What books are currently on your nightstand?

They vary from time to time, but the first title on the list is always there:

  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O’Donoghue by Dennis Perrin
  • Sailor’s Holiday by Barry Gifford
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • You’ll Die Next by Harry Whittington
  • Shock II by Richard Matheson
Who is your favorite novelist of all time?
That’s an unanswerable question for me because it changes with my mood. One day I’m in a Charles Dickens mood, the next I’m feeling more Harper Lee. You’ve got to admire her. She writes one book, it’s one of the greatest pieces of American fiction ever, and that’s it for her, she’s done. It was like a literary mic drop. Or maybe I’m in a Victor Hugo mood. It just depends. I can’t point to one writer and say, “Greatest ever!” Those words really don’t mean much anymore because now, every taco someone posts on Facebook or Twitter is “THE GREATEST EVER!” We now live in a world of superlative bullshit.
Who are your favorite writers — novelists, nonfiction, journalists, poets — working today?
We’re losing some of them, I’m afraid. Pat Conroy died last year and he was one of the very best. I loved Carrie Fisher’s writing. William Peter Blatty, Jackie Collins, no more books from them. All favorites of mine. John Irving is someone I read without glancing at the dustjacket. I like Harlan Coben and Michael Connelly. I’m still a constant reader of Stephen King’s work, and I’ll read anything by Peter Straub. I like Fran Lebowitz and David Sedaris. I’ve been blown away by the work of Simon Callow, who’s better known as an actor. I’m reading the third in his trilogy on the life of Orson Welles, and the good news is that he begins by promising a fourth in the series.
What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
I enjoy crime fiction and thrillers, science fiction—I’m open to anything depending on my mood and what I’ve heard or read about a book or writer.
Of all the genres you write in, which is the most fun? The most difficult? The most rewarding?
Horror is the genre I write in most and it’s all of those things wrapped up in one. It’s certainly fun, it can be difficult to avoid things that have already been done in the genre, and thanks to the horror genre, I’ve met some of my idols and made some great friends.
What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves?
I think as soon as someone saw the variety on my bookshelves they would not be surprised by anything. It’s a big mix of a little of everything.
Unheralded writers. Whom should we be reading?
Ed Kurtz, Dana Fredsti, Monica J. O’Rourke Jason V. Brock, Rena Mason, Philip Fracassi—I could go on for a long time. People who read only the books that hit the bestseller lists are missing out on whole worlds of entertaining fiction.
Do you enjoy fiction in translation? Stories from particular corners of the world?
While I’m always a little nervous that perhaps I’m not getting the book as written by the writer, I do enjoy translations.
Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite or the most personally meaningful?
My favorite is Sex and Violence in Hollywood. It’s not a horror novel, which is why it’s never gotten much attention. People expect horror fiction from me and when I turn out something else, they tend not to be too interested, which is unfortunate. This book was the best writing experience I’ve ever had, the book flowed out of me. It’s my most complex novel, and the funniest.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Your favorite book? Most beloved character?

When I was a small child, my favorite books were The Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan. I still love those books, and I wish Hollywood would quit trying to do clever, hip things with Frank Oz’s world and characters and just adapt the damned books already. And adapt them faithfully, okay? Don’t turn them into gigantic, bloated trilogies drawn from a single novel like a certain director. Just do the books!

But I quickly discovered the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the stories of Richard Matheson and Ian Fleming’s James Bond books, and I was off and running. I started reading everything I could get my hands on.

If you could pick your next book to be turned into a movie or TV series, which would it be and why?
I would love to someone finally adapt Live Girls. There have been many options but nothing has come of any of them, and now the novel is languishing with a small Australian company that has no intention of doing anything with it. I would also like to see Sex and Violence in Hollywood adapted, although I think it would be better suited to television so the entire story could be told.
What book hasn’t been written that you’d like to read?
The one I’m writing now, Monster Show.
What books do you find yourself returning to again and again?
Catch-22, The Shining, Ghost Story, Richard Matheson’s series of collections under the title Shock, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are a few.
What do you plan to read next?

A mystery by Ruth Rendell called The Keys to the Street and Shadow of a Broken Man by George C. Chesbro.

An Addendum – Knowing that authors hate the question “Where do your ideas come from?” The Literary Chick generally spares them that one. However, Ray’s have been captured in his MRI. Seriously. Ask him. He has a picture of them. He now carries a picture of that MRI with him, and every time someone asks him that question—“Where do you get your ideas?”—he will willingly take it out, point to that spot on his brain, and say, “See this? That’s where they come from. That’s my cerebral idea sphincter. The ideas come out of there. Sometimes in fragments, sometimes in one whole piece. It’s long been speculated that every writer has a cerebral idea sphincter, mine is the first one that’s ever been captured in an MRI.”

Ray knows.


For more about Ray Garton, check out his website: http://www.raygartononline.com

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