By Franklin E. Wales
While on a stop in Wheeling West Virginia, I knew we had to check in with the good doctor, Dr. Pus. No that is not his real name, but that title does appear before his real name. It’s understandable, when you stop to think how you’d feel if you learned that guy with all the diplomas on the wall, that you are trusting a portion of your health to, spends most of his out of office hours knee deep in festering undead creatures who consume human flesh. Doc, as he’s lovingly known to his hundreds of fans, is the creator and owner of the Library Of The Living Dead Press, a website and small publishing house devoted to the undead.
After a quick phone call, Jacki and I went to meet the good doctor and his lovely wife of nearly 25 years, Tam. He chose a favorite haunt of his, an amazing little bar in Chester WV named “The Turf” I’d highly recommend you stop by if you are in the area.
FEW: Let’s not mince words here; Doc, when did you get this unhealthy love for the living dead?
DP: (Laughing) Well, it actually started with a “vampire” movie. I was in 6th grade and staying at a friend’s house overnight. Just so happened that Chiller Theater, with “Chilly Billy” Cardille was playing “Last Man On Earth”. It scared the hell out of me. Yes, yes, I know they were vampires but if George Romero got his idea for “Night of the Living Dead” from “Last Man on Earth”, I’m sure the zombie purists will excuse me.
I had nightmares for months about this movie and even tried to board up my bedroom windows. When my Dad saw me carrying boards, nails and a hammer to my room. He freaked! So I used duct tape and cardboard to cover my windows, figuring that would at least give me a heads up when the “zombies” came knocking.
FEW: Well, it must have worked, you’re here today! That was a great flick, have you ever read Matheson’s book?
DP: ( A BIG smile came across his face here) After viewing “Last Man On Earth” I checked out “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson from the library. I read it straight through and fell in love with it. I read it at least 5 more times before taking it back to the library. Today I have every edition of “I Am Legend” ever put out. I have the first edition as well as the library edition, signed by Mr. Matheson. I also have a Russian edition of the book, even though I can’t read Russian!
FEW: Which would you say was the best filmed version of the book, Last Man on Earth, Omega Man, or I Am Legend?
DP: Last Man On Earth is by far the best movie version by far! It is the closest adaptation to the book and it has my favorite actor of all time, Vincent Price, in it. I despise Omega Man for taking liberties with the book. Heston did a good job as Neville, but the movie blew. As for the Will Smith I Am Legend, I HATED it!
Why, oh why, does Hollywood have to ruin the originals? I could rant on this for hours, but I won’t since there’s more questions to be answered. But I do look at myself as the world’s biggest fan of Last Man On Earth. I have every piece of memorabilia available for it. All of it is hanging in my podcast studio. My wife calls the room my “Last Man On Earth Altar”
(Since we were talking movies I had to test the Doc’s movie knowledge on the subject of the living dead)
FEW: Quick! Your opinion, what was the best zombie movie ever?
DP: I’ll use the standard answer and say my favorite is George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead since it is the movie that introduced me to “real” zombies. I’ve watched this movie so many times I know every piece of dialogue. I can quote the characters as they speak their lines. But I also love independent zombie films. In fact there are a few of those that appear in my top five zombie movies.
FEW: You have a list?
DP: Naturally! 1, the original Night of the Living Dead. 2, the original Dawn of the Dead, 3, Video Dead—that one’s a hoot! 4, Shatter Dead (Turns out Doc is a fan on Scooter McCrae’s take on the zombie genre) And 5, Stacy—a Japanese movie that will blow your mind!
(At this point Doc and I went off on a tangent on the value of this gutmunching movie vs. that one, that lasted for nearly 10 minutes. Either Jacki or Tam made some comment about “boys and their undead toys” but I can’t be sure which one over the background noise.)
FEW: Let’s get back to you. You have one of the most popular interactive horror websites going. How exactly did The Library Of The Living Dead website start?
DP: I first started out by cruising the net looking for likeminded zombie fans. I landed on a now defunct site called Living Dead. When they folded, I found Reel Horror. And as is my luck, they eventually died and did not reanimate. I was a Moderator on each of those boards and thought perhaps I could start my own forum. Most of the members came over from Reel Horror and then we started picking up a lot of new members who also loved zombies. We now have over 800 members. I’m stunned about that number. It’s a very active forum you can find at www.libraryofthelivingdead.lefora.com, The official website, with all kinds of cool stuff on it can be found at www.thelibraryofthelivingdead.com .
FEW: So you went from a chat based website devoted to zombie- holics to a small publishing company. How did you come to this decision?
DP: Our first ever published book was “Dead Tide” by Stephen A. North. It’s still our best seller by numbers. The publishing side of things came about by “talking” to Steve on the forum. He’d already published a sci-fi book called “Beneath the Mask”. It was a wonderful book and I read a large part of it on the podcast. This was the first time I ever presented anything “non-zombie” on the podcast, and it became a favorite of the listeners. Steve and I became friends and he mentioned that he had a zombie novel just about ready to publish and he really didn’t want to self-publish it. I told him immediately that I would love to publish it and I started looking around at the small presses. We signed up with BookSurge, a company owned by Amazon.com. What a hassle it was. We also found an artist the name of Dan Galli who ended up doing the wonderful cover. Wanting to present the book at ZombieFest three years ago, the books arrived one week before.
FEW: But you moved from BookSurge why was that?
DP: I found CreateSpace that was also owned by Amazon.com but much cheaper and easier to deal with. After Dead Tide did so well, other authors began contacting me about their own zombie books. And as they say, “the rest is history.” We’ve now put out over 50 books in all genres of horror. I plan on retiring from Dentistry in three years and going into publishing full time. I am sooooo looking forward to that day.
FEW: I notice that members of your website are referred to as Librarians. Is there any reason for this above and beyond the site’s name?
DP: The title “Good Librarian” is just a nickname I came up with for the active members of the forum as well as those who listen to the podcast. They are the ones who have made such a success of the podcast as well as the publishing side of the “Library of the Living Dead”.
FEW: One of the first things that struck me when I first visited your site was you seem to constantly have a calling for short stories for a themed anthology. I know you publish novels as well, but why the heavy accent on the anthology?
DP: I have a very strong passion to give the new writer a place to have their stories printed. Anthologies are the way to go for the new author. Now, I do this for the love of the genre as the Anthologies certainly do not sell as well as our novels. One of the coolest things is to receive an e-mail from a newly published author thanking me for taking a chance on their story.
Many of those who are in the Anthologies end up writing novels for the Library. So I guess you can call them a “proving ground”. It certainly works for us.
FEW: With eight hundred members, do you ever have an open call for submissions, or is it all done in house?
DP: All submissions are open to anyone who wants to submit. You don’t need to be a member of the forum. Open submissions brings us a lot of well known authors to our Anthologies. It’s a win/win situation.
FEW: How much enjoyment is it for you when you find that new writer with a book burning inside them, to help bring it to life?
DP: It’s just cool as hell to see an author’s novel come to fruition. When the book is printed it’s like it’s their baby. I get as excited as the author’s do as the book goes through the process leading to the printed finale.
FEW: Ever try your hand at the zombie novel yourself?
DP: Actually I have written a zombie novel. I started to present it in Episode #1 of the Library of the Living Dead Podcast and ended it in Episode #50. It’s called Beginning of the Dead and takes place in my hometown. It all started with my oldest daughter’s creative writing class in her Senior year of High School. She needed an idea for a “scary” story around Halloween. She wrote it so well that the class demanded more from her and she wrote another chapter. It was so good that I took up the pen, changed things around a bit, and wrote fifty chapters of Beginning of the Dead, which I am now in the process of rewriting it for a printed zombie novel.
FEW: Speaking of the podcast, I download your podcast every week and especially love the song parodies. Who is that doing the vocals?
DP: I do most of the song parodies using a karaoke track. Some of the songs were also played by me on a Casio keyboard that I stole from my youngest daughter. Our theme song Zombie was done by Steve Cain a long, long time ago. He used a karaoke track of “Zombie” by the Cranberries.
Many of the out-songs were played by my band Renfield. We were a three piece (guitar, bass & drums) that covered groups like Alice Cooper and Ozzy. We also did quite a few originals and played the bar circuit around Chester. The recordings were done in my little home studio and that’s where I record the podcast now. Sadly we broke up years ago, but I’m in the process of putting together a punk band to be called Purulent Exudate.
FEW: Purulent Exudate? (Admittedly I had to ask how to spell it)
DP: It’s the medical term for pus!
FEW: You’ve become quite a popular guest at conventions. Got any good con stories?
DP: (Again breaking into that creepy smile of his) The best Con story I have is during the second ZombieFest Convention. I had just picked up Steve North and Dan Galli at the airport and we were hanging out at the Hotel Bar. We decided to go get something to eat and as we were leaving we saw Miss Dee, who is the Head Honcho of the Convention. I asked her if she’d like to go with us and she replied that she was waiting on Ken Foree to come down from his room… I started to sweat then. When this giant of a man showed up Miss Dee introduced Steve and Dan to Ken. He then stuck out his huge hand, grabbed mine in a stong handshake and said, “And it’s wonderful to meet you Dr. Pus.” I about crapped myself that he knew who I was.
FEW: What would you say your best experience has been so far?
DP: I have been blessed in my life with many great experiences. Having a Mother who still loves me after all of the crap I put her through when I was growing up—I was a real piece of work as a kid. Having a loving Father who had always supported my “creative” side. Meeting my wife on a blind date and 9 months later marrying her. Seeing my two daughters born. (Sarah & Rachel). Watching them grow up. And most of all falling more in love with my wife Tam each and every day.
As for experiences with the Library it has to be the love and concern I receive from the Good Librarians. They worry about me like an old granny. It’s wonderful.
FEW: Doc, you seemed to have found the perfect niche in life. You have a wonderful family, (Earlier Doc had drug out his wallet and proudly shown off photos of his children) a career that keeps the wheels turning day to day, and most importantly found a way to incorporate your childhood love into your adulthood world. One last question, do you think you’ll ever grow up?
DP: I WILL NEVER GROW UP!!!
Jacki and I had a wonderful time meeting Doc and Tam. I left my zombie manuscript, Deadheads: Evolution along with Joseph Adams artwork for the book with Doc for his consideration, and we all made promises we’d all get together again next time we were In West Virginia, or they were in Florida. If you are interested in contacting the Good Doctor, you can find him through the website, or e mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Franklin E. Wales is a South Florida novelist. On a summer long book signing tour with his wife, Jacki, he took the time to meet up with several independent and important voices in horror today. His series, Beer Summit, runs exclusively here at Horror Vein. You can learn more about his works, and contact him through his website: www.FranklinEWales.com