Stuart R. West’s novel Demon with a Comb-Over quickly won me over. At first, I believed I was in for a saucy romp. Soon, though, the story turned in some of the creepiest moments in a book I’ve read in recent memory. We learn that Charlie has accidentally singled out a man who he initially thinks is a good target during one of his stand-ups. Turns out it’s actually Kobal, who, naturally, turns his own sites on Charlie and his long-suffering daughter. It’s a brilliant twist.
Here’s the thing that makes it all work for me. Charlie is painfully real. His passion is standup comedy, but he is not so good at it. He perseveres, regardless. I think most of us can relate to that. We all want to be great at what we’re passionate about. When we’re not, and the world cruelly tunes us out, it can make most abandon ship. On the flipside, it can make a dedicated few work harder and try harder, hoping there’s some magic, missing quotient for them to discover. That’s where Demon with a Comb-Over feels like a classic tragedy, and succeeds. It’s also very funny, at turns. Having reached out to Stuart, I found him to be equally funny and charismatic as his book.
We also both have been crouched under the Samhain tent as the hurricane has hit. Our last books with the imprint didn’t get the push or attention as much as we’d hoped, so we thought we’d do what we could, and talk about them here. I do hope someone takes on Stuart. I mean, check out this bit about something that almost came out from Samhain:
Dread and Breakfast. Think “Psycho” but with a bunch of damaged, darkly amusing characters: a psychotic, religious married couple; a germophobic mobster; an embezzling wallflower accountant; a hitman who puts family first; an abusive husband; a charming but sociopathic cop; a woman on the run fighting for her young daughter’s life; and of course, Jim and Dolores Dandy, bread and breakfast owners and serial killers.
Welcome to the Dandy Drop Inn. A finer bed and breakfast can’t be found in the Midwest. Hospitality’s the name, murder’s the game. Kick your shoes off, warm up next to the cozy fireplace during the winter storm. Delight over the chocolate pecan pie, everyone’s family here. Don’t fret about the mounting bodies piling up. Try not to let the other strange guests get under your skin, it takes all kinds. And whatever you do, don’t go into the cellar. Business as usual at the ol’ Dandy Drop Inn. A wonderful getaway you won’t soon forget. You just might not survive the night.
I also thought it’d be fun as hell (get it?) to do something a little fun instead of a straight interview. So here’s …
13 Things You Never Knew About Stuart R. West!
*I was in an alternative/art performance band where I played a mentally unstable person (“Cousin Bo”). I wore pajamas on stage, swung around a saxophone and rarely played it. I also shaved my head on-stage with fake stage-blood which once caused the bar owner to call 911.
*I saw Dr. Joyce Brothers in lingerie! I worked at a PR firm. My job was to take photos. When my fellow gal worker went with me, she knocked on Dr. Brother’s door. The doc asked, “who is it?” She answered just for herself. The door opened. My eyes, my eyes!
*Back in the day, I was a world-class videotape trader. The best in the business. I accumulated 30,000 movies from across the world, mostly horror, a lot of them unsubbed and undubbed. Late last year, my “nest egg” went the way of a dumpster. Mold happens. One of the saddest days of my life. My wife and I spent two solid days carrying them out from the basement.
*As a school-skipping kid, I once shared a cigarette with Frank Gorshin (in town for a radio interview to plug his comedy review at “The Golden Buffet”). He was standing on the lawn of the radio station. I told the girl I was with who he was (Batman’s “Riddler”). She didn’t believe me, so we went forth. He ended up signing her paperback novel of (can’t remember the title) a tale of demonic and sexual possession.
*After college, I tried stand-up comedy. Burned worse than my protagonist, Charlie, from my novel, Demon with a Comb-Over.
*For over twenty years, I was a graphic artist and manager of a big North Kansas City publishing company. And I still don’t trust my talents to do my own covers.
*I’ve written 12 novels, put out by three publishers. I also have a children’s picture book coming late in the year. Eventually I’d like to try my hand at most genres. Except erotica. Not that there’s anything wrong with it! I just find it boring after a while. Still…it sells!
*When I was in grade school I knew I wanted to be a writer. Just took me a while to get there.
*I’m married to a college professor of pharmacy, a world-renowned specialist in natural products. Her drug expertise (um, not the kind I specialized in during high school!) comes in handy for some of my thrillers.
*True confession time! I love bad movies. Absolutely adore them. Give me a schlocky, awful Andy Milligan piece of junk over Titanic any day. During a recent visit, my nephew checked out my DVD collection. He asked, “Don’t you ever watch any good movies?” “Um, no,” I said. Don’t judge me!
*My friends and I almost kidnapped “Skippy” from Family Ties back in the day during a spring break in Texas. Long story, that.
*In high school, I worked at a McDonald’s for one day. When I blasted the tartar sauce gun too hard (which shot the fish sandwich off the table), I found it pretty funny. My boss didn’t.
*I brought my daughter up watching horror movies. I was so proud of her the other day when she gave a lecture to my young nephews about the trajectory of the Nightmare of Elm Street saga. She did it with confidence, knowledge, acting out and humor. My girl!