Monday, May 12, 2008

Jason Van Hollander dips into Classic Imagery to Illustrate Attack of the Jazz Giants

Attack of the Jazz Giants

Golden Gryphon Press chose the cover artist for Attack of the Jazz Giants, and in "Six-Degrees of Separation" event, they selected Jason Van Hollander, a multiple World Fantasy Award winning artist who also happens to live a block from me.

I live in an artistic community, though you wouldn't know it if you came to visit. On the surface, everything appears to be normal here, the way it would be if we'd all been taken over by pods from outer space. My next door neighbor, Bryan Willette, is a stained glass artist. Up the street is carpenter, and next to him a guy who builds movie sets. Across the street from Jason, a photographer. Behind us, a guitar virtuoso. A few blocks away, a children's book illustrator/writer.

This communal spirit created a rare collaborative bond between us. Not only was Jason showing me sketches for the cover, he was also proposing to include interior illustrations for the stories.

I printed out the stories that we'd selected for the collection and he read them. He asked questions about them. He followed me home in the dark. (You, you foolish people, you think I'm kidding.)We spent time in a few libraries, researching source material. I hunted up images of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope for him, while he invaded the stacks on a quest for odd Russian iconography for another set of drawings. He threw himself into the creation of the book, vanishing for days, weeks, at a time, only to turn up with another weird piece of carefully stippled illustration--of Elvis nailed up as Jesus, of a drug-warped head of Edgar Allan Poe topping the body of the Conqueror Worm, of the Virgin Mary reflected in the protective goggles of a face that looks remarkably like his own.

All of this time and effort he put into the project was out of pure love for it, because the publisher couldn't pay for interiors. They were getting them because he was compelled to create them.

Only two artists I've ever worked with have solicited opinions from me about the artwork they proposed to put on my books: Thomas Thiemeyer, who painted the magnificent covers for the Shadowbridge books; and Jason Van Hollander, whose strange and grotesque artwork is the personification of Arkham House the way it used to be--the distorted, twisted architecture of Innsmouth and a dozen other Lovecraftian landscapes.

Derangement turned inside out. And yet, like a diseased mirror, his work reflects the range of dark fantasy and horror and, yes, humor that lies between the covers of Attack of the Jazz Giants & Other Stories. I can't imagine these stories of mine now without the accompanying illustrations. And in the process I gained a mordant, talented, remarkable friend.

So long as his sly wit graces the neighborhood, I'll know that we've not yet been taken over completely by the pod people.

gf (with assistance from Don Lafferty)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Day at the Poe House

I visited the Edgar Allan Poe house (yes, yes, I was in the Poe don't make that joke, I already did) this afternoon to hear a lecture by Edward Pettit, a local (Philadelphia) Poe expert. The subject of the talk, however, was author George Lippard, who was a good friend of Poe's--one of the few who stayed a friend of his to the very end. Lippard was, in his day, a huge best-selling writer with his novel The Quaker City or The Monks of Monk Hall. It was, as Pettit informed us, a kitchen sink of a novel, filled with endless acts of depravity, nightmarish hallucinations, an evil cabal of the wealthiest men in the city, premonitory visions of the decayed Philadelphia of 1950, and, lest that fail to do you in, necrophilia. No wonder it was so popular.

Lippard was a novelist, editor, publisher, and a proto-Marxist who campaigned for the rights of the downtrodden. His output was prodigious--approximately a million words a year for the ten years he wrote before his untimely death from consumption. He is all but forgotten now (in fact he was referred to as a forgotten author by the 1870s), but Pettit and others are attempting to rescue
from obscurity this gothic novelist of grotesque and noir sensibilities. And while we're at it, the same for Charles Brockden Brown!

If any of that sounds like fun, go to
where you can read pieces of Lippard's work; or to Pettit's Ed and Edgar blog at

gf out