Straub is no stranger to the supernatural. He has
written such unsettling novels as "Ghost
Story," "Floating Dragon" and "Shadowland."
He co-authored "The Talisman" and its sequel
"Black House" with Stephen King, and his
horror fiction has earned such honors as the Bram Stoker
Award, World Fantasy Award and the International Horror
to Straub, 73, the perversity of human nature provides
the ripest fodder for truly disturbing stories.
people are willing to do to one another is pretty
awe-inspiring," he says. "Human beings will
justify almost any actions. Theyíll bring it in line
as moral or at least forgivable behavior."
latest collection, "Interior Darkness: Selected
Stories" (Doubleday, $28.95) reflects that astute
outlook. Borrowing works from "Houses Without
Doors," "Magic Terror" and "5
Stories" as well as three "uncollected"
stories, "Interior Darkness" stares
unflinchingly into the black hole of human depravity. In
the first story, "Blue Rose" ó around which
Straub built the novel trilogy "Koko,"
"Mystery" and "The Throat" ó a
family passes down a legacy of bullying and abuse and
10-year-old Harry begins to understand his penchant for
violence. In "The Juniper Tree," a boy is
molested in a movie theater. In the black, grisly comedy
"Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff," a revenge fantasy
goes horribly awry when a jealous husband hires two
torturers to punish his unfaithful wife. "We could
tell you stories to curl your hair," Mr. Clubb
tells the unfortunate husband ó and then proceeds to
success of Straub, who lives in Brooklyn with his wife,
indicates we continue to have a taste for such dark
has to do with the messiness of common humanity,"
he says. "Despite our best efforts, we are all
deeply flawed. The only way to have a moral life is to
acknowledge those flaws and not forget about them or
How did you go about choosing works for a single
I had wanted ideally to do a book of collected stories.
I knew it might be a pretty fat book. Then my agent
informed me it would be two volumes, and there wasnít
a chance in hell I could get that published. So then I
was obliged to consider "selected" stories,
and that meant I did have to leave out any number of
stories that I like a lot. It took a long time. I made
many lists. Each list was the final one until I thought
about it again. Part of the problem is that half of the
shorter fiction Iíve written isnít at all short.
What was your criteria for including certain stories?
Were you looking for certain themes?
Occasionally stories were a little frivolous, and I didnít
choose those; I wanted a kind of balance. Really one of
the best things Iíve ever done is a story called
"Bunny Is Good Bread" ó which has some very
graphic abuse of a small boy. When I used to read it in
public my daughter would make this little "Oh no,
heís reading that again!" face. Itís not
gratuitously nasty, but it is deeply nasty. I did have
one story about child abuse I was eager to place in the
book ["The Juniper Tree"], and I thought
probably one of those was enough for a single volume of
stories. There are two stories about torture, though.
Youíve seen the publishing industry change
dramatically over the years. How do these changes affect
Iím in my early 70s ó I do pretty much what I want
to do. I have a comfortable life. What I do now daily at
my desk is not going to pay for the tuition of my
children in private school ó theyíre adults, theyíre
out on their own. Iím pretty sure Iím not going to
be homeless ó though the second I say that, I start to
wonder. But thereís a worry level Iíve graduated
from. Iím very fortunate. Ö If I were younger Iíd
have to deal with the one dreadful fact that has taken
place in American publishing, which is that advances
have gone way down. Ö Many a writerís income just
vanished. Itís harder to make a living. People could
support themselves by writing a book a year, which is
not easy ó itís hard work to write a book a year. I
have a good friend in northern California, my age, who
just discovered she has to write four books a year to
support herself, and she was not living like a princess.
Itís gotten stonier and colder and harder.
And yet your daughter Emma Straub [author of "Other
People We Married," "The Vacationers" and
the upcoming "Modern Lovers"] went into the
family business despite all this!
Emma is a very remarkable human being. Itís a terrible
clichť, but she does have her head screwed on right.
Sheís absolutely determined in her core to do her job
as well as she can do it. Making up a kind of life that
seems as real as the one you actually have, thatís an
odd activity, but Emma, it turns out, is good at it. Ö
When she was right out of college she wrote a long
Wuthering Heights-type novel set in high school. She
gave me this manuscript about 800 pages long, and I took
it with some trepidation. As soon as I started to read
it, though, I could relax, because though it might have
been kind of a mess, Emma could really write. She had
this built-in ability to write very agreeable, well
balanced, thoughtful, funny sentences. When you read her
prose, you trusted her. This is a real gift.
So is there any truth to the rumors that a third
"Talisman" book is forthcoming?
I certainly hope so. Itís totally dependent on the
patience of my saintly collaborator, Steve King. We were
supposed to start it three or four years ago, but I had
medical problems that stopped me in my tracks. Then I
had problems with a book I was doing Ö so weíre no
closer to being able to start it. But part of the reason
heís so patient is we have a great idea for the book.
I wonít tell you what it is, but there was a famous
story that happened in the world when we were young. He
kept a scrapbook about it and so did I, him in Maine and
me in Milwaukee. It has a lot of juice in it, and he and
I both feel that way about it, so we are eager to do
this book. I think heíll cut me a break and let me go
a year or two and then weíll start working on it.