Back in 2010, Neil Gaiman, who doesn’t really need me to introduce him, but whose past glory includes the work-of-dark-genius Sandman for DC Comics, had a great idea. As he recounted on his blog, “I was on a flight home last night, and I thought, You know, there aren’t enough traditions that involve giving books…And then I thought, Hallowe’en’s next weekend…”
From that inspiration grew a wonderful new tradition Neil called “All Hallow’s Read.” As explained on its official website, the idea is simple: “All Hallow’s Read is a Hallowe’en tradition. It’s simply that in the week of Hallowe’en, or on the night itself, you give someone a scary book.” As a lifelong reader, and writer, of tales dark and fantastical (such as my novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, now in a marvelous new expanded edition fully illustrated by ace comic book creator Gary Chaloner), I embraced this tradition immediately. In previous years, I gifted classics from folks like the brilliant Fritz Leiber, my late, great friend Karl Edward Wagner, and George R.R. Martin (who also doesn’t need much introduction these days, but whose short story “Sandkings” is one of the scariest things I’ve ever read). Last year, I treated my girlfriend in Brazil to a video of me reading Ray Bradbury’s “The Foghorn,” the story that made me decide to be a writer.
This year, I realized I was in the position to share the tradition with even more people. Now through Halloween, I am offering my semi-spooky tale “Dead Folks” as a free download on Amazon. The story is in Kindle format, but a Kindle is not required to read it; free Kindle reading apps for gadgets ranging from smartphones and tablets to PCs and Macs can be downloaded here.
This story is near and dear to my heart, as it was my first professional fiction sale years ago. In it, a small Appalachian town is mysteriously inundated with pesky corpses from various historical eras and a young man finds he must make some hard choices. One reviewer wrote, “‘Dead Folks’ ultimately reveals itself to be a clever genre admixture that is nodding toward Mark Twain, perhaps the most American of writers. Byrd puts it all at the service of a winning narrator, a well-delineated supporting cast of characters, and a transcendent love story. If Stephen King were given to whimsy, he might have produced ‘Dead Folks.'”
I hope you’ll accept my gift of this bit of weirdness in the spirit of the holiday, and that you enjoy it. Please spread the word, the more the merrier. If you like it, please consider leaving a short review of it on Amazon, as that sort of thing raises a story’s profile in searches and is incredibly helpful to starving authors like me. I also really enjoy reading what people think. And don’t forget to give someone else a story or a book, and tell everyone you know about All Hallow’s Read. Neil is absolutely right, we need more traditions based on gifting tales. What better time than Halloween, the season of scampering nightmare and sultry mystery?