Tag Archives: apocalypse

Now For Sale in the Kindle Store: Viva Las Vegas, a Zombie Crime Story

I’m celebrating Halloween by putting all my old zombie stories up in the Kindle store. “Viva Las Vegas” is Zombie Stories #1.

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.

Buy a copy of “Viva Las Vegas” for 99 cents in the Amazon Kindle Store.

“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.



The Panama Laugh is…a Best-Seller!

Borderlands Books at 866 Valencia Street in San Francisco was my neighborhood bookstore for bazillions of years. It’s one of the largest science fiction-fantasy bookstores in the world (possibly the largest at this point, I’m not 100% sure).

The location is gorgeous, gorgeously-appointed, luxurious, low-key, and most importantly packed with great books. The staff is gracious, chill and knowledgeable about the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and often about associated genres like noir.

And my novel The Panama Laugh is on the Borderlands Books trade paper best-sellers list for September, according to the Borderlands Books newsletter and Hellnotes.com.

It’s wedged between William Gibson’s Zero History and Max Brooks’s World War Z…two of my favorite writers.

In fact, when I was writing the scene in the middle of Part II of The Panama Laugh with the busted shipping containers, I had some of World War Z‘s amazing subtexts about of globalization in mind.

I’m reading at Borderlands on October 15 as part of Litquake’s Litcrawl, with Ray Garton, Richard Kadrey and Naamen Tilahuh, by the way. Litcrawl readings are some of the funnest I’ve ever been to. So come see us, hear some zombie fiction and argue with me over whether “funnest” is a word.

'Grabs You By the Throat and Punches You in the Face From Beginning to End'

W00t! YA author and clinical laboratory scientist Kelly Swails gave my novel The Panama Laugh a very positive review over at her Live Journal.

In it, she says, in part, “The Panama Laugh by Thomas S. Roche grabs you by the throat and punches you in the face from beginning to end, and I mean that in a good way.”

And did I mention she said this? “There is a lot to like here. The voice is perfect, as are the characters. The pacing doesn’t give you much breathing room, which I liked.” Read more here, and THANKS!

I like getting praised — who doesn’t? But if someone hates a piece of fiction I wrote, I feel like I should thank them for that, too…at least they took the time to read it, which is more than I can say for some people who hate on my nonfiction articles.

Regardless, thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to read The Panama Laugh, and thanks to Ms. Swails for the great review. I’m sort of extra-stoked because Swails’ bio says she is a clinical laboratory scientist by profession, which must mean that however egregiously wrong the science is in The Panama Laugh, there’s at least one scientist my fake-science wasn’t boneheaded enough to piss off!

I put a fair amount of work into figuring the logistics, but science speculation is not one of my strong points. Though I’ve read and loved science fiction my whole life, including quite a bit of hard science fiction, I’ve always felt like more of a crime and horror writer. I take forays into being a fantasist, but bona-fide SF has always been a stretch for me

I was awful proud of myself that The Panama Laugh technically crossed that line.

And I’m awful proud that people seem to be enjoying it.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and review the book!

Z: Zombie Stories, Featuring my Zombie Oil Spill Novella "Deepwater Miracle"

Just got a couple copies of Z: Zombie Stories, a YA anthology featuring my 10,000-word novella “Deepwater Miracle,” my first published work of young adult fiction.

“Deepwater Miracle” is Set in the world of my novel The Panama Laugh and features two teen refugees trying to reach Texas from Costa Rica, and encountering plenty of hellfire in their path. It features references to the 2010 Gulf oil spill, including a chocolate mousse deluge of Biblical proportions, as well as anti-immigrant hysteria and “patriotic” pirates in the form of right-wing Texan secessionist Minutemen-style groups.


Z: Zombie Stories, edited by J.M. Lassen

When the zombie apocalypse comes, it’s not just those crusty old folks who will struggle against the undead, it’s also the young people. What happens when you come of age during the zombie apocalypse? Z: Zombie Stories has the answer to that question.

Z: Zombie Stories gathers together some of the hottest zombie fiction of the last two decades, from authors including Kelly Link, Jonathan Maberry, and Catherynne M. Valente. These stories focus on those who will inherit a world overrun with the living dead: a young man who takes up the family business of dealing with the undead, a girl struggling with her abusive father…who has become a zombie, a poet who digs up the wrong grave, and a Viking maiden imprisoned with the living dead…

Featuring stories by Kelly Link, Jonathan Maberry, Thomas S. Roche, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Catherynne M. Valente, Scott Edelman, Darrell Schweitzer, Christine Morgan, David Barr Hirtley, and Scott Nicholson.






[Night Bazaar] Three Views of the Apocalypse

Honestly, I don’t even know where to start with the topic of what writers influenced me.Yes, yes, I know that’s why I get paid the big bucks. I’m sure I’ll come up with something.

In the interest of not spending the next six months writing a whole book about it the way Henry Miller and Colin Wilson did, or spending another 4 hours writing another 6,000 words about 10 or 12 writers — the way I just did, oops — I’m going to pick three writers I’ve enjoyed very much, who are connected in strange ways, and talk about them: Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock and J.G. Ballard. They’re all dudes; sorry. I swear I’m not a sexist pig, but for the first twenty years of my life, my bookshelf was a bit of a sausage fest.

Incidentally, none of these writers is what would call the biggest writing influence on me in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. That dubious honor goes to Roger Zelazny. But given what I’ve been writing lately, Ballard, Howard and Moorcock give me a lot to sink my teeth into.


Your Ride for the Zombocalypse

When the dead rise to eat your liver, tanks are one thing, but they’re of limited utility if what you’re shooting at is about four-foot-two, has pigtails, oozes green goo crawling with contagion, and despite a tendency to lumber with script-stretching slowness can still evade a turret-fired weapon. Who needs a 120-millimeter canon against the dead?

On the other hand, when the pustulating contagion pours out of the shadow government’s underground research facilities, or when the Omega Radiation pours down from the Death Meteor and cooks all you lackluster mopes with zombiwaves, or when the secret chemical ingredient that makes your breakfast cereal taste so delicious turns out to have wide-ranging side effects like sudden death and post-mortality mobility (and extreme hunger), you wanna know what me and my friends will be driving around in?

Assuming I win the lottery, it’ll be the US Army’s M1135 variant of the M93 Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Reconnaissance System, manufactured by General Dynamics and reportedly about $2.0 million a pop, which puts it within the extreme-contingency funds of even a modest lottery winner, right? (READ THE REST OF THIS POST ON TECHYUM.)

Christ Comes to Omaha

Look, I know you probably already know this, but you should be really, really careful what you search for on the internet. If you’re searching crap like “end of the world,” “Omaha,” and “Jesus Coming,” you should be really, really, really careful. That’s pretty much the information-economy equivalent of walking in to a frat party at 3am with a revolver and saying, “Man, I am so wasted! Who wants to play Russian Roulette? I’ll even go first! Man, how many bullets am I supposed to put in this gun — five? Six? Let’s say six.”

It’s gotten far worse in the last year. Now that Google Instant wreaks havoc with all my precautions, I have to go the extra mile. When I have to look something up on the Scary Box, I usually strap on a baseball catcher’s helmet and chest protector before I even start typing. Which I neglected to do this time…and look what it got me!

Poster from last year from an Anglican church in Auckland, New Zealand.

No, it is not the new billboards in Omaha proclaiming Christ’s return in May; the above is a poster from an Anglican church in Auckland, New Zealand, and it’s from last year. (READ THE REST OF THIS POST ON TECHYUM)