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By Norman L. Rubenstein

If you ask Harry Shannon why he’s done all the many things he’s crammed into his 62 years, the author is likely to just wrinkle his cowboy eyes, shrug and tell you, “I have to give my mind something to eat, or it eats me.”

A recent biography notes Shannon has been an actor, a singer, a songwriter, a music publisher, a music supervisor, a film executive, a mystery, thriller and horror novelist and is now a counselor in private practice. Oh, and that he’s also published around two hundred songs, eight novels, dozens of short stories, two novellas, one movie script and a partridge in a pear tree.

His latest project launches a brand spanking new Dark Regions Press novella series. The book, available in limited edition, trade paperback and e-book format, is called “PAIN” (an acronym for a fictitious disease dubbed Psychogenic Anticholinergic Infectious Neuropathy). It tells the story of one long, long night in the lives of some terrified patients trapped in an isolated mountain ER.

By zombies.

Yes, zombies. No, not quite the brain-munching, shambling George Romeroesque zombies, but something close enough: former humans infected by said imaginary WMD leaking into their little town’s water supply.

Okay, you’ve written horror before, Harry, but why zombies?

“Because they’re fun,” Shannon chuckles. “And because they have long been stand-ins for whatever worries society.”

In addition to the crazed townspeople, the cast of living dead in PAIN has characters including the ER Doc, whose younger wife is cheating on him, and one patient, a fat circus clown with piles. Also aboard are a sex addict nurse, a religious fanatic with a wimp husband who knits, a gay teen, corrupt politicians, the Vice President, some quite shady businessmen and a couple of mercenary soldiers. We’ll let you decide for yourself what the author thinks is worrying folks these days. Oh, and there’s a lot of comic violence.

In his introduction to PAIN, New York Times best-selling and multiple Stoker-Award winning novelist Jonathan Maberry writes:

“PAIN is a zombie novel. Kind of. Not exactly resurrected corpses. Not exactly infected humans. Not exactly anything you’ve seen before. It’s a story about people dealing with a terrible crisis. People under pressure. People who (at the outset) don’t know each other and really don’t know themselves.”

“Sure, and that’s what made me want to write it,” Shannon says. “The story takes place over a few hours on one very spooky evening, and finishes near midnight, which seemed entirely appropriate. The characters are under assault from the first word, and the clock is ticking steadily throughout. It’s a gory, bawdy, black-humored romp. The idea began as a movie script, which was optioned twice, but eventually it made sense to flesh it out in the leaner, meaner novella format, where everything feels so cinematic, compressed and urgent, like almost every moment in this story.”

Discussing PAIN, novelist Maberry, who is also renowned as an expert on the subject of zombies and American culture, goes on to add, “It’s fair to say that Harry Shannon gets the whole zombie thing. He blends a storyteller’s natural gift for creating believable and relatable characters with a trickster’s dark playfulness. We get combat troops, sinister organizations, religious nuts, rebellious teens, heroism, villainy, steamy sex, and a clown with hemorrhoids. And zombies. Lots and lots of zombies. PAIN is a wonderful new addition to the growing library of superb zombie tales.”

High praise indeed, considering the source.

Shannon has written three Mick Callahan mysteries (Memorial Day, Eye of the Burning Man, One of the Wicked) and a thriller called The Pressure of Darkness as well as his four horror books. Is it difficult to switch back and forth, dance from genre to genre?

“Not really, the dark stuff is the dark stuff. As I kid, I loved Robert Heinlein, A.E. Van Vogt, Andre Norton. Short fiction by John Collier, Ambrose Bierce, Saki. I think Bradbury hooked me for good with The Martian Chronicles and the gorgeous Something Wicked This Way Comes, both of which I read in my early teens. Went on to John D. MacDonald, spy novels, Richard Matheson, Stephen King , James Lee Burke, Thomas Harris, Cormac McCarthy. All of them have a taste for the dark side and in some cases, Burke and McCarthy in particular, there is a weird blend of spirituality and existentialism. So it’s a natural transition. Many guys like Ken Bruen, Dave Zeltserman and Tom Piccirilli also have displayed a knack for writing horror.”

What’s next for this versatile author, also a busy counselor? A self-help book in the works? “Not a chance,” Shannon said. “Too much of a busman’s holiday. I’m nearly finished with a new Mick Callahan novel called Running Cold. After that I may try my hand at YA. That’s a real challenge for someone like me. My daughter loved the Hunger Games trilogy, I quite liked it, too. Loads of heart, mature thematically, just no overt violence and sexuality. I want to at least try my hand at it, even if the book ends up being under a pseudonym, or is for my own entertainment.”

Any–excuse us–last words? “We all know the industry is changing, it’s that ancient Chinese curse, we ‘live in interesting times’. Digital downloads virtually destroyed the recording industry I grew up back in the 1960’s and 70’s, and technology is now impacting publishing. But I’m excited about e-books overall, they offer authors a chance to get their backlist into print again, and for new writers to get exposure, but we’re going to go through painful contortions before any of us really understands what the future holds. Only time will tell. As for me, I may be too old to do much about it by then.”

Ha! Judging by the past, not likely.

PAIN was released in both limited edition hardcover and e-book format by Dark Regions Press in October, 2010.

Just in time for Halloween.

Norman L. Rubenstein worked almost twenty-five years as a litigation attorney, before being appointed and serving as a judge for the city of Chicago, where he presided over numerous trials and hearings.

Norm currently resides in the sunny Sonoran Desert near Phoenix, AZ, with his Golden Retriever, Sunny. He is an Active Member of both the Horror Writer’s Association (HWA), and the International Thriller Writer’s, Inc (ITW). Norm has written over one hundred published Horror & Thriller Genre book reviews and is and/or has been a regular reviewer for Horror World, the Pod Of Horror podcast, and both Cemetery Dance and Dark Scribe magazines, and has been a columnist for both Fear Zone and Shroud Magazine.

Norm has had extensive experience working freelance as both a copy editor and Associate Editor for a number of Specialty Presses, including Bloodletting Press, Cargo Cult Press, and Thunderstorm Books, and is currently employed as the Editor for Dark Regions Press.

Norm is proud to be a contributor to the recently released David Morrell and Hank Wagner edited hardcover Anthology, Thrillers: 100 Must Reads, and is currently busy working on two screenplays as well as new novel and short fiction collaborations. Norm’s short story, “The Closet”, co-authored with noted Canadian author Carol Weekes, has been purchased by and will appear in the forthcoming anthology Fear Of The Dark, to be released by Horror Bound Magazine Publications in early 2011.