Thursday, November 03, 2011

The question I didn't ask: Was Nirvana the Stalin of rock music? (Indie Book Review)

The Indie Book Review's second installment; click here for an explanation.

One day, Tom is just a guy running a general store, until a bunch of local thugs kidnap the woman he's in love with, leaving him with a corpse, an errand, and an entry way into a world he doesn't really seem to believe exists.

That's the set-up for A Dead God's Wrath, by Rusty Webb, which itself is a set-up to what promises to be a longer book (or, series of books? *fingers crossed*) but which as a stand-alone story does just fine, too.

The story begins at breakneck pace, almost literally, as Tom is in a hurry to get to the Market House; with little ado, we learn that Tom's taking a body to an old building downtown in the old-timey southeastern city where he's set up shop, and that he's doing so because Mary, a friend of his who Tom wants to be more than friends with, told him if anything bad ever happens -- without specifying what bad might be -- he should do that.

After dumping the body into the muck of the house, Tom bumps into a mysterious man waiting in the shadows, and a bit of a flashback sets up what happened: Mary's been kidnapped by local thugs and Tom has to come up with $1000 to ransom her. The stranger agrees to help and shortly thereafter things get even weirder, with Tom bravely standing up to the thugs only to find out that there are forces at work he doesn't even begin to comprehend.

A Dead God's Wrath felt to me a lot like a Western (although, setting-wise, it's actually a southeastern) but what I liked about it (since I don't like westerns) was that the entire book felt permeated with a sense of magic and dread, as well as speed; it might be a carryover from the opening scene but this book rips through its story quickly, which isn't a bad thing: Webb provides details of the scenes and backgrounds to flesh out the imagination (the description of the stranger's face, for one, is horrifyingly vivid) while keeping the pace up. It's the first sci-fi/fantasy-ish western I ever read, and I'm glad I did, because it brought a fresh spin to both those genres.

A Dead God's Wrath is available on Amazon and the Kindle; I read it on the Kindle. is intended to set up more story, and Webb's writing makes me want to read the rest of that story. But, at the risk of slowing down the publication of the book that'll finish up the story, I asked him if he wouldn't mind answering

10 1/2 questions for an Indie Author:
The format, as always, being 3 questions about the book, 3 about the author, 3 I want to ask, and then one unsolveable problem, plus the half a question...

About Your Book:

1. What is the deal with the Market House where Thomas takes the corpse? Are we going to find out more about that in the next book?

I generally set any story I write in Knoxville, Tennessee or a surrounding area. I'm a huge local history buff. The real Market House in Knoxville was torn down decades before I was born, but for a century it was the center of the universe for anyone living near the city. If you wanted to buy or sell anything you wanted to be as close to the Market House as you could.

But the history of the place is bizarre, its founder died in a shootout with a bank president during the middle of a business day. The place served as a munitions depot and barracks for Union soldiers a decade after it was opened. The locals hated the place as much as they needed it. The stench of farm animals had a tendency to drive away the customers that came for other goods. The original Market House wasn't built well and was an eyesore. It was torn down and rebuilt just before the end of the 19th century, but that original House was by all accounts, odd.

I thought the Market House would serve as a notable meeting point for any traveler coming to town, and it gave me an excuse to explore a bit more of my local history. Beyond that, I have no plans to incorporate it into any future stories.

2. There's just the barest hint of actual magic occurring in your book: the coin, for example. But the whole novella seems charged with a weird kind of energy. Did you deliberately downplay the use of magic, and if so, why? (I'm using "magic" to mean "otherwordly occurrences.")

Suspension of disbelief if a real problem for me. As a reader, when wizards are throwing around city destroying magic bolts or turning desk lamps into rabbits I'm scratching my head and trying to figure out how something like that could be possible. The only way I can make sense of any story that contains magic is if I can, at least conceptually, understand that the laws of thermodynamics are being obeyed.

I take Arthur C Clarke's statement that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic to heart though. So, within the larger mythos of my story world, we've got groups of people that are using advanced hand-me-down technology that is thousands of years old, no one has the ability to manufacture or repair any of these items, so they behave almost like magic in the context of the story. Since our viewpoint is Tom, a bright man, but still of his time, he doesn't have the tools to interpret what he's seeing as anything but witchcraft.

The brain is a fickle thing, it sees what it expects to, not what is actually there.

So, to answer your question directly, instead of dancing around it, I did downplay the overt magical/otherworldly elements. The story takes place in a world much like ours, where truly, undeniably alien events just don't happen. I wanted there to be some ambiguousness to what Tom was experiencing for as long as possible.

3. Which character did you think up first for this book?

Tom, he's me. Or at least a version of me. I can't really write from viewpoints that are too foreign to what I know. That isn't to say I haven't tried, I've just not been very successful at it. So far, everything I've ever written has had a central character that is more or less me, perhaps slightly more heroic that the real me, thrust into some predicament.

About You:

4. Your blog is called The Blutonian Death Egg. I tried googling that and could only find references to your blog. Explain the title.

I like the sound of it. I make up words all the time in conversations. I like the cadence, the sound, the meter of something. So a string of syllables that I liked turned into The Blutonian Death Egg.

Also, it's what I named the Mcguffin that everyone in my first (still unpublished) novel is after.

5. You blame (or credit?) Nirvana for destroying your rock-and-roll dreams: What kind of musician were you, and what did Nirvana do?

I was a guitar player, specializing in those 8 minute solos that were relatively technical, but not the most pleasing thing in the world to listen to. I wore pirate shirts, had long hair, and preferred to hear male singers crone in their best falsetto...

Nirvana came along and didn't bother with the more theatrical aspect of music, and went for simpler, more primal type of rock.

Almost overnight the world recognized how corny the 80's rock had become and it crashed hard and fast. My dreams died within a month of Nirvana getting debuted on MTV.

6. What photo of yours is in the Smithsonian? Did you ever go look at it? If so, did you stand near the photo and say "My god, this photographer is a genius!"

I'm sure it's gone now, but I took a photo of my son and nephew playing and thought it was pretty good. I got wind of a photography competition sponsored by the Smithsonian mag. I submitted, won, or at least was a runner up, and they published it and put it up as part of a photography exhibit in their museum.

I did go to see it in person, I didn't have to say a word, as my son told everyone that visited the museum that day that yes, that was his photo on the wall, and no, he wouldn't be signing autographs.

photo (24).JPG

Stuff I Feel Like Asking You About:

7. So far, M&Ms have had chocolate, peanuts, almonds, and pretzels in them. What should be the next M&M filling, and why?

When I was a kid I heard that E.T., from the classic Spielberg movie, was supposed to have wanted M&M's, but the fine folks running the candy conglomerate thought it was a horrible idea and wanted no part of it. So Reece's got the opportunity instead. I don't know if that's true or not, but based solely on that 30 year old rumor, I hope M&M's burn in hell.

Oh, you had a question. I think they should use Reece's Pieces as a filling. Because that would make me like them better. And again, E.T. gets the last laugh.

8. True or False: Will Ferrell's role as "Young Man" in the 1995 TV movie "A Bucket Of Blood" represented the high point of his career.

False - I would have gone with True there had he not starred in Zoolander. Zoolander trumps everything for everyone.

9. What's the worst letter in the English alphabet?

Q - It's redundant. I can use a K, or even a C to get the same point across. Hell, don't get me started with the whole, "there needs to be a 'U' with it" thing either. That letter is ridiculous.

The Unsolvable Question:

10. The Gettier Problem: Plato defined knowledge as "true belief justified by facts." Edmund Gettier in 1963 pointed to instances where someone had a belief that was in actuality true, but the person was not aware of the facts supporting his position, thereby disproving Plato's definition of knowledge. Define "knowledge," using less than 20 words.

True belief based on and justified by facts.

And the final half-question: Finish, then answer, this question: One person I...

... think was worse than Hitler?

Stalin. The guy was wicked in a way I have a hard time comprehending. He may have been directly responsible for more deaths than any individual in history. Why don't politicians compare more members of an opposing party to Stalin? Seems more appropriate really, since his atrocities were mostly done to his own people and not the world in general. Voted to spend money on Parks for dogs? Stalin. Voted for Healthcare? Stalin. Voted for tax increases on the rich? Stalin.


Again, you can buy A Dead God's Wrath on Amazon/Kindle. It looks like you can get it on Smashwords, too. Rusty Webb also contributed stories to the anthology Jackson & Central, which likewise is available on Amazon, so why not make it a twofer?


Want your own indie book featured here? I'll buy your book, read it, review it, and you get your own crack at fame, fortune, and that unsolveable question. Just Email me by clicking here and put "Indie book review" or some such in the subject line.


Rogue Mutt said...

Just three weeks until I get my Kindle and I can download this!

Stephen Hayes said...

Our son was a big Nirvana fan and I thought I'd lose my mind if I heard" Smells Like Teen Spirit" one more time. Now, years later, Kurt Cobain sounds like Mozart.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Awesome interview! And I'd offer to hunt down and kill Cobain for you, but he's already dead.
Rusty's book is awesome! Highly recommend it to anyone.

Rusty Webb said...

Thanks for the kind review. You're way too kind. Perfect for my fragile ego. Please keep it up.

So sad that my award winning photo didn't show up on the post though. I'm sure it would have brought in thousands.

Nancy said...

Rusty, I think I have learned more about you here than in the last five years. Maybe we all need to talk to each other instead of our writing in group? Nah, good stuff though. Thanks for the post Briane.