Author Jeffery X Martin Unleashes Horror Novel, ‘The Flock’

I’ve known Jeffery X Martin since about 1996 and he never ceases to surprise. {Ed. note – Jeffery X Martin is the senior editor of Biff Bam Pop.] Jeff writes in a way that draws you in, like a casual conversation with a friend, but by the time you realize he’s not your friend and you do not want to go where he’s taking you, it’s too late. You’re addicted to the dread and you’ve got to go all the way down, because you can not NOT know what happens next. His power over narrative continues to grow in his seventh book, The Flock, which is out today from Shadow Work Publishing. The Flock marks the fifth book in the continuing saga of the people and town of Elders Keep, a fictional town in East Tennessee.

Jeffery X Martin

“The Keep is based on the twenty-some-odd years I spent in Sevier County, TN,” Martin explains. “Elders Keep itself is based on Sevierville. Bell Plains is Pigeon Forge. I namecheck Knoxville in Elders Keep stories all the time, but only as a peripheral. I knew cops in Sevier County. They would tell me about horrific, unexplainable things that happened in that area. Why was there a corpse dug up, sitting upright against its tombstone, missing its head in the cemetery off of Henderson Springs in the Forge? No idea, but that happened. Seriously, that weird little pocket of East Tennessee has so many whispered tales of horror and mystery, I could spend the rest of my life collecting them. It’s easier to condense them and throw them all into Elders Keep. It’s probably more fun, too.”

Jeff started the cycle of stories of The Keep in Black Friday, a collection of short stories that introduced us to many of the characters we’re still living with in The Flock. Hunting Witches was the first big novel and it read like a spider web, where you were hopelessly caught, just waiting for that big spider to come and finish you off. It was gruesome and heartbreaking and demanded a sequel, which is The Flock, but Jeff released two novellas first, Parham’s Field and The Ridge, both excellent books that really deepened the mythos.

“I worked on The Flock for three years,” Martin says. “Way too freakin’ long. It changed so much during the initial stages. I went through starts and stops, getting pages into the story, then chucking it and beginning again. Hell, I wrote two books when I should have been working on The Flock. The fact that I finally pulled everything together is amazing by itself. In the end, I reached back to my second book, Short Stories About You, and ended up creating one of my better characters. She plays a big part in The Flock, and I hope to tell you more about her future in books to come.”

Befitting a follow up to a book as epic as Hunting Witches, The Flock carries a lot of emotional weight, with the end of Witches still haunting the town and burdening the sheriff, whose failure to solve the case fires up tension among the folks of The Keep.

“It (The Flock) picks up three years after the end of the last book,” Martin explains. “All the recurring Elders Keep characters show up, plus some new folks. The bad guys from Hunting Witches haven’t been caught yet, but there’s a revival going on at the edge of town. Those two elements connect. Things get weird, there’s a lot of fire, and a bunch of people die. The Flock is about faith and retribution. But it can also be taken as a straight horror story, hopefully a standalone book, but one that still fits in with the entire Elders Keep mythos. The hope is that there are nuances and layers to the story, but the reader gets to interpret that. Really, if it’s a good book, that’s cool with me.”

‘Good book’ hardly covers it, The Flock is a hell of a book. Back when we used to hang out together at a bar called Manhattan’s in Knoxville’s Old City, I didn’t know what a literary powerhouse he was or was to become, because I knew him as a musician then. We lost contact for most of the 00s, as I did a lot of moving and we didn’t have social media. A while after we reconnected I received Black Friday in the mail and the mix of Lovecraft and Clive Barker level scares in that book really knocked me for a loop. One story, in particular, prompted me to message him something along the lines of “fuck you!” because it contained two of my biggest fears- dentistry and spiders- in one story. But Jeff doesn’t wear his influences on his shirt like a button. I was reminded of this or that, but I wondered where who his influences were.

“Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Kurt Vonnegut, and Hunter S Thompson,” Martin says. “King and Campbell taught me what ‘scary’ was. Vonnegut showed me that unadorned language was best, and that you could let intense, complex concepts roam free through that simplicity. Thompson showed me the kind of brutality that could be unleashed by using the language as a weapon. I learned more by reading those four authors than I could have from any college or alleged ‘Masterclass’ course. If I’m doing it right, I have brought all four of those viewpoints together into a cohesive, frightening and funny thing. If I have done it wrong, then I have screwed it all up. Best wishes for the next thing.”

But music plays a big role as well.

“So much Iron Maiden, dude. Live After Death may be the greatest live album of all time. That’s the norm for me, but for The Flock, I listened to tons of post-hardcore. Thursday was huge for me during the creative process. I even named one chapter after their song, ‘Marches and Maneuvers.’ The Metallica album, Death Magnetic, was on heavy rotation. Some Copeland, some Secret & Whisper, and a lot of Rush. Test for Echo and Vapor Trails were big for me. I’m always listening to music while I write. It informs everything I do. I’m on a big The Paper Chase kick right now, and that’s already hilariously creepy stuff. I’m wondering what that will kick up in my brain for the next book.”

Order your copy of The Flock HERE.



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