Coming off my Bouchercon 2022 high, where I got to hang with some of the best people on the planet, I am so pleased to be uploading this chat with Dan Malmon. Who, yes, is one of those best people I just got to see in person. From the moment I heard he and his wife Kate were editing an anthology in which all the stories had to kill him off, I knew that they were my people. I was correct about that.
So, friends, grab your coffee or tea or vodka and read on to discover all the things that terrify Dan Malmon. And that fierce (but incredibly adorable) doggie that will protect him.
Is there any fear you’ve overcome in your life? How has that changed you?
A few years ago (Maybe more? Time has been really weird the last few years.), my wife Kate and I were visiting friends in Chicago. One of our very favorite cities. Great food, great folks. While out seeing the sights, we decided to go to the Willis Tower/Sears Tower. To get to the observation deck, you must go through a long cattle line. We were just packed in there, with no room to move. After a period of slow, shuffling movement, the line just stopped. Everyone grumbled and waited for the line to move again. No biggie. But for me, the room started to spin. Cold sweats, shortness of breath. I haven’t ever really cared about close quarters before, but at that moment there was no greater need in the world than to get the hell out of there. Not gonna lie, that freaked me out badly.
Once we got to the top, I was fine. The tower has these clear plastic enclosures that extend out from the building. You can step inside and it’s as if you are floating in midair, high above the city. I was first in line: I knew in my heart of hearts that this was something I had to do. That if I chickened out here, I would regret it forever. I paid for the ticket, now it was time to take the ride. I finally got to the front of the line, and I thought to myself “HERE GOES…!” And I stepped out over the line from sturdy floor to clear plastic cubicle… and it was the greatest thing ever.
That being said, my palms were sweating as I was typing all of this.
“I knew if I chickened out here, I would regret it forever.”
Do you believe in ghosts?
Probably? I haven’t encountered any, but I’m not saying no. I have friends that swear that they have stayed in haunted hotels. The stories they tell are freaky as hell. But I honestly get more chills from going back to childhood neighborhoods, driving past your old schools. Those are the ghosts that you carry with you, and they are always around.
What is your greatest fear as an editor?
My greatest fear when we were putting out KILLING MALMON was that people wouldn’t see past the gag and see the exceptional work that we were showcasing in the book. The hook was simple, “Somewhere in your story, a character named Dan Malmon must die. The story can be scary, funny, happy, or sad, but somewhere in the story he’s gotta die.” It was a fun premise that opened the door to tons of different stories. People seemed to like it, and the experience was incredible. But I was worried that the public would think of it solely as a gag and ignore the quality of the stories inside. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
Do you have any horror movie dealbreakers?
The Omen and The Exorcist. I’m not religious but there’s something about those films.
Can’t do it.
What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?
I grew up on horror comics and MTV, so most of the time when I come across something scary or gross or weird my reaction is, “Oh that was pretty cool/gross/interesting.” But IT by Stephen King is the only book to really frighten me. There is one scene where The Losers Club is tracking the monster in its lair, and it takes the form of a giant spider. They find a trail of IT-eggs and they end up crushing the eggs one by one. Everything after that is a blur because I was freaking out so bad. It’s not the giant spider—it’s the tension and the fear coming off the characters in waves. By this point, you know this group. You know them as kids and you know them as adults and now you know just how scared they are.
Fear is contagious.
Dan Malmon’s love of reading was sparked by a spinner rack full of comics at a gift shop he stumbled into while on a family vacation. It wasn’t long after this that he read the entire Stephen King section of the school library. In 2017, Dan co-edited the anthology KILLING MALMON with his wife, Kate. The anthology was nominated for the Best Anthology Anthony award and featured the winner of the Best Short Story award. In 2020, they put out the follow-up anthology REVENGE OF THE WIDOW MALMON, which featured stories by an incredible array of contemporary crime writers. All proceeds from both collections go to the MS Society. Dan is a reviewer-at-large whose most recent work can be heard on the Writer Types podcast. His Venn Diagram covers mystery fiction, comics, sports, and donuts. And ice-cream. Do we have time to talk about ice-cream? Because ice-cream is pretty great.