The first book I ever wrote was a horror novel. Darkscope was inspired by Stephen King’s books, which I’d been reading for years. I can still remember going to the library, picking up The Shining, and driving home with the book on the seat beside me—the anticipation I felt. I’d waited for months to get my hands on that book.
And I wanted to write a novel—set in Bisbee. Because I loved Stephen King and Peter Straub and Dean Koontz, I aimed for a horror novel. It took me a year to write and three years to sell, but at the end of that time, I had Dark Country — which, after it sold to Zebra Books, became Darkscope.
After seeing this car, I’m tempted to write another horror novel.
For our wedding anniversary, Glenn and I reserved an old travel trailer, a 1951 Spartan Royal Mansion, at The Shady Dell campground in Bisbee, Arizona. It was October, two days before Halloween, and the weather was cold and gray.
Both of us couldn’t fit on the same pull-out bed, so we had to sleep separately (some “Happy Anniversary”).
Not only that, but I was scared.
In the evening, before going out to dinner, we’d walked up on the hill above the Shady Dell, under the cold lowering clouds. The owners had some old stuff up there that they would use for the campground, like those old iron chairs from the forties.
But up on the hill, we saw—
Okay, best way to describe it? Jackson Pollock could have painted the thing on his worst day. The old hearse looked as if it had been stretched longer than it should have been. When we peered through the window at the long bed, we saw three petrified pigeon corpses.
I have never been the type who gets scared by this kind of stuff, but I was scared then. The thing just grabbed hold of my imagination, and I could see it driving down the hill and cruising through the little Shady Dell campground, looking for us — a la Christine.
So I didn’t sleep well. One ear was tuned to the sound of an engine. It would have that big old car growl, punctuated by misfiring cylinders.
We made it to the next day. The sun was out. We took a walk alongside a line of trees delineating the campground from its neighbor. It didn’t help that the neighboring property was Evergreen Cemetery, known as the Bisbee city cemetery. Darkscope is a ghost story with scenes I set in that very cemetery.
The trees were like saplings, all of them very close together like a fence, and they were matted with vines. And an odd thing happened. Something—a small animal, screened by leaves, ran up one of the trees. Maybe it was rat. Maybe it was a squirrel. Maybe it was a mutation of a rat or a squirrel. There was something odd about its movement and how fast it zipped up through the leaves—so fast it promptly disappeared.
I didn’t need a witch doctor to tell me it was just more bad mojo.
Ever since, the story has stuck to the back of my mind. I’ve written a book and a novella since then, but it keeps coming back.
Like a reflux-colored car hellbent on finding an unwary victim to lay bare, engine growling, tires squealing, bumper crumpling.