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Ed Kurtz: Making Austin scarier, one book at a time

Ed Kurtz: Making Austin scarier, one book at a time

Austin Photo Set: News_Gabino_Ed Kurtz_horror writer_april 2012_rust and blood
Austin Photo Set: News_Gabino_Ed Kurtz_horror writer_april 2012_catch my killer
Austin Photo Set: News_Gabino_Ed Kurtz_horror writer_april 2012_bleed
Austin Photo Set: News_Gabino_Ed Kurtz_horror writer_april 2012_the red empire
Austin Photo Set: News_Gabino_Ed Kurtz_horror writer_april 2012_dead beat
Austin Photo Set: News_Gabino_Ed Kurtz_horror writer_april 2012_attic clowns
Austin Photo Set: News_Gabino_Ed Kurtz_horror writer_april 2012_viadalorosa

In April of 2011, local author Ed Kurtz had a self-published debut novel to plug and a cranium full of ideas. By the end of the year, his novel, Bleed, had made the “Best of 2011″ lists at Anything Horror, HorrorTalk and Geeks of Doom.

Now, only twelve months later, Kurtz has three published books and is the owner and editor of Redrum Horror and Abattoir Press, two projects that are up and running with big-name writers behind them. To find out how so much changed in so little time, we sat down with Kurtz to talk about books, writing, the world of publishing and Austin's emergence as a hotbed for horror writers.

When asked about the genesis of Redrum Horror, Kurtz confessed being a fan of numbered things. A collector of Hard Case Crime books and the Dragon Dynasty line of martial arts movies, the author said numbers help things "look good on a shelf" and make him think he's "working toward something, building a library that's really worth having."

 "I wanted to explore all aspects of horror, from the quiet, psychological stuff to balls-to-the-wall bloodbath fare."

Not being able to find something akin to that in one of his favorite literary genres, Kurzt set out to create it.

"To my admittedly limited knowledge, there wasn't anything of the sort for horror fiction, at least not in affordable trade paperbacks," says Kurtz. "I envisioned Redrum Horror as just that, an ongoing, numbered library of the very best horror fiction I could get my hands on. And though I deeply appreciate small publishers that stick with one type of horror, I wanted to explore all aspects of horror, from the quiet, psychological stuff to balls-to-the-wall bloodbath fare. It's a fairly broad spectrum, and so far everything I hoped it to be."

With the first three titles from Redrum Horror coming from Bram Stoker award-winning author and San Antonio Police Department sergeant Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker nominee Jeremy C. Shipp and Guy N. Smith, the legendary author of more than 80 pulp fiction classics with 600,000 copies sold, the press is already making waves. However, Kurtz is not satisfied with just horror. 

"There still crops up material I'd love to publish, but which doesn't quite fit the Redrum Horror vision," says Kurtz. "I created Abattoir Press for this reason, to allow myself to put out anything and everything I want without compromising my initial vision. Abattoir is a supplement to the Redrum Horror library: all dark fiction, but with unique flavors that defy categorization in most cases.

Ronald Malfi's Via Dolorosa is a prime example of this dichotomy—it is without a doubt one of the very best genre novels I've read in years, and yet it's so subtle that it didn't quite fit the Redrum mold. All the same, it's a book that demands to be read. Malfi is one of the best in the field and Via Dolorosa is just plain brilliant."

Now that both presses are operational, Kurtz plans to keep working just as hard.

"There are three Redrum Horror volumes out now and three coming out over the course of the rest of the year," says Kurtz. "It's a wonderfully eclectic mix of fiction from new, young writers like Benjamin Kane Ethridge (Bottled Abyss) and lost classics by the masters of the genre like Gary Brandner (Hellborn).

"With Abattoir, I'm doing a lot more with e-publishing; I'm releasing a few original novellas and a series of supernatural, horror-themed detective novellas all as ebooks first, with omnibus trade paperback editions on the horizon. It's a fun, different way to publish fiction that, I think, really rewards the reader and collector both. It's tremendously exciting."

 "Enter Abattoir, where I can do whatever I want, and part of what I want to do is get some of these tremendously talented authors' work in front of readers' eyeballs."

Writing, editing, working the conference circuit and promoting take up most of his time, but Kurtz still finds what he does a rewarding experience.

"It's exhausting, to be truthful, but too much fun to even think about doing anything else," says Kurtz. "I get a lot more help from my wife Megan than I probably deserve, and a lot of what I'm doing operates as a group effort between me, the authors, the cover artist, et cetera."

Besides re-releasing Bleed in March, Kurtz recently released two more titles. In February came Rust & Blood, a collection of short stories in ebook form. Then, on the first of April, he released Catch My Killer!, the first of the Sam Truman Mysteries series from Abattoir Press.

"Rust & Blood is a mix of previously published pieces and some brand new ones, nine in all," says Kurtz. "Though mostly horror, I also write a bit of crime fiction, so that's represented. The craziest thing, to me, about Rust & Blood is the terrific response I've received for one story in particular, 'Family Bible.' It very nearly didn't make the cut as I was putting the collection together because it had been rejected by editors three times. I loved the story, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't the best judge. In the end, I ran the risk and included it anyway, and it tends to be readers' favorite of the lot."

While Rust & Blood is all Kurtz, Catch My Killer! was a way for the author to set in motion something much bigger. The series will be all old-school private detective novels set in the early 60s and intertwined with supernatural elements. The plan is to release a Sam Truman tome every six weeks, but Kurtz will not be writing them.

"I wrote the first one in order to set the ground rules and introduce the major players, but future entries in the series are written by an array of terrific authors like Brandon Zuern, Tobin Elliott, and Keith Rawson," says Kurtz. "I wrangled three more into the fray at the World Horror Convention this year, and those will be announced soon. I couldn't be more excited about this series; each book fits in nicely with the mythos but has its own voice, its own direction and spirit."

Kurtz's work as an author and editor makes him part of a group of people that are quickly putting Austin on the literary map. When it comes to horror literature, Austin is home to some of the biggest names in the game. Lee Thomas, Gabrielle Faust, Nate Southard, Shane McKenzie and Wrath James White are just some of the writers turning the Live Music Capital of the World into a very scary place. For Kurtz, this is perfectly natural.

"Austin has long been the hub for creative types between the coasts, from musicians to filmmakers," says Kurtz. "Why not authors and publishers, too? It should be no surprise that most of us hail from elsewhere originally (I'm from Arkansas, but I escaped), and I get told by people at conventions and other events all the time that they're thinking about moving to Austin. It really feels like we're on the verge of something big here. I'd be thrilled to play the smallest possible part in it."

Part of Kurtz's contribution is coming via opening the doors of Abattoir Press to new voices.

"I'm a newish writer myself, and I fully understand how frustrating it can be for unknown writers to get their stuff out there," says Kurtz. On the other hand, my aforementioned vision for Redrum Horror is one of a vital library, which in itself demands a sort of richness that usually comes from more established authors. That said, there are tons of mind-boggling good writers out there who no one knows, and the last thing I want to do is slam the door in their faces.

"Enter Abattoir, where I can do whatever I want, and part of what I want to do is get some of these tremendously talented authors' work in front of readers' eyeballs."

On top of the titles coming from Redrum Horror and Abbatoir, Kurtz is currently working on something he described as "a crazy grindhouse-inspired piece," finishing up stories for various anthologies, mapping out a YA series and researching for his next horror novel, among other projects. With so much on his plate, the author and editor still finds time to be a promote books from both presses on social networking sites.

"For a little guy like me, Facebook and Twitter play an enormous role," says Kurtz. "I just don't have the budget for a massive advertising blitz, as much as I wish I did, so the preponderance of Redrum and Abattoir's marketing is, for the time being, dependent upon word of mouth. Maybe one of these days there will be a Redrum Horror ad on the Times Square Jumbotron! But, no, probably not. So...tell your friends!"


If you want to stay up to date regarding releases, specials, contest, submission dates and readings, you can sign up for the Redrum Horror mailing list by sending an email to with MAILING LIST in the subject line. You can click here to learn how you can win an autographed copy of Ronald Malfi's Via Dolorosa