The Mafia, gangs and a killer hyena. Not your typical day in the New York City life of one female detective. In John Reinhard Dizon’s The Fury, readers will delve into a twisted thriller that combines the battle of good versus evil with the modern day realism of an occult world. A fast-paced read, Dizon will both frighten and intrigue with this tale of suspenseful mayhem.
Interviewer: Christy Campbell
Tell the readers a little about your background. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I wrote my novella, Enemy Ace, when I was in sixth grade. It was a James Bond knockoff with a German fighter pilot turned British Secret Service agent. I wish I knew what happened to it, maybe it’ll be in a museum someday long after I’m dead. I decided to take my chances when I moved to Missouri ten years ago and submitted a manuscript to Publish America. After having five books published, I decided to try my hand at being my own publicist/agent. I wanted to expand my horizons beyond the POD field, and as it turned out, Netherworld Books shared my vision.
The Fury isn’t your typical horror genre novel, and you took a risk doing so. How did you come up with the premise?
I never wrote anything in the horror genre and took it as a new challenge. A big part of it would be in coming up with a different angle than what is already on the market. Having an African shaman turn into a hyena and be manipulated by West Indian drug gangs in East Harlem is one I hadn’t seen before. My previous experience as a crime fiction writer was a big plus.
Voodoo cults, drug trades, New York City and the Mafia are all featured in your book. How did all of that work together in order to appeal to a common horror fan?
It had to be something that included the Mafia or the book wouldn’t have been realistic, so we have the centuries-old prophecy of an Italian dynasty and French royalty joining to create a demonic kingdom in the New World. The history of voodoo in the West Indies and New Orleans worked perfectly as Bridgette Celine’s ancestry is seen as the missing link between the Rossini Family and Miss Goyette’s voodoo sect. Having a hyena eliminating the competition was the secret ingredient.
You opted for a female main character. Tell us about Bridgette Celine, and what it was like to write from a female point of view.
Bridgette Celine is probably the most aggressive of all my female protagonists in my previous works. She comes from a working-class background and carries lots of emotional baggage that she hides beneath a punk rock demeanor. She handles the danger and the supernatural horror well, but having to deal with her family history leaves her vulnerable and uncertain. People who like strong female characters will love Bridge because she is way over the top. Yet her personality is peeled like an onion as the story progresses, and her different sides gives her the depth of character that makes her special.
I enjoy the challenge of writing from a female perspective. Tiara was largely written from Princess Jennifer’s POV, and Penny Flame focuses on Moneen Murphy’s journey into the unknown. I have a couple more coming up as well -– stay tuned!
Give us the goods on a couple of other characters in the novel. What roles do they play?
Johnny Devlin emerges as the major male protagonist as a street-weary detective in a NYPD ‘black ops’ unit trying to solve the hyena murders plaguing East Harlem. At first he uses his friendship with Bobby Mendoza, Bridge’s boyfriend, to find out more about her relationship with Mafia don Peter Ross. Eventually a mutual respect develops between himself and Bridge, and when he falls in love with her cousin Becca the situation becomes personal. Devlin is used to taking the law into his own hands in dealing with the lowest scum in the NYC underworld, but the Satanists prove to be more than he bargained for.
Anna and Becca, two characters featured, are clearly good people. Is there a downright evil person in your story?
The sorcerer Achok Majok and the voodoo priestess Miss Goyette are the closest resemblances to the Devil Incarnate. Everyone else might find readers seeing them as victims of circumstance. Peter Ross rolls the dice to see if the Satanic prophecy will establish his narcotics empire and loses big-time. Buda Sakumbe is pretty close to what you might call a victim of human trafficking. Even when Bobby Mendoza does a heel turn at the end of the novel, we can see where he was blinded by the demonic promise just like everyone else.
Is there some personal element in your story, or is it just pure fiction?
Lots of the Lower Manhattan scenes were based on personal experiences as a NYC punk rocker in my young adulthood. The characters in Johnny Devlin’s Zombie Squad were all based on people I knew. As a rule, I tend to use real people in my characterizations because lots of the people in my past are so interesting, you couldn’t make them up.
If you were to rewrite your book what changes might you make, if any?
I’d say the editor and I may have dropped the ball in the omniscient narrative as far as the occupants on the second and third floors in the haunted tenement. Miss Goyette seems to move from one apartment to another as do other characters, and it turns into an exercise in postmodernist technique that is too easily perceived as an editing issue. The idea was to convey the sense of helplessness people feel when they get lost in a hostile environment. Ever go into a dark subway, walk all the way to the end of a deserted platform, and find the exit’s locked? Or try to drive through a bad neighborhood at night and find out you misread the map? We should have overemphasized the fact that people kept finding themselves on the wrong floors. Some critics felt like we were the ones who got lost. Regardless of location, the characters make it clear they can’t wait to get out of there.
How about some authors who have inspired you as a writer?
I would have to consider myself a postmodernist author at this stage of my career, and I’ve been studying others of like mind to enhance my own style. Right now I’m reading Kafka; he’s having an enormous influence on my new manuscripts. In my opinion, Shakespeare is the greatest writer of all time, and I’ll have to consider him my greatest overall influence. Ian Fleming was the one who inspired me in my early days, and Robert E. Howard was another one who gave me a new perspective in developing my abilities over the years.
Which horror films or books appeal to you, as a viewer or reader?
As far as horror, nobody touches Stephen King, though I hope readers will make favorable comparisons as my work surfaces. I’ll never forget staying up nights reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a school kid. That one stands up against any of King’s books. Moviewise, The Exorcist is the greatest of all time, while I don’t think anyone appreciates the impact Texas Chainsaw Massacre had as the first of the slasher-type flicks. I walked home after the premiere looking over my shoulder.
As writers, we all have habits we employ during a day’s work. What are some of yours?
Lots of times I end up doing more research than writing on any given day. I spent a large amount of time with the historical backdrop on The Fury substantiating the expository narrative. I feel like I’ve validated the work when readers can do some checking up and find out the subplots are based on actual persons, places and events. When I’ve written a dynamic chapter that I know will captivate the audience, I’ll take a break and go for a walk to recharge my batteries and rehearse where the characters are going next. I also enjoy watching pro wrestling to compare notes on how to capture the audience’s imagination with the least dialogue and the most impact.
Where can readers find The Fury, as well as your other novels?
Just plug in John Reinhard Dizon in the Books search engine on Amazon. There’ll be my previous works with Publish America on sale, as well as The Standard available through Tenth Street Press. I take pride in the fact that I don’t allow myself to be confined within any particular genre. Every novel is a new experience that I’m sure the reader will enjoy. I can guarantee that you won’t find any of them a boring read!