appearing with Dennis Cooper, Martha Kinney & Benjamin Weissman, Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside, Friday November 5, free
Derek McCormack writes darkly imaginative fiction that evokes the chill and excitement of your first taste of autumn-crisp air and spooky romps through the cemetery. His most recent work, a novella entitled Haunted Hillbilly, explores the alternate reality of Hank Williams' life as manipulated by a vampire version of Nudie Cohn, the famously garish rodeo clothier who outfitted celebrities like Cher, Elvis, and Gram Parsons. Appearing this Friday as part of Dennis Cooper's Little House on the Bowery tour, McCormack is as direct and oddly funny in person as his prose is on the page.
Much of what you write is set between Halloween and Christmas. Do you consider yourself a "holiday person"?
I love the fakery of the holidays; they're never commercial enough for me. I'm finishing up a nonfiction book that's a history of Christmas shopping in Canada. I did chapters on the history of fake snow, the history of fake icicles, the history of Santa costumes. It's been a blast.
Your writing has often been compared, style-wise, to comic books.
I wanted The Haunted Hillbilly to be a comic. Hank Williams loved monster comics, the great '50s horror stuff. So I set out to make a horror comic with Hank as the star. The artist Ian Phillips took a couple chapters from Hillbilly and made Western Suit, a chapbook in the form of a clothing pattern. He designed and drew it and had an actual pattern making company print and package it. It's amazing. The actual pattern in it is accurate. You could use it to make a western shirt.
Haunted Hillbilly considers a sexual relationship between Hank Williams and the late "Nudie" Cohn. Have you gotten any negative feedback for taking artistic license with such legends?
I've gotten a little guff. Someone posted a review on amazon.com that begins: "Nudie was neither gay nor a vampire." Some reviews have made it sound like the book's a biography of Hank and Nudie. It's not. It's fantasy. I mean, there's an army of man-eating bats!