Columns > Published on September 10th, 2012

Guest Blog Post by Jack Ketchum: 'That Word'

When Lucky McKee and I sent I’M NOT SAM to our agent, Alice Martell, it took her a few days to respond.

This was not at all like her.  She’d always been johnny-on-the-spot with our stuff, bless her heart.  But you didn’t want to push her.  Hell, no.  I’d been an agent myself.  I knew that pushing your agent is as likely to get you what you want as throwing a tantrum in Times Square is likely to get you a cab.  When she finally did respond, she called and said she’d actually lost sleep over the thing.

And then she paused.

Try to imagine me at this point.  Inside that pause.

I don’t care how many books you’ve published.  Writers are still quite capable of flop-sweat.  There are times you feel you’ve had it all your life, like a herpes virus just waiting to pop up on your lip.  You do learn what to do about it though.  What you do is, you say not a word.  You button up and wait.  I’ve known Alice more than twenty-five years now and she is nothing if not straight-up, no bullshit honest.  And I trust her taste even more than I distrust politics.

So here I am holding my breath on the telephone waiting for the hammer to fall.  She hates it.   She thinks it’s a great big fucking letdown from our work on THE WOMAN.

What she told me was that it really had messed with her sleep.  That she found the book that disturbing.

She didn’t use the words “scary” or “twisted” or “gross.”  You know, the kinds of words I‘m used to.   She said it was disturbing.

And I thought, bulls-eye.   Perfect.

So just for fun I looked it up.  Disturbing. 

We use it all the time.  Figured I’d pin it down.

The first definition in my dictionary was to break up or destroy the tranquility or settled state of.  The second was to trouble emotionally or mentally.  Number three was to interfere with, to intrude upon.

And finally number four.  To put out of order, to disarrange.

I liked them all.  I thought they all worked for our book in spades.

But number four really made me smile.



Isn’t it high time we buried the cult of H. P. Lovecraft once and for all and called a moratorium on all these neuvo Lovecrafian anthologies?  Face it.  He wasn’t Poe.

From THE OUTSIDER -- widely considered one of H. P.‘s best stories.

I cannot even hint what it was like, for it was a compound of all that is unclean, uncanny, unwelcome, abnormal, and detestable.  It was the ghoulish shade of decay, antiquity, and dissolution; the putrid, dripping eidolon of unwholesome revelation, the awful baring of that which the merciful earth should always hide.

I count fifteen adjectives in two lines.  There could be more, I dunno.  The mind boggles.  Eidolon?

That kind of prose, the merciful earth should hide.

I'm Not Sam by Jack Ketchum & Lucky McKee can be purchased from and For more info about the author, please visit or follow him on Twitter at
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"Jack Ketchum's I'M NOT SAM 2012 Blog Tour Schedule"

About the author

Jack Ketchum is the author of thirteen novels, four collections of short stories and assorted strange novellas.  Five of his books have been filmed to date -- THE LOST, RED, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, OFFSPRING and THE WOMAN, the last of which he co-wrote with Lucky McKee.  Visit him on Facebook or his website at

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