Jack’s Magic Beans by Brian Keene

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Jack’s Magic Beans

Author: Brian Keene

Type of Book: Novella, short story collection, extreme horror, zombies (kind of)

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: There are some scenes in this book that classify as extreme horror, which I always consider odd when compared to mainstream tastes.

Availability: Published by Deadite Press in 2011, you can get a copy here:

Comments: Let me begin Day Four of Zombie Week by reminding everyone that I am giving away a free copy of every book I discuss this week to one lucky reader. That’s right – five books, one box, you could totally strike it book-rich. How do you enter to win? Easy as pie. Just leave me a comment on any of my Zombie Week book discussions. If you want to increase your chances to win, leave me a comment on each of the five book discussions. I count each comment each day as a separate entry, with a maximum of five chances to win. All you have to do is make all those five comments (or two of four or however many) by 9:00 pm CST, 4/1/11.

Now, let me begin this discussion by saying outright that this book very likely cannot be considered a zombie book by purists, and even I, a zombie novice, am reluctant to call the characters in Jack’s Magic Beans anything but berzerkers. If you have read One Rainy Night by Richard Laymon, you might consider its rain-demented characters to be very similar to the violence-bound, utterly mad characters in Keene’s novella. People acted upon by an unseen force become unspeakably violent, and while the character motivations and victim/hero situations are different, that was one of the best references I could think of in trying to explain the lunatic berzerkers in Keene’s novella.

Why did I read this and include it, then? Well, couple of reasons, really. I had Zombie Week planned out for about a month in advance, only to realize that one of the books I had selected was so short and shallow that, even in my most verbose state, I would have to pad a 200 word discussion. Okay, replaced it at the last second with another book. Then I went online to buy the copies I am giving away and realized the Keene book I wanted to discuss, The Rising, is out of print and I needed to read something else fast or I would be screwed. I had a copy of Jack’s Magic Beans on hand already, so I just decided to go with it. I do these “weeks” for my own benefit, so don’t imbue much nobility in what I am about to say, but I infinitely prefer it if my efforts here produce sales for the authors whose work I discuss. That won’t happen with The Rising because of Keene’s travails with Dorchester Press/Leisure Books, which have made for horrific reading in and of themselves.

If I discussed that very excellent zombie book of Keene’s, a book that is most decidedly a zombie book, he wouldn’t have received a cent if anyone bought it, and he wouldn’t have received a penny if I managed to find a new copy for my giveaway. Worse, there is every likelihood a e-book sale could in some manner enrich Dorchester Press because despite restoring his copyright, even for electronic books, Leisure Books still continue to sell his e-books illegally across various venues. Keene is not the only author who has been exploited by Dorchester. In fact, Brian Keene got his rights returned to him in exchange for unpaid royalties and yet Dorchester continues to sell works they no longer own the rights to. Because of this, I will not purchase another new book or e-book released by Dorchester Press or any of its imprints and I urge others to do the same. I generally do not participate in boycotts because it all too often only hurts those who can least afford it. But this time, it’s pretty clear that those at the bottom, the authors themselves, will not be receiving any money anyway. Dorchester’s been stiffing their writers since 2008 and any money given to the press cannot be relied upon to make it into the writers’ pockets. This is one of those boycotts where the people who get hurt are going to be hurt either way, and in such a case, why give the company a dime?

Much of the recent news of Dorchester’s wrong-doings came out after I decided just to discuss berzerkers under the wide banner of zombies, because as I perversely maintain, my site, my judgment call, but it also felt good to do this one little thing to help out an author whose work is excellent and who, by my own personal experience, is a good man. Yes, I met Brian Keene and if he remembers it, it is because he either feared for his well-being or just has an excellent memory.