Arts & Culture
12:54 pm
Thu May 28, 2009

Scattered Ashes - Scott Nicholson

Scattered Ashes - Scott Nicholson

New Bern, NC – INTRO - Ten years worth of short stories by a Boone horror writer have been collected under one cover. George Olsen has more.

Scott Nicholson says he's not a violent man, that he couldn't even "kill a chicken." But still

"Sometimes you can get cheap revenge in stories that way. I don't know how many bosses I've killed off in stories."

The Boone-based Nicholson is a horror writer, which gives you all sorts of possibilities to vent a little rage. He's just released a collection of short stories entitled "Scattered Ashes" that covers a period from 1998 and 2008, a period where he also wrote several novels. It was also a period of personal turmoil which the writing helped to quell.

"I went through a painful divorce is there any good divorce and just struggling with my parenthood and personal issues and a lot of those stories, I even go into in the afterword, these stories kept me sane and they're also a touchstone of where I was and what I was going through. It's not pretty but it is human."

The most personal of those short stories could be "Watermelon," which tells the story of Ricky, a man who is constantly berated by his wife who reads of a domestic murder that no one foresaw. The more Ricky reads, the more similarities he sees in his domestic situation and the fated couple. As the similarities pile up in his head and his wife's verbal assaults continue, the rage in Ricky rises until

"At the time of my first separation and I had this little apartment and I was drinking late at night and I had this watermelon. For some reason this rage built up and I just started first I was tearing the red stuff up and started punching it and I thought I'm glad this isn't a person, and I flung it out the door and into the road and watched it "sploosh" and then later I was thinking that was metaphorical. It could've been a person. I was just venting my rage on this watermelon and swelled that into a story."

Ricky thrashes a watermelon, just as Scott Nicholson had done earlier. No people fictional or otherwise were harmed. It was an incident Scott describes as a "little bit embarrassing" but definitely fitting his line "It's not pretty but it is human." There's much of the "not pretty" in his writing, more so than straight horror, which tends to involve monsters that bump in the night according to most people's delineation of the genre. In fact, several of the stories in "Scattered Ashes" while they have a ghostly twist are based on too real situations, where Scott almost seems to be saying that real life for some is horror enough, as in this from "The October Girls" about Ellen, the beaten child of a drunken mother, and her imaginary or quite possibly ghostly friend Margaret.

Reads from page 38 "Ellen found Margaret beside a "

That type of "real life is horror enough" writing with a ghost story interwoven inside is also found in "The Night is an Ally," which is Scott's imagining of time in the German Reserve Police Battalion 101, a police formation put at the disposal of the German Army during World War II. Battalion 101 was responsible for the shooting deaths of 38,000 Jews during a 15-month period

"It sounds like there was a struggle that some people would not go out and kill Jews and some of them were "hey, it's a chance to get away with murder, I don't like these people anyway, now I've got freedom to kill them and not be punished." It's that turning and where's that point in your mind that clicks and says hey, its o-k, these people are sub-human and that just fascinated me, the whole psychological journey, did they all want to kill Jews or were there just a few and who encouraged and what does it take to persuade someone and make that shift. It's kind of horrifying to think that switch might be in all of us and we just don't know where it is until we get there."

While short stories such as "The Night is an Ally" derive most of their horror from real life, Nicholson's "Scattered Ashes" collection does delve in straight horror what's a horror novel without a few zombies and also pays homage to horror past in "Last Writes."

"I was actually solicited for that project. Edgar Allen Poe left this fragment of a story about a page that was unfinished and all the writers in this anthology were challenged with finishing the story and we got a co-author credit with Edgar Allen Poe which is cool."

Nicholson even goes so far as to write Poe into the story as a lighthouse keeper whose sanity is on edge with the job's isolation.

Reads from pg 267 "Are you a lover of the sea Where do you suppose they go?"

"Well, I'm going just off what you read, a crazy demented guy who drank a lot and seemed pretty unhappy and the writing, did the writing make him mad, did the writing help him with his madness, or was it all just fiction. Maybe he was a relatively stable and happy guy. But of course it makes for a much better story if he's crazy."

In Scott Nicholson's case, the writing and the occasional watermelon thrashing seem to have kept him in check. "Scattered Ashes," a collection of short stories by Boone author Scott Nicholson, is published by Dark Regions Press. I'm George Olsen.