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October 4, 2006

Book Notes - David Wellington ("Monster Nation")

When I read the first book in David Wellington's zombie trilogy, Zombie Island, earlier this year, I couldn't wait to pick up the next volume in the series. Luckily for me (and zombie fans everywhere), Zombie Nation was published late last month. A precursor to Zombie Island, the book is action-filled and fast-paced, a fascinating and unnerving look at a world where flesh-eating zombies arise and change the world.

In his own words, here is David Wellington's Book Notes entry for his novel, Monster Nation:

When my first novel, “Monster Island” came out in April, I wrote a “Book Notes” entry describing the perfect zombie mix tape if it was made circa 1990. Considering the season I thought this time I’d create my ultimate Halloween Party Tape. So prepare yourself for a ghoulish good time:

Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) by David Bowie (from “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)”, 1980)

The pumpkins have been lit, the bat-shaped sugar cookies and bowls of gummi worms have been laid out. You’ve stained your hands with black food coloring or maybe fake blood, or perhaps even burned yourself on dry ice. It’s all good—the guests are streaming in dressed as pirates and terrorists and slutty catholic school girls and they’re marveling at the decorations you got at Rite-Aid that afternoon and strung up at the last minute. It doesn’t matter because you’ve replaced all your lightbulbs with black lights, so nobody can see anything anyway. The drum loops and bass-heavy vocals of this track will help cover up that awkward phase at every party where the first guests have shown up and are wondering if they’ll be the only guests, while the hosts worry they didn’t use enough stick-um on the articulated paper skeletons and that they’ll start drooping before anybody serious arrives to see them. Maybe if they just stretched the fake cobwebs a little further over like… so.

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 565, Numerous recordings available)

Bach supposedly composed this piece as a method of testing pipe organs—if they made the Toccata sound good they could play anything. About ten minutes later people started using the Toccata in horror movies. For purposes of our hypothetical party, make sure you switch tracks before the fugue starts. This piece should be played as the host and/or hostess come down the stairs in their vampire/Bride of Frankenstein costumes, while all the guests gasp in awe at just how much time (and more realistically, money) they put into their look. It’s a grand moment and it needs grand music. If at your party you’ve chosen to go as Redneck NASCAR Driver/Jessica Simpson in the Dukes of Hazzard movie, you might replace this piece with the “Addams Groove” by MC Hammer.

Monster Mash by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Cryptkicker 5 (from “Monster Mash”, 1962)

The hosts have greeted their victims—I mean guests—and now we get down to business, either dancing (if it’s that kind of party) or rushing the bar. Guaranteed to bring a smile to the coldest of hearts and the wearers of the most miserly costumes and really get the party rolling. The song itself is a classic and requires little introduction, though did you know this song was banned by the BBC for being too morbid? You can get it on any number of compilations but you’ll pay through the nose. Far better to pick it up on Mr. Pickett’s website, where you get the entire album he recorded and released in ’62. The album was clearly recorded just to support the single but the musicians had a lot of fun making it and it shows. A definite must have for any fan of campy horror—or campy music.

Release the Bats by the Birthday Party (from “Junkyard”, 1982)

Sex horror bats how I wish those bats would bite! A little gem from Nick Cave before he got all serious and mopey. Okay, this song is serious and mopey, but by comparison it’s like something from a Primitives album. Plus, it’s got a great beat and you can dance to it. If anybody thought your music choice was lame or less hard than it could be after the last couple tracks, this ought to turn them around. If it doesn’t you should tell them they really need to visit your “haunted maze”. By the time they realize they’ve been locked in your coat closet it’ll be too late. Mwah ha ha ha.

Sometimes I wish I was a Pretty Girl by Robyn Hitchcock (from “I Often Dream of Trains”, 1984)

Play this song right before you announce that anyone who wants to enter the costume contest should register with the judges. It’s a musical rumination partially based on the theme music from Psycho (you know, the film directed by the other famous Hitchcock), a jangling, high-tension rock elaboration on the murderous violins of the movie. The song is so named because, of course, if R. Hitchcock were a pretty girl, he could stab himself in the shower. R. H. manages to create a song with this subject material, which also includes the bridge: “Bloody red bats/squelching offal/foaming mutilations/and the kiss of death”, while somehow staying on the pleasant side of whimsy. Some versions of this song have been censored; accept no substitutes.

Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon (from “Excitable Boy”, 1978)

Everyone’s getting loose, in a good mood. The extra fifth of vodka you emptied into the “Witches Brew” is working its magic and that one girl who showed up dressed as “a slut” will shriek with laughter when this song comes on. People around her will smile knowingly while you and the hostess argue bitterly over who thought it would be a good idea to only buy one bag of ice. Somewhere in this party, a man dressed like a devil is making out with a girl dressed like “a slutty nurse”. Somewhere else somebody is puking into one of your potted plants. Your party is coming off perfectly.

Road House Blues by The Doors (from “13”, 1970)

Let’s take it down a notch, shall we? Or maybe just half a notch. It looks like everyone’s having a good time, except that weird girl with the glasses who just sits in the corner. Didn’t your friend bring her? Where’d he go? Oh, there he is, talking to the girl dressed as a slutty FBI agent. Maybe you should say something. She doesn’t look like she’s having a good time. Are we seriously already out of cheese dip? If every single person at your party is under the age of thirty, you can replace this track with “People are Strange”, from the album “Strange Days”. Be careful, though. If even one guest is over thirty, he will take it upon himself to tear the CD out of the CD player and break it into many small pieces. That’s how many times those of us over thirty have heard “People are Strange”.

Eyeball Skeleton by Eyeball Skeleton (from “Eyeball Skeleton”, 2005)

Yes, build that energy! When the party is over somebody will ask you about this song, and whether it’s “for real”. I don’t know the answer to that question. What I do know is that this band is formed by a seven year-old and an eight year-old who wanted to be rock stars. When they were trying to decide what to call their band, one of them said “Eyeball”, and the other one said “Skeleton”. Having exhausted their creative powers they then convinced their dad to play the drum machine that is the band’s only instrument while they improvised the song. What did they come up with? Some people have called it an instant classic of neo-punk, and the prime example of the DIY aesthetic in modern alternative music. Those people were probably drunk at the time, but don’t you dare tell me this isn’t a catchy tune. Don’t you dare! When it’s over, announce that judging will begin immediately on the costume contest.

In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg (Numerous recordings available)

A piece of Classical music actually written for a horror story (well, a folk-tale, but a scary one). Who knew? You may, if you like, substitute one of the many modern updatings of this song for synthesizer or rock guitar. I’ve had enough of that Witches Brew by now not to criticize you unduly. If you can, get this on vinyl. Let it play normally as the guests parade past in their crafty but rather silly costumes. Wait for the one drunk bastard who came as “guy in a t-shirt” (trust me, no matter how carefully you word the invitations, this guy will come to your party anyway). This jerk will have entered the costume contest because he thinks it’s funny. The… the jerk. Give me another one of those Witches Brews. So when this guy gets to the front of the line and does a little twirl to show off his hooded sweatshirt and stained jeans, you skip the record intentionally and the look on his face is going to be priceless, man. Just… just priceless. I think I may need to sit down.

Alligator Wine by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (from “At Home with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins”, 1958)

You can really pick any Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song here—they’re all good. The one exception is “I Put a Spell on You,” which will make people think the party is just getting started. At this point you’ve kicked out the really drunk people (if you were nice enough to pour them into cabs you get bonus points), you’ve probably found some things in the cheese dip you wish you hadn’t, and all of your decorations are starting to fall down. It’s time to move people towards the door. Some of them will want to dance to this (or drink to it, if it’s that kind of party) but most of the girls dressed like slutty pirates and slutty ghosts have already left for better parties and frankly you do not want to encourage the five guys who dressed like Elvis and the guy who came dressed as some Anime character nobody else had ever heard of. Hand out goodie bags if you have any candy left, make sure the winner of the costume contest is capable of holding onto his/her prize (may I suggest a nice book?) and let your best friend start going through your CD collection looking for the next album to play. By the time he cranks up the Breeders or Boards of Canada the party will officially be over. Congratulations! It was a great success. Pour yourself the last half glass of Witches Brew, ignore the cigarette butts ground into the carpet (was somebody smoking in here? You didn’t notice at all), and relax. You deserve it.

see also:

the author's website
David Wellington's Book Notes entry for Monster Island
Monster Nation serialized online
Monster Island serialized online

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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