When the zombocalypse hits, a Mob hit man who made the mistake of working “one last job” and got his fiancee killed must cruise the broken streets of Vegas looking for her.
“Viva Las Vegas” was the very first zombie story I ever wrote.
I had been re-reading The Godfather and Goodfellas and reading the books of former FBI agent William F. Roemer, about the Chicago mob. I was totally obsessed with the Sicilian-American Mafia and organized crime in general. My friend Alex S. Johnson told me John Skipp was reading for another Book of the Dead anthology. Some years before, I had read the original Book of the Dead, an anthology of stories based on the world of George R. Romero. I thought it was the most drop-dead amazing horror I had ever read.
So I wrote “Viva Las Vegas,” “A tale about dirty rotten gamblers and the heavily-armed hit man who kills them a second time…sometimes a third.” I made it as tragic and hard-boiled as I could stand, and extra-bloody because you can’t have a zombie novella without cracking a few heads. The original version was 7,700 words, and i trimmed it down to about 7,200 to speed up the action.
After I submitted the story, Skipp called me at home one day. He told me how much he loved the story, but he couldn’t take it…because while it was 100% true to his crime-novel sensibilities, it wasn’t quite true to his Book of the Dead sensibilities. I think those were his words, more or less. I was so blown away by getting a call from John Skipp that I just bleated and glorped. I think I mighta squeed.
Anyway, when my friend Shade Rupe was collecting stories for a second volume of his amazing magazine/anthology Funeral Party, it was at a time when I didn’t really consider myself a nonfiction writer.
So I sent him this. He loved it. It appeared in that amazing tome.
Some years later, it was selected for a volume of James Roy Daley’s Best Zombie Stories anthology series.
It’s one of my favorites. Like all my zombie stories, it cuts to the heart of my mythology, even if it’s a very different mythology than other zombie stories I’ve written. When I came back to the genre with The Panama Laugh, I had this character very much in mind…but this guy isn’t quite Dante, because the time between one work and the other had warped me profoundly, and I had much more to say.
Zombies, like vampires, are a template for thematic improvisation and psychological exploration. While that’s true of all monsters, fictional and nonfictional, it’s with zombies and vamps that I find my own obsessions framing the argument so the agonies seem real.
Doing anything else would be unfair to the characters. Laugh if you want, but I take horror seriously.
Hope you enjoy it. I know I liked writing it.