"More Modern Mythmakers" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Crystal Lake Publishing

Written by Michael McCarty
2022, 300 pages, Fiction
Released on 24th June 2022

Review:

More Modern Mythmakers is the sequel to Modern Mythmakers (2015), also released by Crystal Lake Publishing, which contains interviews with a wide range of horror, science fiction, dark fantasy authors and filmmakers. Some of the pieces are brand new, others are partial updates of previously published discussions, with a few of the oldest date back to 2005. As well as being a widely published horror author, Michael McCarty is no stranger to interviewing genre leaders, with Giants of the Genre (2003) and More Giants of the Genre (2004) being two of his earlier works.

I approached More Modern Mythmakers in a random manner, reading the pieces out of synch and focussing upon those individuals I was most familiar with. If anything, the range of names and genres is too wide, but even if I had not previously come across a person, they were still worth exploring and upon finishing the book I had several new leads to follow up. There are far too many interviews to discuss in any depth, so here is a brief main-genre breakdown of the twenty-five included, with many writing across multiple fields:

Horror:
Steve Alten, Dennis Etchison, John Everson, Ray Garton, Sephera Giron, Owl Goingback, Charles Grant, Nancy Holder, Paul Kane, Ronald Kelly, Joe Lansdale, Bentley Little, Jeff Long, Jonathan Maberry, Elizabeth Massie, Jeff Strand and J.N. Williamson.

Fantasy:
Terry Brooks and Charles de Lint.

Science Fiction:
Alan Dean Foster, Larry Niven, Harry Turtledove and Connie Willis.

Actors/Film:
Reggie Bannister and William Stout.

Considering the vast majority are horror authors, the non-horror inclusions stick out and the book might have had more focus if it had concentrated solely on this particular genre. For example, Reggie Bannister (from the Phantasm films) is the only actor and William Stout is the sole artist/illustrator, so those are the most obvious areas to lose. After that, the fantasy and science fiction writers would be not too far behind.

Although all the interviews are unique and tailored towards the individual, McCarty does ask some of the same questions, with the respondents often giving cool writing advice or revealing which was their most difficult or easy book to pen. Other recurring questions include variations of: What type of monster would you most like to be? Inspiration behind particular books, why did you become a writer? How do you maintain an active fascination with horror? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if so, what’s the cure? And so on.

Many of those covered are winners of the Bram Stoker Award and McCarty makes a point of asking what this award means to them, with unsurprisingly glowing responses. I would not have bothered with this question, this might be because I am British, but it’s worth noting that only Americans seem to win the Stoker (the few exceptions are usually honorary prizes) and I do not rate this award as a trademark of quality in the horror world and the question overstates its significance in the genre.

I read the Jeff Long interview first and was disappointed to find it was written in 2010 and requires significant updating. Long wrote two magnificent stone-cold masterpieces, The Descent (1999) and Deeper (2007), and repeatedly refers to the third book in the trilogy Deliverance. Where is it? This book has never been published in the twelve years since the interview was conducted and one can only presume that it will now never see the light of day (but here’s hoping). This fact should have been flagged at the editing stage. If nothing else, one can hope this interview will bring new readers to the awesome Descent, but existing fans will find it frustrating as their thoughts will mirror my own.

I enjoyed reconnecting with authors who I had read years or decades ago, in particular Terry Brooks (interview from 2005) and Larry Niven (partially new). When in my twenties, I adored the Sword of Shannara (Brooks) fantasy series  and the Ringworld hard science fiction (Niven) books and it was nice to hear the thought processes of these great writers, although republishing an interview which is nearly twenty years old seems like too much time has passed.

Some of the other highlights include a funny interview with the brilliant and prolific Jeff Strand; a great piece with Bentley Little, where he reveals he hardly ever gets asked to do interviews (not that he doesn’t like them); and Jonathan Maberry’s thoughts on zombies and writing action-orientated horror. Several of the features deal with how authors dipped in and out of existing franchises and kept things fresh, ranging from Buffy, Star Wars to The X-Files. I knew little of Steve Alten but enjoyed reading about how The Meg become a Jason Statham film twenty years after his novel was first released. Neither had I read Ronald Kelly, but his engaging interview made me keen to sample his brand of ‘Southern brand horror’ and check out his upcoming autobiography.

More Modern Mythmakers is not aimed at casual readers, but if you are after a deeper dive into horror and interconnecting genres, there is much on offer here and thousands of nuggets waiting to be uncovered. As the majority of the authors are genre living legends, this book also has a wide range of tips and advice from those who have been there already, sampled success, bought the t-shirt and are kindly willing to share their sage advice.

Grades:

Overall: 4 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
Cover
Buy from Amazon UK.

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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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