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The Department of Tangents Podcast


Years ago, playing a sort of improv game with friends in which we all picked super powers based on our personalities, I dubbed myself “Tangent Lad.” I was not a very strong superhero, and I could not defeat a super villain on my own, but I could distract them with Monty Python quotes and football trivia. I have many times since apologized to an interview subject in my capacity as a journalist by saying, “I am either very good or very bad at tangents, depending on how you feel about tangents.”

I had a rough time coming up with the concept and naming this blog/podcast. I knew I wanted to create a place where I could address things I’m passionate about – comedy, music, and horror. Finding a name that communicated all three of those things proved a bit impossible. I bugged my friends, and they all tried to help. To no avail. Then I thought, maybe I’m approaching this from the wrong angle. Maybe my lack of focus should be the focus.

As a journalist, I have written for The Boston Globe since 2000, starting out writing CD reviews and then writing a regular column on comedy for seven and a half years. I still contribute there, and to Kirkus Reviews, and other publications. I’m also a musician, and released my debut full-length album, Blue Skies and Broken Arrows, in March of 2015. And I’ve been publishing short horror fiction for a couple of years.

I like to climb into things I love and see how they operate. That’s what the Department of Tangents is for. I’ll be writing regular features, essays, and news bits about the big three – comedy, music, and horror – and offering clips from people I’ve taped interviews with over the past nearly twenty years of writing. Some of the best parts of the interviews I’ve done have been completely off-point and inappropriate for print. I’ll get to explore more of that here. I’m also hoping to convince some friends to tell me about the things they love that I might not even know about, and pass that along to you.

The DoT podcast might be short or long, depending on where the conversation leads. You cant purposefully create an interesting tangent in conversation – it has to happen naturally. But I can confidently forecast that there will be moments in the individual podcasts where things veer off wonderfully.

The main thing here is love. To write about the things that make I’ve loved forever, and some new things that might stand the test and be around, at least for me, for decades to come. I’ve had to be critical in my writing at times, and it might not all be nonstop roses here, but in the end, what I really want to talk about is the good stuff. That’s why I will regularly write about things I think are “Perfect,” even if someone can demonstrate empirically that they are flawed. Still perfect to me.

Also, fish.

I hope you, dear anonymous surfer person, will come to expect only the highest-quality, free-range, grass-fed tangents. And I hope some of you love the same things I do and find it useful. Or at least a welcome distraction until the others get here.

Oct 19, 2017

When I first scheduled this interview with author Grady Hendrix, I was expecting him to be much more tongue-in-cheek about the subject of horror in print. He had named his book “Paperbacks from Hell,” and started his history of horror novels with The Little People and its unique creation, Gestopochauns – Nazi leprechauns. Plus, he has so much fun describing the outlandish plots of some of these books. Take, for example, this gem, in which he describes Jeffrey Konvitz’s The Sentinel:

Young Alison ran away but her father chased her down and tried to strangle her with a crucifix necklace, sending her into a fainting, barfing frenzy that ended only when she kicked him in the nards and renounced the church.

The book can seem like Mystery Science Theater for print at times. And just as Joel Hodgson and company adore the movies they riff on, and the idea of movies in general, Hendrix loves his books, no matter how over-the-top or offensive they may be. Hendrix appreciates not only the classics like Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby and Joan Samson’s The Auctioneer but also the unbound imagination it took to conjure up demon puppets or write five books about killer crabs.

“One of the things I take really, really seriously with this book is a lot of these authors are really legitimately good authors, and some are batshit crazy who wrote batshit crazy books, but they’ve been forgotten,” he says. “This is what they left behind. They’ve retired, some have died. This is their legacy, and I feel like in a way, my job is to introduce readers to these sort of forgotten authors and sort of take care of this flame and keep it burning.”

Hendrix writes his own novels, as well. He released My Best Friend’s Exorcism in July, and frequently publishes short fiction and nonfiction pieces. There is a definite sense of humor in everything Hendrix writes, but he’s dedicated to making sure what he puts on the page feels real to the reader. Which is why he braved his fear of the dark by sitting in the basement of his apartment building to know what his characters would feel like in Horrorstor, his novel about a haunted IKEA.

“When it’s time to pull out the scares in horror, I always feel like the ways people fail the most is they don’t dig deep enough,” he says. “You make something scary not by taking it super seriously, you make it scary by really knowing it and conveying that experience.”

You can find all of his writing at GradyHendrix.com.

After the conversation, stay tuned for “Welcome to the Land of Bad Magic,” a great sludgy, riffy track from Hound’s new album, Born Under 76. If you like your guitars loud, low, and fuzzy, Hound is the band for you. Find out more about them on their BandCamp site or the Let’s Pretend Records Web site.