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Carrion Comfort Art - In 1989, the small publishing house called DARK HARVEST decided to do the first (and only) American hardcover edition of my huge novel CARRION COMFORT. (The size of the manuscript had scared away all other publishers.) Later, thanks to the kind intercession of a fellow named Dean Koontz, the book would be published in mass market paperback from Warner Books, but at the time, the Dark Harvest edition of CARRION COMFORT was the one and only version available to the world.

The book was hastily put together and I was presented with the choice of precisely one artist – someone whose work I wasn’t that fond of and whose style didn’t really fit a tale as dark as that in CARRION COMFORT. So, a few weeks before the book had to go to press, I decided that an old friend and I would do the cover, color frontispiece, and nine interior illustrations.

That friend was Kathleen McNeil Sherman – Kathy – and she was (and is) a real artist as opposed to my doodle-cartoonish-duffer artist status. She was also courageous to the point of being foolhardy. With just a few weeks left, we leaped into the job of illustrating the novel (I was still teaching full time and working on another novel, but the late nights working on the art for CARRION COMFORT were a wonderful change from all those words, words, words.)

First we had to decide what medium our interior art would be. Since neither one of us had worked in scratchboard for many years, that seemed to make sense as our choice – a case of the blind leading the blind. So we purchased the giant scratchboard templates, some more than three feet tall, divied up the images we wanted to realize, and went to work – sometimes with both of us working on a single image, sometimes working on our own. Sometimes I would lay down the sketch and Kathy would realize it – I think I sketched and she painted the astounding cover – but other times we’d go to our respective corners and not see the other’s work until it was finished.

In case you’ve never done scratchboard, please visualize working with an ink-covered black panel perhaps two feet by three feet, scratching away at it with a razor blade or exacto knife. Every place you scratch reveals the white beneath the black. Any place you don’t scrape away leaves blackness. It’s a good exercise in visualizing negative space.

The cover is Kathy’s. The crude color frontispiece was mine. The image of the mind-vampire Tony Harod rising above the water (I think it was a hot tub) was Kathy’s, but I remember scratching away at it myself, so I suspect we collaborated a bit on that one. The concentration camp page was mine and is so crude I wish I could take a second bash at it. (The larger black shadow surrounding the hapless inmate is meant to signify the looming presence of the terrible Nazi mind-vampire known as Willi.)

                          

The televangelist was my effort – all televangelists are mind-vampires, by the way – and looking at it now, the gentleman looks disturbingly androgynous.

The image of C. Arnold Barent and the chess piece was Kathy’s – I think – or perhaps it was partially mine, imitating a better one she had done of the older Willi. I seem to remember scratching away at the cheeks and mouth, but there was so much scratching away going on around that time. The one of Willi as the King was all Kathy’s and showed her skill at this scratchboard work. I think it’s a wonderful illustration for CARRION COMFORT – showing the real terror and power of the hidden mind vampires, those creatures who can control our minds and will and who lie beneath and behind much of the real evil of the world. I love the Willi illustration.

                          

There are more – I believe we did nine b&w interior illustrations – and for those of you who don’t own or haven’t seen a Dark Harvest limited edition of CARRION COMFORT . . . well, now you’ve seen just how home-grown the artwork was. (At least the Simmons’ parts of it.)

Someday, if I ever get this fershtugginer online dansimmons.com store up and running (it’s always fourth on my list of things to do, but writing books is always one through three and seems to squeeze out everything else), perhaps I’ll offer my large scratchboards – as crude as they are – for sale.

Fifteen years ago, Kathy did templates for black t-shirts and sweatshirts with the image of evil Melanie from the cover. We gave most of those shirts and sweatshirts away to friends. Actually, they were pretty cool. (I know that my agent, Richard Curtis, wore one to a Halloween Party some years ago.)

I do have Kathy’s painted cover – about three feet wide by two feet tall – framed and on my wall here. It’s not for sale.

            

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