by Josh Stricklin
My name is Josh Stricklin. My new book, The King of Evil, takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana, and believe it or not, it does take a great deal of inspiration from the Voodoo religion.
The King of Evil is a novel that follows the story of Jack and Cindy Simmons. The two move to Metairie hoping to start a new life with new jobs in a new house overlooking a river. Jack is then commissioned to create the art for a graphic novel, the villain of which is a crazed Voodoo spirit who steals the life of his victims to add to his own.
Research for this book started as plainly as you please. I had decided to set the story in New Orleans/Metairie. I was planning on moving there at the time, and I live close enough to those cities that all I have to do it get in the car and wait an hour and a half.
Initially the research was strictly on the city. What specifically does it look like? Who lives there? What’s going on when the crowds disperse?
Much like the way Jack walks around the city for inspiration, I parked my car and walked in no particular direction. Now, in the beginning I hadn’t planned on writing a fictional account of Voodoo when I started writing. I’ve known for a while that I wanted to do that eventually, but The King of Evil was born long before he took after a Voodoo spirit. The more I walked around the city, the more the images of Voodoo symbols and skulls wearing top hats seemed to stick out, and what horror novel couldn’t benefit from more skulls wearing top hats? Assuming the answer is “none,” I’ll press on.
Eventually I couldn’t keep it out of the novel. I managed to file The King down from this ominous entity into a lunatic Baron Samedi lookalike. The thing I had trouble with, as I’m sure would be the trouble with most people, was that I had no clue what Voodoo entailed. Beyond what little portrayal Disney, Kate Hudson, and American Horror Story offered, my only knowledge of Voodoo was an arena football team. So I asked Google for help.
There isn’t a whole lot out in terms of fiction. I was actually a little excited. Unlike my first book’s monster (zombies), I had more freedom to take the story where I wanted it to go without stepping on toes. So from there I needed to learn what Voodoo was—where it came from.
I didn’t know it was a religion. That doesn’t really do it justice. What I mean is, I didn’t know it was a legitimate religion. It is close enough to Catholicism that the Pope—at least one of them—even credits its validity. I know a lot of people envision sacrificial chickens, brick dust, and demonic spells, but that’s kind of like assuming all Muslims are wearing an explosive vest, or that every catholic priest has performed an exorcism. The reality of it, though, is that Voodoo is a very normal religion.
One thing I noticed was just like other religions there are a number of symbols with deep meanings. When I learned this, I immediately brought that into the story. One of Cindy’s patients is a member of a Voodoo church, and she has a coin with the symbol for good luck that she uses as a Talisman. During each of her meetings with Cindy she holds the coin and kisses it. Whether it works or not, she is a very strong character who believes in the charity of the religion.
The characters that come into play in The King of Evil are based on two Voodoo figures. Papa Legba and Baron Samedi are essentially different versions of St. Peter and the Grim Reaper, respectively. Papa Legba is usually depicted as an old man with a corncob pipe and cane who welcomes souls into the after life. Baron Samedi is the charming, top hat, cigar, and snake-wielding lad who comes across as a fancy zombie. These two figures molded The Kind of Evil. They brought the battle of good and evil to life, and acted as the foot that slammed the accelerator through the floorboard.
Just like Jack, I wanted to do the Voodoo religion justice as opposed to regurgitating the cool, creepy parts. My goal was to create a story that if a Voodoo believer read it they would say, “That was a cool story,” and not “I’m offended.” I feel pretty confident that Jack and I have both created something at least accurate enough to be entertaining.
So now that you know a little about the culture, come and witness The King’s capability. Wade with him in the river behind Jack’s and Cindy’s home. Follow him deep into the water.
Available Here: Website | Twitter
Josh's Thrilling Otherworldly Book - The King of Evil
Jack is commissioned to create the artwork for a graphic novel about a voodoo king, The King of Evil. As Jack works diligently to create a masterpiece, drawing the images back and forth between paper and his computer, he starts seeing things. Images of his King appear in the corners of his vision. They spring up just as Jack falls asleep. Always only inches out of plain sight.
The King grows more powerful, and soon he unleashes his power on Jack, Cindy, and the people in their lives. The King slowly destroys everyone around them, showing the newly rekindled couple what it's like to be evil for evil's sake. Jack and Cindy will need help from the King's past victims to stop him.
The King of Evil is a heart-pounding, supernatural thriller. Its vibrant characters and intense action is certain to keep its audience reading well into the night.
Available Here: Amazon