‘The Blood Beast Mutations’ by Carl John Lee was an unexpected delight. Part creature-feature, part scathing political statement against the current US presidency, I wasn’t prepared for both the topical plot line but also for the human side of this story.
Oddly, Carl John Lee seems to barely exist. In the world of social media and selfies, Carl has his Twitter account and, at the time of writing this, that’s it. I searched Instagram and Facebook and struck out. He is listed on Goodreads, but that’s hardly a go-to site for personal interaction.
‘The Blood Beast Mutations’ came my way just as oddly as connecting with John Lee.
One day, I randomly had a Carl John Lee follow me on Twitter. I followed back. Then Carl commented on how much he’d enjoyed one of my books. “Thank you!” I replied back.
Then on our Kendall Reviews group chat his book came up for offer. I accepted. But then I saw that it was about to be released and was only $0.99 for Kindle (which is still is), so I bought it instead and damn what a great buy.
(You can read my review here: http://kendallreviews.com/book-review-the-blood-beast-mutations-carl-john-lee/)
But then, it got me thinking. I don’t see much from Carl John Lee. He retweets some stuff here and there, so I reached out to see if he’d be up for an interview. He mentioned he’d had a few requests, but didn’t see the need.
Until now. Not sure what’s changed, but I woke up to a message from Carl recently on Twitter that said simply “OK, let’s do it.”
So, without further wait – I present the first (and maybe only) interview with Carl John Lee.
Steve: Carl, thanks for doing this. You’ve recently released your debut book ‘The Blood Beast Mutations.’ It was a really fun, quick read. What prompted you to write it?
CJL: Well Mr. Stred, thanks for asking. You’re a persistent guy, you know that?
Well, I guess what prompted me to write The Blood Beast Mutations was my anger and frustration at the clusterfuck going on over here in the States. Every day things were — and still are — getting worse and worse. A virus raging out of control, met at every stage by incompetency and outright idiocy from the people who’s job it is to protect us. The book was a form of therapy, to stop me from going completely out of my mind.
Look, I know some people think it’s bad taste to write a book about the pandemic, but I don’t give a fuck about good or bad taste. We have a psychopath in charge who’s letting people DIE. We have whole swathes of the population refusing to wear masks out of some lunatic desire to “own the libs”. Greed and selfishness run rampant now. We live in a fucked-up world. You wanna talk about bad taste? How about faceless stormtroopers kidnapping peaceful protestors? How about the erosion of the separation between church and state? How about police brutality and the rise of fascism?
There ain’t no happy endings, not any more. But I still believe in the goodness of people’s hearts. The Black Lives Matter protests are testament to that. I wanted to focus on the good people in my book, and ask — is there a way out of this hell? And you know what, Steve? I think there is. I hope there is.
Steve: Can you share anything about your background? Where you live or what you do when not writing?
CJL: I’ve been writing my whole life. That’s what I do. I started in screenwriting, wrote a bunch of what was known as ‘exploitation’ pictures back in the 70s and 80s; biker movies, skin flicks, horror movies, shit like that. It was fun, but I retired from that when the studios took over and all the really interesting shit stopped getting made. Since then I’ve…been around.
(Author photo provided by Carl John Lee)
Steve: Who are some authors that have inspired you?
CJL: He’s no damn author, but Roger Corman is my inspiration. That man could take a political hot-button topic and turn it into an entertaining good time, and he always — well, let’s not get too crazy — he usually had something to say about it. The other guy is David Cronenberg, and hey, that guy has written a book. Someone said my story reminded them of Cronenberg’s early body-horror films like Shivers and Rabid, and I have no problem with that, except that Cronenberg is a goddam genius and I’m some cranky old bum with an attitude problem.
Steve: Do you have a favorite book or movie?
CJL: Like I already said, I’m an old fart, so I love classic Hollywood cinema, auteurs like Hawks and Hitchcock, then later Coppola and Friedkin and De Palma. Sure, there’s some interesting shit being made now, but man, I miss the days before studio interference and producers with their notes and test screenings and homogenized Disney-owned bullcrap.
Steve: While writing, do you enjoy listening to music? If so, what do you listen to?
CJL: When I write, that’s the only time the voices in my head shut up for a few hours, so I guess you could say I listen to blessed silence when I write. Outside I can always hear the city, and that reminds me I’m alive. And then sometimes I put on some Charlie Parker, because that shit is a direct line to god himself.
Steve: ‘The Blood Beast Mutations’ seems to be an equal split between creature-feature and political anger. Did you start off writing a political book and added the creatures or a creature book where you added the politics?
CJL: My pa always told me that the older I got, the more conservative I’d become. That old bastard’s dead now, but I wish he was alive so he could see how wrong he was. I think it’d be harder for me to write something not political these days. When I started writing Blood Beast, I had no intention of putting it out. I write most days, like I said, to stay sane. I need to get my thoughts down on paper so they don’t rattle around in my head and torture me. This one started out as a purely political piece, but I guess I’m hardwired all wrong, because the old exploitation genes kicked in again, and I found myself having, I dunno, fun or something writing it. People talk about catharsis a lot in relation to horror, mostly to make themselves sound intelligent or to justify their love of dark, nasty shit, but sometimes they’re bang on the money. I could feel the darkness seeping out of me and onto the page. It was a release. But because, deep down, I’m a sentimental sap, things didn’t turn out quite as dark as I’d expected. I’d even say there’s a glimmer of hope in there, a light at the end of the tunnel.
Steve: There’s an interesting bit in there where murder hornets arrive and um… relieve the president from his position. Where did that visual come from?
CJL: It’s just a fantasy of mine, Mr. Stred. A deep, erotic fantasy.
Steve: What’s next from Carl John Lee? Will we see a sequel? A new release? Or is this it?
CJL: Well, I’m sitting on several decades worth of scripts and notes and ideas, so expect to see a lot more from me, whether you want to or not. My dearly-departed wife introduced me to the world of self-publishing a few years back, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t remind me of the good old lawless days of movie making. That’s how I found your work. Ritual reminded me of the sort of low budget film I’d get a kick out of in the 70s, well-written and imaginative, and totally outside the mainstream. So, I guess now I’m on my own for the first time in thirty years, I got plenty of time to dust off the old manuscripts and polish ‘em up for publication. My son did the artwork for Blood Beast, so he’s gonna be busy over the next few years. I hope a few readers are willing to take a chance on me, but if not, I’m still gonna keep writing. I’m too old and stubborn to stop.
In closing, I’d just like to thank Carl John Lee for such an entertaining interview. His responses, while candid, reminded me a lot of having a conversation with my grandpa. I personally look forward to seeing what Carl has up his sleeve.
If you’d like to find out more about Carl, his Twitter page is: @CarlJohnLee666
If you’re now keen on checking out the phenomenal ‘The Blood Beast Mutation,’ you can order a copy here;