Frank Bill e-mailed me a copy of DONNYBROOK a couple months back. I remember my first reaction being something like “What the hell is this guy doing?” Kind of like when I watched that Grizzly Man documentary about the nut job that decided to live with the bears up in Alaska and sort of forgot they weren’t his pets, so eventually one of them ate him. Except Frank probably would have been poking the bears with a stick. Probably would have made them get up and dance. Or more likely, lined up some kind of Grizzly cage match where the winner has to go fight a tiger or something.
My second reaction was “I can’t stop reading this.” Except it was a different kind of can’t-stop-reading. It wasn’t just this is a good story and I want to see how it ends. It had a weird sort of voyeuristic edge to it. A thirteen-year-old-who-snuck-into-the-freak-show edge to it. A frisson of guilt, really, like I’d peeked around the corner and there was the paddle-armed bearded lady and she was getting it on with the goat boy and wasn’t my mom just gonna freakin’ skin my ass if she catches me looking at this. I mean this, this was different.
Part of the weird for me was the whole Indiana thing. Indiana’s right next store, for Christ’s sake. I’ve driven down I-65 lots of times. Must have stopped in Southern Indiana before, for gas or something. But from now on, I’m topping up the tank in Indianapolis, cranking up the windows, locking the doors, putting the cruise control on 80 and not even looking out the windows until I cross the Ohio River and get into Louisville. Some nasty shit’s going on out there. It’s where the wild things really are, and Frank Bill is their king, and when Frank starts the wild rumpus, then the blood and body parts fly around like he’s taken a chainsaw to a human piñata.
I also remember thinking man, this shit is great, but who’s gonna publish it? You got your risk-averse, increasingly monolithic publishing industry out there, bean counters and number crunchers who’ll put out a piece of shit like Glenn Beck’s purported thrilled ‘cause they know a mess of his ditto-head radio lemmings’ll buy it, how are you gonna get a publisher to take on this monster? As a writer, Frank’s working without a net. He’s run convention through a shredder and is definitely dancing to the beat of his own drummer – I think it’s a zombie version of Keith Moon. Goes to show what I know. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux has signed Frank to a two book deal – first, a collection of his short fiction and then DONNYBROOK.
Congrats to Frank. And for the rest of you, put Frank’s name on your own personal watch list. You’re gonna want you some of this.