ANNOUNCING CAMP REDBLOOD BOOK TWO
As I mentioned in my last blog post, Camp Redblood and the Summer of Terror, the intended second entry in the Camp Redblood bookseries, is taking me forever to write, so I’ve come up with another new story—shorter, leaner, and more narratively propulsive than either Summer of Terror or Camp Redblood and the Essential Revenge.
Before I dish on the new book, I want to talk about the postponed Summer of Terror a little further. If you read the excerpt of the book’s first chapter that was included with the Special Edition of Essential Revenge, you know that it’s a prequel, set in the summer of ’81, and concerns Leigh Carter’s first year at camp. Postponing its release at this time makes sense for a few reasons, some of them purely practical. The fact is, I began writing the first Camp Redblood novel without having completely designed the titular summer camp itself, something I’m still in the process of doing. This is why much of Essential Revenge (and book two as well) takes place outside the campgrounds, and focuses on a small group of Redblood campers and rival camps. The Dead Unicorns are, after all, a scout group, so it makes sense that they don’t spend all of their time at Camp Redblood. The camp itself has to feel real and tactile before the characters spend any great amount of time there, and since 95% of Summer of Terror takes place within those campgrounds, I need that extra time to make sure it’s just perfect.
On a story level, moving Summer of Terror back makes sense because the book only features a handful of the younger campers we met in Essential Revenge, many of whom (mostly Cloudy) I developed great affection for while writing that book. I wanted another outing with The Dead Unicorns before jumping back a few years, before they were a team. There’s another reason as well. I’ve been careful to set up a few mysteries about my characters, questions that I don’t want answered anytime soon. What did Leigh Carter do to land herself in juvenile hall when she was young? What was it that blinded Dr. Cheevers? What was the accident that gave Teresa her weird psychic powers? Is Ralphbot actually a robot, or is he just fuckin’ weird? At least one or two of these questions would have been answered in Summer of Terror, and I want to keep the mystique going a little longer (George R.R. Martin clearly has a fan in me).
The biggest reason for Summer of Terror’s delay is that I want to get it right. It’s a long, involved story with a huge cast of characters. And, as the title suggests, it’s a flat-out horror story. Essential Revenge had some horror elements, as will book two, but Summer of Terror is horror. Fun horror, I would say (I’m not one for nihilistic stuff), containing the same juvenile sense of humor that pervades all my writing, but horror nonetheless. It’s a genre that still somehow doesn’t get enough respect, despite being just about the oldest genre (the cavemen weren’t sitting around the campfire telling legal thrillers hundreds of thousands of years ago), so I want to do it justice.
Book two, on the other hand, is something very different. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, one of the reasons I’ve always been attracted to the summer camp setting is that you can basically tell any kind of story you want, weaving in all types of genres and subgenres. At this point I don’t even pretend that my influences are literary—my creative life began at the movies, and movies are what I use as a frame of reference whenever Camp Redblood is concerned. If Essential Revenge was a combination of raucous comedies like Animal House and adventures like Goonies, book two is American Graffiti meets The Warriors. But shit, for all I know, if you’re reading this you were born after I finished high school, and have no clue what either of those movies are. No problem! I came up with a synopsis to help.
It’s the last night of summer, 1985, and one of Leigh Carter’s Scouts has been kidnapped by the Heavy Hittah street gang. Leigh could just call the cops, sure, but that’s not how they handle things at Camp Redblood. She and her Scout group, The Dead Unicorns, have fourteen hours to rescue their friend and make it back to camp in time for the last bus home, but a few things are standing in their way. One is Sheriff Jasper Q. Hingle, the local lawman who’s just itching to catch the Unicorns stepping out of line. Then there are the bloodthirsty denizens of Camp Ahab, a shady hunting camp with an even shadier secret. And, of course, there are the Heavy Hittahs themselves, led by the vicious Hades Octane, a local girl who will go to any length to settle her vendetta against Leigh. Filled with laughs, thrills, and bone-crunching action, fans of Camp Redblood and the Essential Revenge will want to call shotgun for this wild ride!
I cited Graffiti and Warriors as the touchstones for this story, but here are a few other titles that will clue you in on this new book’s tone: Smokey and the Bandit, The Cannonball Run, Dazed and Confused, License to Drive, Smash: Motorized Mayhem (a documentary about school bus racing in Florida that you should totally check out because it’s fuckin’ pissah), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and, of all things, an episode of Batman: The Animated Series called “Harley and Ivy”.
Bandit and Cannonball Run are probably the biggest tonal influence on Labor Day Death Race. Ever since I first came up with the idea for Camp Redblood, I knew that at some point I wanted to do a road story in the spirit of Hal Needham’s movies. Needham was a legendary stuntman who became friends with 70’s icon Burt Reynolds and doubled for him regularly. He ended up crashing at Reynolds’ bachelor pad for something like twelve years after being kicked out of his home (the two of them presumably went on to party harder on any given night than I would if I lived two lifetimes). The story of how Needham concocted the idea for Smokey is legitimately hilarious. After realizing people were going to insane lengths to procure Coors beer, which was only available West of the Mississippi at the time, Needham wrote a script about a bootlegger who has to get a truckload of the stuff back East in a narrow space of time. The movie is one of greatest expressions of pure fun in all of cinema (released the same summer as the purest expression of fun in all of cinema, Star Wars). This type of fun that Needham’s films embodied, along with their insane stunts, is a core part of Camp Redblood’s DNA, and I think I’ve managed to capture some of that feeling (in book-form, at least) with this entry in the series.
As with Essential Revenge, I’ll be releasing a barebones version, followed by an illustrated special edition. Not sure when either will be released, but the barebones edition will definitely be sometime in 2018. I’ll be updating regularly with the usual concept art and news in the weeks and months to come, so stick around!