Hunting John Skipp, Craig Spector, and Other Things

“Fetish properties are not unlike porn.  I’d feel guilty taking their money, if I wasn’t…well, kinda one of them.” – John Cusack, High Fidelity [possibly in the book, too, but I haven’t read it in close to eight years, so there you go.]

So last week, Evans Light, a fellow writer, sent me a paperback copy of John Skipp & Craig Spector’s second novel (third one, technically, since they also wrote the novelization for the movie Fright Night, but whatever), The Cleanup.  Evans a bit of a collector–if you’re friends with him on social media, he frequently posts his UBS (Used Book Stores) hauls of paperbacks, or gives himself five dollars/minutes in some random thrift store to see what he can uncover, or posts #cheesyhorrorcovers.

The man’s a bloodhound, sniffing out multiple copies of books you think are rare.  You think that, until he posts a picture displaying three copies he found in the back of some random St. Vincent de Paul store.  When I expressed absolute shock at seeing a copy of The Cleanup in one of his hauls, he offered one to me (he had two other copies–of course he goddam did), and then sent it to me.  In fact, it was waiting for me when I arrived home from a wedding I officiated (that’s another story).

Anyway, here it is:

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Also pictured: my uncut grass.  Not pictured: a single fuck given.

Receiving this book completes my little collection: the complete run of Skipp & Spector novels: from The Light at the End to Animals.  Published only as paperbacks in the mid-1980s through the early-1990s, the books disappeared right around the time the partnership between Spector and Skipp did, with each man going their own way and the novels disappearing into the nethers of…wherever.

I first encountered S&S the way a fair number of thirty-something horror fans/writers did: via Stephen King.  He published the zombie story “Home Delivery” in their anthology Book of the Dead in 1989, reprinting it for his Nightmares & Dreamscapes collection in 1993.  During their short Beatles-like tenure (“Beatles-like” because how they burst onto the scene, became–for better or worse–the vanguard for the nascent “splatterpunk” movement, and how they self-destructed together and built strong solo careers), they wrote screenplays, racked up blurbs, were vilified, discussed, and imitated.  Nowadays, they’re like divorced parents at a family reunion, godfathers in their own corners, with a lot of mutual friends.

Anyway, I first found a Skipp & Spector book in 2009–The Bridge–in a UBS, and that began my own little collecting.  I don’t collect the way I did when I was a kid, when it was comics and music and I was compulsive.  Age, time, having a child to raise…they all keep things in check.  Now its certain hardcover books, or rare titles (I’m forever looking, for example, for Jack Finney’s I Love Galesburg in the Springtime).  But, for others–Evans, of course, pops immediately to mind–it continues.  Books, films, art, toys, comics, music, instruments.  Jay Leno collects cars.  I also hate Jay Leno, but never mind.

Besides, although I’m passionate for collecting, still, there’s something to finding.  It isn’t the acquisition, but the hunt itself.  It’s seeing a pile of whatever fetish gets your fancy–I’m channeling Robert Bloch, there–and sifting through it, your heart racing just the tiniest bit at the possibility of maybe–maybe!–finding that one piece you’ve been looking for.  It’s savoring that search, the way you slowly chew a delicious bite of food before swallowing.

There’s a bookstore near where I live here in Northern Virginia–McKay’s Used Books–that, the first time I went in there, I froze.  It was just aisles and aisles of books, taller than my 6’2″, seemingly as long a small county airport.  It took me an hour just to go through the horror section.  Oh, the beauty.

So, getting back to Skipp & Spector, from The Bridge, I found The Light at the End (and then found those two books everywhere; a paperback version of Blue Car Syndrome), then Animals.  Then, at McKay’s, I found The Scream and Dead Lines.  And, each time, with that mental list in my head, the rush of the hunt, the short spurt of joy at finding one of your coveted wants…and then, almost, a sad musing.  The hunt is over.  Completed.  It’s actually kinda depressing.

But, hey, you found your thing!

Anyway, with Evans help, my current hunt for Skipp & Spector is over, as seen below:

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Also pictured…oh, hey, lookit that, a copy of Jamais Vu Issue 3, which features a loooong interview I did with Craig Spector in September of 2014 (and some cracking good fiction, like Damien Angelica Walters’s Bram Stoker-nominated “Floating Girls: A Documentary”).  I honestly don’t know how that got into the shot; the damned thing photobombed the books.

And, honestly, it’s a little sad that the hunt’s over…but I have the book!  I can read it now!

And I can’t be that sad, really; I mean, I still have Jack Finney to hunt for.

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