night during a Vermont winter. In the morning, all that was left of her was a pile of snow against the patio door with two little eyes peeking out. Lulu survived that as well. 

Saturday, 7 January 2012

A lonely Saturday night on the Internet

Too easy and ethnocentric, I know. 
The school needs to call this man.
   Internet people are visual. I don't have a lot to blog about tonight; I really shot my wad with my Stephen King review last night.So instead I’m going to fill you in on what’s been going on. Just a little pause for station identification, if you will. Also, some funny pictures. 

Someone in my son’s class has been making death threats. This is the fourth grade, so the kids are between 8-10 (my son’s nine). Someone found a note in her backpack. It said If you don’t stop talking to me I will kill you. This is the second such note. 

Now, when I heard about this, I thought that teachers in my day would have brushed that under the rug and continued on with the lesson on General Frontenac. But my kid’s teachers (there are two in a job-sharing situation) are taking it very seriously. First, they worked out that only a student within the fourth/fifth grade split class could have written the note. Then they asked the class en masse for the culprit to come forward. If you come forward and confess, things will be much easier for you. You know they’re searching the faces of every single person in that class, looking for the slightest guilty tremor. But nothing; no dice. 

The next step was a visit from the cops, and a lecture from those boys and blue about how serious it is to threaten someone with death. Each child has met the teacher alone for extra-special scrutiny: How do you think this person is feeling? How would you feel if you were that person? The final step: handwriting analysis. That’s right, they’re going CSI on a class of fourth and fifth graders. Each kid will have to submit some handwriting, and then the clock will start ticking. I doubt whoever did this was prescient enough to disguise his or her own handwriting. I also think that you could whittle down the pool of suspects by looking at the neatness of the handwriting: if it’s really neat, then a girl probably did it. I’m not being necessarily sexist: many of the student assignments are posted on the wall outside class, and the girls always have neater handwriting. 

I’ll keep you posted on the elementary school death threat situation, but in the meantime, some funny pictures. Because the internet has to have its dopamine fix, its visual stimulation, and its flashy and funny things. 
Beautiful steampunk pens. Drooling? They're Montblanc limited editions.  These five pens cost more than a house.

A rude ghost spying on kitty's derrier.

Spiders can be cute. Really!

11/22/63 - Stephen King

11/22/63 is a massive, breathtaking novel that may finally affirm Stephen King as a great writer. I’ll get to that book in the moment (just finished it today), but I want to talk about something else first. 

I recently read a speech by Brian Keene, which he gave during Anthocon 2011. It was called 'Know Your Genre'.’ He runs through the history of horror literature, dividing it into waves that span from the 1900’s to the present. It’s a decent speech, and near the end he poked fun at several posters on the Shocklines message board who aren’t all that familiar with Robert Bloch. He gave the impression that without a knowledge of that very definite and linear progression of horror writers, a new horror writer is in trouble. 

I felt the speech was too precise - it posited horror writing as wizardry that must be handed down from one generation to another. Stephen King himself, along with Dean Koontz and Peter Straub, is named as part of the Fourth Wave that came to be during the seventies and eighties. Before the fourth wave came the third: Serling, Bloch, Bradbury, Matheson. After the fourth wave came writers like Keene, Joe Hill, Tim Lebbon, Wrath James White. Going by Keene’s speech, I can almost see these writers at neat, persnickety horror-genre  reunions in which the tables are grouped by age and rank. Then they get drunk and knock up the serving staff with illegitimate children. 

My own take on the ‘Know Your Genre’ theme? I’ve been a horror fan all my life. I think the progression of the genre is far more amorphous that we’d care to admit. I think that to group it into this square Danse Macabre is limiting and not particularly accurate. I also think that Stephen King wasn’t part of a wave of any kind. He was a meteor that sent waves crashing out in every direction. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read horror published within the last five years that has some element of Stephen King. Often, these efforts fall way short of the mark, but I can still tell.

Let’s discuss King’s influences. If you’ve read Bradbury, you know how much King owes to Bradbury’s collection ‘The October Country.’ But Bradbury was more a Science Fiction writer; he hung out with Heinlein and Forrest J. Ackerman. Right there is a broken link in the genre chain.

One of King’s favorite tropes is the simple, childlike character with precognitive ability: Danny Torrance in The Shining, Mother Abigail in The Stand, the blind girl in The Langoliers, Charlie in Firestarter, John Smith in The Dead Zone. In The Stand, a character wistfully remembers reading Richard Adam’s Watership Down. If someone in a King book talks or thinks of a book, it’s because King thought it was significant. Who is the central character in that novel of talking rabbits? Fiver, the dreamy and runty little rabbit with psychic powers. He foretells the arrival of the dog who attacks General Woundwort. Two of King’s great influences are fantasy authors. 

So we have the greatest horror writer in the genre, who happens to be one of the best-selling authors world-wide, who has non-horror writers as his influences, who writes best-selling novels that sometimes aren’t even horror. King is a great storyteller who happens to like writing horror; he could write anything and you’d still be reading the review at the front your newspaper’s book section. He takes whatever he needs from every genre and has melded it all into a cohesive whole, into a style that reminds me more of Charles Dickens or Mark Twain. And he isn’t part of a wave of the seventies and eighties - he’s still here and right now he’s at the top of the heap.

11/22/63 is a sort-of time travel novel, but that’s a conceit that allows King to write a story that at its heart is of adventure and love. It is not a horror novel. 

Jake Epping, a high school English teacher, discovers that the owner of the local diner has been travelling back in time to buy his wholesale meat at 1950’s prices. Besides buying cheap ground beef and winning long odds sports bets, Al Templeton has been researching the Kennedy assassination - he wants to stop it. But here’s the wrinkle - the time portal he uses takes him back to the same place in 1958, five years before Lee Harvey Oswald kills Kennedy, and when he steps back into the present in 2011, only two minutes have passed. During his last visit, when he was gone for years while planning to change history, Al got lung cancer and had to return to the present to find a replacement who will save the president. Now dying and desperate for a chance to see his dream fulfilled, he wants the divorced and childless Jake Epping to go back in time to kill Lee Harvey Oswald. After Jake sees the time portal (which is in Al’s pantry) and what it can do, he agrees. 

What follows is a dizzying trip back to the year between 1958 and 1963. Ford Sunliners, hipsters, Glen Miller, gullwing fins, crewcuts, segregation, soda-shop rootbeer, taking a trip two towns over to buy condoms, poodle skirts - these are just a few of details among thousands that King and his research assistant have put into this novel. Jake comes into a world that is vastly more simple, kind, and cheap, and finds himself falling in love with it. He travels the country, starting in Maine, going to Florida, and finally to Texas to hunker down and wait for Lee to arrive in Fort Worth before he makes that fateful trip to Dallas. Jake falls in love, makes friends, trying desperately to keep his future self apart from his past self, which has become a teacher and respected member of the community. 

I became completely immersed in this book, much in the way I do when reading George RR Martin or Jonathan Franzen. Amidst the world-building, the characters that seem to step living and breathing off the page, there is the King obsession with words, and the deeper meaning below them: names, places, and actions all have similar but not identical siblings throughout the book, engendering a sense of unease and unreality that belies that fabulous, rock-solid historical detail. It is as if magic is bubbling up through cracks in asphalt. 

King, as he always has, writes in serviceable, clear prose, which you would think is the easy way out, but why don’t more authors write like this? As in Betty Smith’s writing, there is never any doubt as to what is happening. But, on rare occasions, King busts out with beauties like this:

     It’s all of a piece, I thought. It’s an echo so close to perfect you can’t tell which one is the living voice and which is the ghost-voice returning.
    For a moment everything was clear, and when that happens you see that the world is barely there at all. Don’t we all secretly know this? It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dreamclock chiming beneath a mystery-glass we call life. Behind it? Below it and around it? Chaos, storms. Men with hammers, men with knives, men with guns. Women who twist what they cannot dominate and belittle what they cannot understand. A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark.
    Here, and in a few other passages like it, which I can count on the fingers of one hand, is where the true mystic emerges. This is talent, it’s magic, it’s (too make a pun with the title of one his novels)…IT. I think that here, in this one passage, lies much of what makes Stephen King tick. It’s not horror, not any particular genre, but story. Storytelling, narrative. Hope, dancing (dancing is an enormous theme in this novel) against the entirely purposeless force of decay. 
   Buy this novel. Start it on a Friday so you won’t miss work or school. But read it. 
  Stephen King still has it. After his accident, at the age of sixty-four, he’s still the equal of the young turk who wrote The Dead Zone and The Stand. He might even be better.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

My old second-hand Bookstore

When you’re a young fan of horror, there’s not much choice; at least, there wasn’t much choice when I was growing up. In the 21st century, you can order horror novels off the internet - which you’d think would be cheaper, but instead you’re paying fifty to eighty dollars for a book about giant monster crabs, because in ten years it will fetch a big price at the Las Vegas Monster Crab Book Convention. But I digress. 

There wasn’t much at the regular bookstore; horror is never a big draw. Also, new books were and are expensive, and that was before the advent of the small press. No monster crab and zombie collectibles, just an American price on the spine above a much higher Canadian price. 

Faced with exorbitant prices and and little choice, the discerning (desperate really) horror fan had to go the second-hand route. Where on Earth could you go? The United Cigar Store, on Barrington Street in downtown Halifax. Nova Scotia.

This place is so obscure that I can’t find a picture of it on google; I looked. It sold cigarettes and cigars (I think it did, anyway), and the rest of the store space was devoted to second-hand books and magazines. There was the obligatory rack of old porn mags (Hustler, Oui, Gallery, and Juggs, which should have been called Hard-Up Women with Back Problems ), and if I knew my horror history then like I do now, I would have taken a peek at them to see if I could find an old Stephen King story.

It was/is the most normal-looking store. Dirty old tile, bright trashy lights, soft drinks and bags of chips up front, a small rotating rack of bestseller hardbacks that had probably been bought at the bookstore in Scotia Square a block over. The bestsellers and candy were a beating heart with the dead and lost books a dying corpse around it. 

Some odd things about this place: It had two racks side-by-side, one full of identical copies of the killer-bee disaster novel, The Swarm(Arthur Herzog), and the other full of identical copies of the psycho killer-whale thriller Orca (also by Arthur Herzog). I have no idea why they had hundreds of copies of these two books, or why they didn’t just junk them all. Those stupid books stayed there for years and years.

The other racks had regular, non-identical second-hand books, and a wonderful horror selection. The lovely schlock I waded through when I went to that place! For one of my birthdays a friend of mine just gave me a stack of random novels he bought in bulk from that store. I loved it, because the horror rack in a second hand store is like a beach full of flotsam and old condoms, with treasure buried somewhere beneath.

What did I find there? All the old James Herbert rat-apocalypse books (The Rats, Lair, and Domain), the classic Incubus, by Ray Russel (which I’ve written about), a wonderful coming-of-age werewolf novel called The Orphan, by Robert Stallman, and an absolutely enraging piece-of-shit called Spawn of Hell (William Schoell), which was about strange slug creatures with the faces of their victims’ relatives grafted  onto their heads. I re-read Spawn of Hell whenever I wanted to get mad. 

The United Cigar Store is still there. The incongrous racks of identical Herzog novels are gone, thanks to the 21st century business climate. But a lot of the old second-hand books (the horror in particular) are still there. I would guess that a few of them have not been touched in twenty years. They’re probably lousy with bedbugs and crumbling to acidic dust, although I like to think they’re still there, fine but just a little faded, waiting to be picked up for a buck or two. 

If you’re ever in Halifax, that store is still there, and still in the most central location in Halifax. It’s mainly second-hand, but a lot of stores in Halifax are second-hand. There is a huge second-hand bookstore in the AT&T mall at the corner of Spring Garden and Barrington, and it looks far more dusty and decrepit than The United Cigar Store, if you are so inclined. You can go to these places, or you can go to the wonderful and impossibly ancient Lawrence’s Books here in Vancouver, and see the strange and wondrous world of things that people gave up because they had to move, spring-clean, make a few bucks, get divorced, or clean out a house after a death. 

The inarguable weight and size of books, their tendency to rot and smell, make them automatically antique and obsolete before their time. There were second-hand bookstores long before ebooks, and they have always been places where the slightly oddball among us have come to search for things others might not have valued. 

The second-hand books will moulder as we buy less physical books. Second-hand stores are going to disappear, and the only thing left will be the typical box of 50-cent paperbacks at the Goodwill or the small-town antique store. 

So if you see a second-hand store, go in. Look around, remember. No one will make a second-hand store for second-hand bookstores.