The Occult Detective’s Last Writes with… Bob Ford

TODAY’S DEPARTING:

I met author Robert Ford long before I read his fiction. Bob is one of those free-spirited guys — you know, quick with a smile and in possession of a heart of gold (I hear he keeps it in an old mayonnaise jar, buried under the black Pennsylvanian earth). He’s got wit and charm to spare, but it’s his words that will get you.

What I like about his writing is that it’s real. Real people with real problems. An ordinary Joe, you know, and then there’s a subtle twist of the dial, and suddenly you’re in the Twilight Zone. That’s Bob.

My favorite story by him is Samson and Denial, about a guy who runs a pawn shop and ends up on the wrong end of things when a junkie looks to pawn a mummified head.

If you’re looking to read something different this Hallowe’en, Bob’s your guy. But enough of the flattery, we’ve Last Writes to perform…

LAST MEAL

I thought long and hard about this one because I’ve been privileged to have some incredible meals in my life, and the first that came to mind was a dinner at a small café in New Orleans. It was blackened catfish with a side of seasoned crawfish that the memory itself makes my mouth water. But, if I had to pin it to a last meal, it would, without question, be a dinner in Texas at Killer Con 2019. I won’t mention his name, as I don’t want to embarrass him, but an amazing person in the horror community invited a group to Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse. This wasn’t a dinner so much as an experience. The server and his team handed out cards to everyone at the table and you could flip it up to show “yes, I’d like what food you’re bringing around the table” or flip it down to indicate “no thank you” and the servers would pass you by. Every single morsel wasn’t good. It wasn’t fantastic. It was an entirely new realm of culinary delight. Even the damned salad bar was filled with unique choices, including a spicy, candied bacon that still haunts my dreams. I had an after-dinner drink of an aged cognac that arrived with its own warming candle beneath the glass. Absolutely and completely otherworldly.

LAST BOOK

This question is like trying to answer which child you’d say goodbye to last. Lorenzo Carcaterra’s “Sleepers” comes to mind. King’s “The Stand” or Robert McCammon’s “Boy’s Life” were quick considerations as well. But after taking a moment to look over my bookshelves, it wouldn’t change my mind on the final choice I’d arrive at. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White would be my choice of last book. I grew up an only child on a 55-acre farm in Maryland and spent countless hours roaming the hills or playing in the massive haybarn. We had cows and a few ponies, two pigs and countless chickens. I’d go to the barn and breathe in the sweet smell of hay as I read comics or paperbacks. I’d watch the Barn Swallows fly in and out as they built their nests or fed their hatchlings. Sometimes I’d find a litter of kittens in the hay from a stray cat. It was a magical way of growing up and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. When I read “Charlotte’s Web” for the first time, the book couldn’t possibly have described farm life any better. I’ve read it many times since, and the core story of true friendship and what that means, along with the sweet nostalgia of my memories on the farm, has always made me smile.

LAST SONG

“Imperial March” maybe? No, no. Okay, serious thought here. My musical tastes vary widely from Nine Inch Nails and Tool, to Muddy Waters’ stellar “Electric Mud” release, Johnny Cash, Dave Brubeck, and The Cure, and I listen to music whenever I write. For me, it helps form a rhythm as I type, most definitely sets a tone for the work, and depending on what I’m working on, I adjust accordingly. But the one single song I’d choose as my last song would be Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”. The thing is, I don’t own a single classical music CD. Not one. The first time I ever heard Barber’s Adagio was at a concert in Baltimore to see The Cure. It was sunset, and the venue was open seating at an outdoor park. People were sitting on blankets and talking, laughing, drinking. The weather forecast had called for a chance of rain, but the threat had passed. The sky was painted in fireball red and orange, and as everyone waited for the show to begin, “Adagio for Strings” began to play. People continued to talk and laugh, but we all knew the music was an indication the show would start fairly soon. But as I listened, and the music grew and grew until the high-pitched crescendo near the end, everyone grew quiet. Everyone stopped and seemed to simply take in the music itself, to be lifted up and encompassed by it. More than a few people were moved to tears, myself included.

FIRST PERSON YOU’D LIKE TO MEET ON THE OTHER SIDE

My maternal grandmother, Essie. She could be tough on people at times, but had a unique sense of humor, and was a natural storyteller. So many times, as a young kid, I’d sit away from the grownups, watching and listening to the stories they exchanged. I heard about seances, though I didn’t truly grasp the meaning at the time. I’d hear about tough times they went through when they were younger, or funny stories as they grew up. I’d sit there like a gargoyle and take it all in—not only the story itself, but how the story was told, the rhythm and cadence of it all. The word choices and pauses. It’s one of the reasons I started writing. Pretty sure if I saw her on the other side, she’d smile and hold her hand out and say “Was wondering when I’d see you again. Now here… pull my finger.”

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