A Kind of Magic: An Interview with Greg Gifune

Since my adolescence I constantly devour horror fiction – and over the years there arose a natural distinction in my head, between the “good” stuff I was reading and the exceptional one. And fortunately for genre-fans like me, the quality of horror novels evolved constantly over the last years. Postmodern works like Danielewski’s “House of Leaves” or Tremblay’s “A Head full of Ghosts” kept my brain in fast rotation when I lay in bed in the wee small hours of the morning when the sleep refused to come.

BUT there is also a category of dark fiction which I would label as “dangerous”; of course only if you are a sensible reader. I talk about the stuff that is able to creep into your soul, to make you REALLY uncomfortable. This is what I call “writing magic” and in all my reading life i have encountered only a few writers who are able to do that, Liz Hand, Caitlín R. Kiernan and, of course, Greg F. Gifune.

Gifune has been an outstanding phenomenon for me since the days I discovered him first in Frank Festa’s publishing programme – and as you will read later, one of his books I had to stop reading for a while, because it made me so incredibly sad. Now, I consider myself a tough guy when it comes to blood and gore – I have read countless books by Edward Lee, explored every perversity imaginable (and am really bored with this gore stuff by now ) – but Gifune? That’s another league. Take for instance “DEEP NIGHT”, a novel that was published 2005 at Delirium Books. An outstanding work that fascinates me on more than one level: It could be labeled as “Horror”, but the writing style is much more noir than you would expect – which includes all the darkness, bleakness and despair the great noir-writers have established many years ago. I would go so far to think of Gifune as a successor to Cornell Woolrich (maybe I will write about the comparisons in another article) and “DEEP NIGHT” raises also very fascinating questions, like: Is it possible that one could be “infected” by evil forces? Greg Gifune took a break from his tight writing schedule and answered some of my most burning questions.

“Deep Night” has been called “a classic” by Library Journal – when did you write the novel and what was the initial idea for it?

I wrote DEEP NIGHT in 2003 and 2004. It was first published in 2005 by Delirium Books, then reissued by DarkFuse when Delirium was absorbed by the new company and then later in the European markets. The idea, essentially, had to do with an alien invasion, but rather than a physical invasion, it was more psychological. What if, for example, the aliens manifested (or perhaps even disguised themselves) as mental illness in human beings? And what if that mental illness was contagious the way a cold or flu might be? What if one human being could infect another with the same mental illness and that’s how it spread and how the invasion took place? I’ve always been fascinated with mental illness—anything to do with the mind, really—and I thought this was an interesting approach, and one that hadn’t been done before. I then took this premise and mixed it with the love between two brothers, and the night terrors one experienced. I experienced night terrors as a child myself, and they were hellish and life-altering. I’d always wanted to write about them, and this gave me that opportunity, as I felt that if I did it correctly (and hopefully I did), I could weave it into the narrative rather seamlessly.

For me this work exemplifies what lies at the core of your huge body of work in a perfect way – dark events and/or evil deeds that set something in motion; something that can’t be stopped and slowly destroys the lives of guilty, but also sometimes innocent bystanders – could this be the concept of “true evil”?

I think so, sure. I write about evil a lot. Again, usually from a psychological angle, as to me, that’s the most interesting approach–and by extension, the most frightening. Certainly DEEP NIGHT, while not the study of evil that say my novel THE BLEEDING SEASON is, does delve into what evil is, what it might be and how it might move from person to person, again, like some sort of contagion. And yes, collateral damage is always a part of evil, so I write about that as well. I think, for me, I’m intrigued by people—innocent so-called or not—faced with evil in all its many forms—and how they survive (or don’t) its clutches not just in the physical world, but the psychological and spiritual as well.

I have the impression that your writing has some special power to influence readers; i remember i had to quit “Blood in Electric Blue” (dt. “Die Einsamkeit des Todbringers”, Festa Verlag 2011) once because reading it made me so incredibly sad – what is your special magic that makes your books so special?

Thank you, that’s very kind. I think maybe it’s my approach.  I try to come at the reader from within rather than externally.  I never want a reader to have to suspend their disbelief.  I feel if a reader has to do that while reading something I’ve written, then I’ve failed.  So I try very hard to make even the more bizarre things I sometimes write about believable.  I want the reader to believe what I’m telling them, and when and if you can maintain that with readers then the experience becomes much greater than simply reading an entertaining story or enjoying a few escapist moments. The reader becomes invested in the material personally, because they believe it, and it touches a chord internally, from within, and in a way we can all relate to. This, I believe, is what immerses the reader into the worlds I attempt to create, and often results in a kind of magic. I’m humbled and deeply appreciative that you used that word, magic, because in some ways that’s the intent, to create a kind of magic that allows readers to do more than simply read my work, it allows them (and perhaps in some cases forces them), to experience it, to feel it and believe it right along with the characters. I’d also like to think that while my work can be bleak and very dark, there is always a sense of hope there too. It may be small or remote, but it’s always there, and I think that, combined with a humanity I try to inject into all my work, helps finish off the experience for readers. I rarely tie things up in neat little bows, and usually allow the reader to figure things out on their own, and I think that’s important.  The artist, in my mind, should create the art then let those experiencing it interpret and live it however they need to. This not only involves the reader more deeply in the entire experience, it also helps to personalize it. Hopefully, as you say, if I do my job correctly, the result is magic.


If you like to read ebooks, some of Greg Gifune’s best works are currently available at a unbelievable low price, like the before mentioned DEEP NIGHT here, or the wonderful “DREAMS THE RAGMAN” here.

BUT if you are a bookworm like your blog host, than you should consider to buy Gifune’s amazing works in paperback – here is a complete list of his books at the big A.

OR you want to take a longer look at his works at DarkFuse. And if you want to try Gifune in German, check out his works at Festa, or, more recently, at Luzifer Verlag or Voodoo Press.

In your own world.

The most extreme form of escapism is found in situations where it seems to be needed most. I often contemplate over war pictures which show people immersed in books or comics and I wish they had the relief they needed so much; even it may have been only for a short time.

This Photo was taken after the Nazi Air Raid over Great Britain 1940 – the young man reading a book found in the ruins of the completely wrecked bookshop seems not to be aware of the chaos around him, at least not in the time he is reading.

This picture was taken at the time of the Vietnam War – a soldier of a platoon reads a comic in a (probably much needed) break. The US Army provided their soldiers mostly with war comics – which seems totally bizarre, but maybe the troopers found comfort in the virtual battles of Captain America and Bucky (because they won all the time).



What happens after we die? Nobody knows for sure, because no one ever came back to tell us. So chances are great our life has no special meaning in this big quiet cold cosmos we live in like an unrecognized microscopic particle.

I am so glad that there is fiction. Reading books and traveling in them with my mind makes me happy. Enhancing my reading experiences with weed (yes THAT weed), my imagination opens a door to other worlds and dimensions and breaks through the pages of the books. The story goes on in my mind, in some lucky cases I dream of it in my sleep.

Besides finding the one person that really loves you (which luckily happened to me) escapism is the only occupation or philosophy that really makes sense. Let’s entertain ourselves till we cease to exist.

A Love Letter to Maynard and Sims.

Since I seriously started to read horror fiction, Maynard & Sims have always been on my mind somehow. Years ago, my bookseller pointed me to the lovely paperbacks of their Department 18-Series and although I didn’t read them at that time I bought what was availible and let the covers inspire me countless times.

Now THAT is a cover! Absolutely love it.
Now THAT is a cover! Love it.

Maybe it was my favourite bookseller again, sometimes in a conversation, who hinted that “these guys really write fantastic ghost stories.”

My next session at Amazon brought the discovery that these two authors had written an enormous amount of short stories. Really enormous. So I ended up buying the newest collection called “Death’s Sweet Echo” and upon reading was so exited that I bought the Maynard Sims Library. All of it. Eight books choked full of ghost stories, oh my god! How cool is that?

The Maynard Sims Library looks good - even in my ebook reader.
The Maynard Sims Library looks good – even in my ebook reader.

I googled them and what can I say? These are really lovely lads. Both in retirement, writing, writing and writing, in a symbiotic way; more than 40 years they do this, which absolutely amazes me.

Hey, Len Maynard and Mick Sims. Thank you for still being here and writing all this wonderful weird fiction. You are some brave gentlemen doing what is their duty – feed the imagination of us always hungry readers with the good stuff.

1979 (left) and 2015 (right) - Two Gentlemen of Horror on a long Mission.
1979 (left) and 2015 (right) – Two Gentlemen of Horror on a long Mission.


Start by reading “Death’s Sweet Echo” as i did, you can buy it as ebook.

Department 18” is much better than the average ghost hunter stuff. The first case can be ordered here as print or ebook.

Here is a nice interview with Maynard & Sims on Simon Bestwick’s blog.

Burnt Island.

Alice Thompson – Burnt Island (224p, ebook/print) Inspired by a Facebook posting some time ago (from the much admired Liz Hand) I keep looking out for interesting female authors. And after discovering the great Lisa Tuttle and Sara Gran I found another brilliant writer – Alice Thompson, who once was part of british postpunks The Woodentops and currently resides in Edinburgh teaching creative writing. At the moment I read “Burnt Island”, which tells the story of disillusioned writer Max Long, who takes up a writing residency on a lonely island. Instead of writing the much needed bestseller he comes into contact with another famous but reclusive writer whom he suspects of being a fraud and from there on things slip completely out of hand: Long begins to question the reality of the residents on Burnt Island and in the end of his life as a whole. This novel reminds of Auster, Kafka, Shutter Island and the Films of David Lynch. It is an absolute fantastic book, I wish I could have a story from her for our literary journal Visionarium. But sadly Thompson only writes Novels. //order: (used) print or kindle//

Read English or die.

I will never, never get tired of convincing all my friends here in Austria and in Germany to read English books in their original language. Beside the poor translations into German there are thousands of authors who never will be published here. And that’s such a shame. If you depend ONLY on German translated books, you will surely miss the most astonishing fiction of your life. True Story.


Cass Neary forever.

Elizabeth Hand – “Generation Loss” (353p, ebook/print) This is one of my alltime-favourite novels, because it works on so many levels. This book answers the question what happened to the fans of the grim postpunk-movement in NY, teaches you interesting things of photography as art form and at the core of the book there is a deep, hurting mystery to solve for Cass Neary, the brutal and admirable leading character of this wonderful book. There’s also a sequel, “Available Dark”, which i haven’t read by now; i have to hurry up because there is another sequel visible on the horizon. //order: print or kindle//