“Keep Away from the Keep”*

By F. Paul Wilson

Damn. I just realized that if we’d waited one more month we could have called it the “Thirtieth Anniversary Edition.”

That’s right. Wm. Morrow first published The Keep in 1981. Yours truly finds that very scary.

Even though I spent the 70s writing SF for John Campbell’s Analog and Doubleday’s science fiction line, I really wanted to write horror. You could sense that from the grisly touches in my SF. In “Ratman,” my first sale to Campbell—my first sale ever—the finale involved the bad guy being eaten alive by semi-intelligent space rats. While discussing possible additions to “The Tery” for Dell’s Binary Stars #2, I remember editor Jim Frenkel telling me, “It’s already got enough horror.”

By 1980 the K-man’s success had convinced publishers that horror would sell, even if your name wasn’t Blatty or Levin, so I decided to go for it. King had continued Richard Matheson’s trend of moving horror away from brooding castles and into the towns and schools and homes of working- and middleclass Americans. I wasn’t ready for that. I’d read too much classic horror to give up on the Gothic just yet.

I’d spent decades immersed in everything horror—the works of Machen, LeFanu, James, and Lovecraft—tons of Lovecraft. I’d also been reading Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and while I enjoyed her Hotel Transylvania, I found the idea of a heroic vampire ridiculous. They’re parasites. But she did start me thinking about vampires. Like how much more interesting if the vampire only pretended to be an ally. (Hmmm…there’s a thought.)

At that time I lived near Lakewood, NJ, with its large Orthodox Jewish community. I’d see them in the stores all the time and, since vampires were on my mind, I started wondering: If these rabbi types ran into a true vampire, how would they react to its traditional fear of the crucifix? Wouldn’t that raise an awful lot of questions about their belief system?

Interesting situation. Even more interesting if the being was pretending to be a vampire to hide its true nature—something much worse.

The juices started flowing. What if it wasn’t the Christian cross it feared, but something that resembled one? But what?

The solution came to me at 3 a.m. one morning. I scribbled it down in the dark and the story cascaded together.

Besides horror, I was reading a lot of Robert Ludlum in those days. I loved the international scope of his breathlessly paced novels, so full of conspiracies, lies, and deception, where no one was who they seemed to be.

So, for my first horror novel I set up a big canvas, took one part vampire myth, one part HP’s cosmic evil, sprinkled in some Nazi einsatzkommandos for human evil, added smidgen of Ludlum paranoia, a Jewish scholar, and began to paint.

My agent had a movie deal before he’d even begun to send it to publishers. Unfortunately The Keep wound up in the clutches of Michael Mann who warped it into a film memorable for striking imagery, bad dialogue, and head-scratching incomprehensibility.

But the novel persists. Over its thirty-year life span, during which it’s never been out of print, it has appeared as a trade hardcover, a signed limited collector’s edition, a mass market paperback, and even a graphic novel, but never as a trade paperback. Until now.

F. Paul Wilson is the New York Times bestselling author of The Repairman Jack novels. The Keep (ISBN: 978-0-7653-2739-0 / ISBN10: 0-7653-2739-2 / $15.99) will be available in December 2010 from Tor Books.

*header for a one-star review of Michael Mann’s film of “The Keep” – Daily News 12/8/83

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