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God Laughs When You Die Paperback – October 23, 2007
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"Boatman's debut collection will knock you down and kick you in the teeth. Alternatingly hysterical, grotesque, bizarre, and fantastic, Boatman's collection is a must-read for anyone itching to get their hands on fresh new fiction that pulls no punches."--Ronald Damien Malfi, author of The Nature of Monsters and The Fall of Never
"Michael Boatman writes like a visitor from hell. Someone out on short term leave for bad behavior. I love this stuff. He's one of the new, and more than promising, writers making his mark, and a dark and wonderful mark it is."--Joe R. Lansdale
Questions for Michael Boatman
Jeff VanderMeer for Amazon.com: First off, please describe where you are as you're answering these questions.
Boatman: I'm sitting in my office, which is downstairs in the basement of my house. The windows in my office look out over my backyard and a thick patch of woods. It's 9:00 AM on a foggy December morning.
Amazon.com: How long have you been writing?
Boatman: I've been writing for about 13 years. I started after I injured my leg in a freakish household accident. I was unable to work for about 12 weeks. One day, Don Cheadle, who is a good friend, stopped by for a visit. He took one look at me, fat, bearded, and depressed, and encouraged me to explore writing, as I had always expressed an interest in creating a screenplay. The screenplay was terrible, but I loved the process and I've been writing ever since.
Amazon.com: Where do writing and acting intersect creatively? How do they influence each other in your life?
Boatman: Acting and writing both stem from the most primal form of entertainment, which is storytelling. I've come to believe that I actually became an actor as a kind of creative misfire. I was always a voracious reader. To this day, I'm unable to go anywhere without a book. However, writing was something I'd never considered. It seemed too mystical, something working-class kids from the inner city weren't supposed to do. I stumbled into acting in high school (of course to meet chicks), and I discovered that I enjoyed being a part of a creative endeavor. After more than 20 years as an actor, I've realized that, at least for me, the two art forms are linked. An actor communicates his part of the larger story in which he participates, but a writer creates the story. Now I find telling my own stories more compelling than communicating other authors' stories.
Amazon.com: Writing is a solitary activity. Acting is, I assume, solitary in the preparation but very social in its application--and dependent to some degree on the imaginations of other people. How easy is to navigate between those two worlds?
Boatman: I find it easy to navigate the two worlds because I've been an actor for so long that it's part of who I am; I know my way around Hollywood sets and the professional theater. Also, being a writer helps me understand another writer's intention for his characters in a way that I didn't when I was just acting. Recently, I was presented with the opportunity to rewrite huge chunks of a feature film in which I was acting. When I was younger I never would have had the courage to insinuate my ideas into someone else's screenplay. However, during production we encountered some serious script problems. The director took my suggestions and applied them to the script. Ultimately we wound up rewriting a lot of the film. Writing novels and short stories and screenplays on my own gave me the confidence to step in and effectively address the problems. It was great fun and a huge confidence booster.
Amazon.com: What writers have most influenced you in your fiction?
Boatman: Tolkien opened up the door to entirely new worlds for me. The Hobbit was the first book that took me on a quest. I read it when I was nine years old and it changed my life. In a weird way, that book introduced me to literature in general and fantasy in particular. I read the entire Rings sequence every few years and learn something new every time. Stephen R. Donaldson's Covenant books are a continuing source of profound enjoyment. On the darker frontier, David J. Schow and Joe R. Lansdale are my heroes. I said in another interview that since Dave Schow has become my friend I am even more in awe of his talents. I feel like Dorothy exposing the Great and Powerful Oz only to discover that the man behind the curtain really is a wizard. Stephen King is another writer who I believe to be, in a strange way, underrated. I think The Stand really may be the great American novel. And the Dark Tower books are unlike anything I've ever experienced.
Amazon.com: What projects do you have upcoming, both acting and writing?
Boatman: My novel, The Revenant Road, will be published by The Drollerie Press in 2008. Of course I've got "A Father's Work" in Weird Tales coming soon, and stories in a couple of anthologies. Two screenplays I've written are being considered around Hollywood. On the acting front, I'm costarring in an independent film called The Killing of Wendy. It'll be in theaters next June. Also a film called American Summer, coming soon.
Top Customer Reviews
"And you think you know Michael Boatman.", David J. Schow ends his introduction to Boatman's slim volume of short stories. And you may; Boatman is an actor who's starred in a number of highly-rated TV series (China Beach and Spin City among them). He's quite a comedic talent. Which makes it all the more weird that he's garnered a name for himself in the horror underground, publishing in places like Horror Garage and Red Scream. I will tell you right off the bat: knowing Boatman's TV work will not prepare you for these nine twisted tales. Being blurbed by Joe Lansdale and introduced by David Schow might, as the two were early lights of the splatterpunk movement. Don't let Lansdale's recent successful forays into the mystery world fool you, the guy knows his splat. And he likes Michael Boatman.
So do I, though not with quite as much enthusiasm. Boatman's stories are those of an amateur, albeit an inspired one; no one will be mistaking his work for that of Koja, Sarrantonio, Schow, or Lansdale for a while yet. The raw talent's obviously there, though. It just needs a bit of honing. Boatman is great for describing a situation, and has an ear for comparison (which Schow points out, with a few nasty examples from "Bloodbath at Landsdale Towers" as evidence), but like many authors who haven't been doing it for too long, he's seduced by the situations, and thus puts less thought into the characters he puts into those situations than he should. There are also some technical errors, though I'm more inclined to attribute those to a small press (and a dearth of editing/proofreading talent) than Boatman himself.
Still, cardboard characters aside, I'm not going to deny that these are some fun stores.Read more ›
Where Boatman finds these ideas it at once curious and frightening. Yet he is able to tell the stories with a superb vocabulary that seems to ooze from the page like a jellied corpse attempting to rise. There is a lot of violence here, yet controlled with a sense of building tension for the reader to quickly turn the page for more detail. His 'characters' are flat like comic book figures - until they speak or do perverse and nasty deeds, and then they are strong enough to resemble memories from bad dreams or dyspepsia.
Sounds like a book that might be more than the average reader could swallow? Maybe. But it is definitely an art form looking for an incarnation and Boatman seems to be able to open and close each of the fairly brief stories like an able craftsman. If the 'book' feels dissociative, then that may be part of the purpose of choice of format. Whatever Michael Boatman has created here begs for development into a novel state, and perhaps being committed to a full-length book on one topic would hone the ideas and imagination with the skills he so obviously has at hand. Try it - but leave the night light on... Grady Harp, September 07
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Boatman is just as good as a writer as he is at acting. Hilarious work with plenty of tongue in cheek sly giggles.Published on June 8, 2013 by savsmom
Boatman's got style and vision. The vast majority of the stories in GOD LAUGHS WHEN YOU DIE are wildly inventive and unpredictable, cleanly written and forceful. Read morePublished on August 20, 2012 by Heath
All very well written, in any case, which, sadly, tends not be customary.
As said, some of the stories, 3 or 4, are quite good. Read more
These stories are not for the faint of heart nor are they the kind of stories you want to curl up with in bed on a cold night. Read morePublished on March 7, 2012 by Jeffrey Miller
Michael Boatman, God Laughs When You Die; Mean Little Stories from the Wrong Side of the Tracks (Dybbuk Press, 2007)
Whether you take in this short story collection in... Read more