A coming-of-age tale set in 1975 New York during Tom Wolfe’s “Me Decade”, Stainer follows the misadventures of a naïve Jewish Columbia University student named Benjamin Steiner, who, on the night of his 21st birthday, meets not only the sweet girl of his dreams, a lovely young lady named Rebecca Glaser, but also an unprincipled drug-loving rogue from Princeton called P. T. Deighland. As the days pass, Ben’s immature inability to resist temptation and an overwhelming need to be “cool” gradually cause him to fall under Deighland’s malign influence until, at an impossibly glitzy Princeton party, he encounters and becomes spellbound by a ravishing but predatory high-fashion model named Anthea Montague.
When Rebecca returns from an unexpected overseas trip, Benjamin’s unreasoning jealousy over her friendship with another boy casts a shadow on their budding relationship. A series of rashly imprudent decisions abetted by Deighland and the model leave Ben feeling guilty and angry. At an ill-fated summer barbeque, he wrongly explodes at Rebecca and soon plunges headlong into a reckless self-destructive downward spiral, culminating in a horrific confrontation with Anthea Montague that brings his life crashing down in ruins.
Against the background of a vanished period in American history, Stainer offers a bittersweet nostalgic trip back to a less complex world, during a time of incautious excesses that, while deceptively fun and carefree, in due course forced many unwary youngsters like Benjamin Steiner to learn some necessary – but terribly painful – lessons about growing up.
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Becoming Samantha Colt is book 4 in the Larkin and Colt series. What did you want to accomplish in this book that pushed the series into interesting places?
When I began this series, I developed a detailed backstory for the main characters of Larkin and Colt. It was just for myself, so I would know who these people were, where they came from, and how they got to be who they were. Over the course of the first three books, I made passing allusions to some of the things in their past, like Larkin mentioning that Colt grew up homeless, their team being wiped out on a botched mission, things like that. Larkin also occasionally mentions some of the missions they’d done, if it happened to relate to something that was happening in the present. I never intended to write a detailed account of their pasts, but eventually it became inevitable. I felt the need to tell Sam’s story from her point of view, in her own words, to more fully explore the character. It was also an opportunity to fill in some of the details of things that had been mentioned in passing.
What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
Through the process of writing the other books, the character of Colt became clearer in my mind as I found out more about her. In the end, she wanted to have her story told, and I just had to do it. Once I started, the story almost seemed to write itself, as if she was telling it to me and all I had to do was write it down. I had the starting point and I knew where she ended up, so what I had to do was fill in the details of how she got there. With this book the story comes full circle, as the final chapter is identical to an early chapter in the first book, but this time told from her perspective.
Samantha is a strong character that is meticulously developed. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
Many people who have read the books have said they were intrigued by the Samantha Colt character. Some have even said she was their favorite and wanted to know more about her. I had deliberately kept her sort of in the background, to make her more mysterious, and to keep her personality somewhat ambiguous. She was the main hero’s partner and sidekick, but there was always the sense that you weren’t quite sure what she would do. I think it made her seem just a little bit dangerous.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I am currently working on a book entitled Intrepid. It’s a sequel to my previous book Pegasus, which is set about a hundred years in the future. In the previous book, the crew of Pegasus traveled to the moon and back. This time they’re going to Mars, and when they get there things go horribly wrong. Then they’ve got to figure out a way to get their crippled ship home before their food and air run out. It’s kind of a cross between The Martian and Apollo 13, and it should be out sometime in the Fall.
A nameless, homeless girl grows up on the streets of Baltimore. From a painfully young age she must learn to take care of herself, feed and clothe herself, and defend herself from those who would do her harm. When she’s arrested for shoplifting as a teenager she’s recruited by a mysterious organization, where she meets David Larkin and everything changes. He becomes her teacher, her mentor, her partner and eventually her best friend. This is the fourth book in the exciting Larkin and Colt adventure series, this time told from her perspective, in her own words, as she learns who she is, what she can do and who she can become.
Posted in Interviews
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Ken Cressman, author of Becoming Samantha Colt, has succeeded in creating a character who evokes both pity and something dangerously close to reverence. A “Jane Doe” in every sense of the word, Colt makes her way through life the only way she knows how and does so from a frighteningly young age. Surviving on her own for almost ten years, she educates herself, uses the nooks and crannies within Baltimore’s streets and stores to find refuge, and is virtually oblivious to the passing of time. Colt’s life is forever changed not once but twice when she accepts a job offer from the mysterious Ralph Browning.
Becoming Samantha Colt captivated my attention within the first lines of paragraph one. Ken Cressman’s main character is gradually revealed as Chapter 1 unwinds. He skillfully describes a character I visualized as the polar opposite throughout his opening chapter. The sudden revelation about her age and gender are extremely powerful and spur the reader to continue. Cressman, several times throughout the book, keeps the reader in check by revealing vivid descriptions of self-named Samantha Colt. I loved the tiny adjustments I was forced to make in my visualization of the character. Colt is as strong a character as I have ever seen–strong in both the skills Cressman has given her via his writing and strong as in memorable.
Cressman’s first-person narrative is truly compelling. I found his description of Colt’s life on the streets breathtaking. Her struggle to teach herself to read is touching and true-to life. She states, “No one was going to teach me, so I had to teach myself.” Environmental print plays a huge part in her self-education–learning from street signs, advertising, and packaging–she succeeds. Colt’s description of the effort involved in maneuvering the intricacies of the English language is spot-on.
Readers are allowed to see Colt experience a myriad of firsts, thus adding to the appeal of her story. From her first car ride to her first sexual experience, Cressman has included it all. My heart ached for the young girl when she realizes that she is sleeping on clean sheets and has clean clothes for the first time.
The suspense and action Cressman has developed fascinated me from beginning to end. Becoming Samantha Colt is much more than the story of how a young girl survives despite being one of Baltimore’s young “Jane Does.” Her natural survival skills make her the ideal candidate for a job and extensive training with a mysterious group of people working undercover for the FBI, the military, and other government entities. Somehow, Cressman has circumnavigated the typical avenger-type action plot and created a crystal-clear, endearing character in Samantha Colt.
I feel that Colt’s first-person account is compelling and contains all the right elements to make it appealing to a variety of readers. Cressman has succeeded in writing an action story without excessive cursing and vulgarity which I appreciate as a reader. I would like, however, to have seen more character development with Larkin and Cora. Both were strong influences in Colt’s newfound family. This is a definite reread for me, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fast-paced book with a memorable main character.
Pages: 162 | ASIN: B01MT8IICG
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The Hungry Monster was given the opportunity to interview JR Hamantaschen and Derek Sotak, the hosts of a horror podcast. We discuss the horror genre, how Queens NY is not the quietest place to record a podcast, and I find out where I can get a 5lb plate of artisanal nachos.
What inspired you guys to start a podcast about horror culture?
Derek: I had always wanted to do a podcast about weird movies, and separately always enjoyed the horror genre, so when one of my favorite authors asked me if I wanted to do a horror podcast I said “Yes Stephen King, more than anything.” That podcast never panned out because he was too busy, so later when JR came to me with the same idea I thought the second time would be the charm, and here we are today.
J.R. Well, I’ve written a couple of dark fiction collections now and have had my hand in editing some others. I felt a bit burned out on writing horror and have been pursuing other subjects, but still want to keep a toe in the genre, so to speak, and, honestly, see if I could rekindle my interest. Also, Derek’s a pretty cool guy and it was an excuse to hang out in some capacity.
How do you two know each other? How did you two meet?
Derek: I was reading JR long before I ever met him in person, becoming enraged upon reading his bio that he was so much younger than me and writing such excellent stuff. When years later we met at a convention it turned out that he was wasn’t so young anymore and a pretty radical dude in general, so I let my rage go. Sometimes that’s all it takes for a magical friendship to blossom.
J.R.: We met at the NecronomiCon Convention in 2015 in Providence, Rhode Island. We were both separately friends with Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, and we all went out to lunch. Then the sparks flew. A couple handjobs later and here we are.
You are now 13 episodes into the podcast, what is one thing that you’ve learned about the podcast process that you never considered before?
Derek: Unfortunately a podcast is not as easy as pressing record and shooting the shit for an hour. As part of the Faustian bargain I made with JR at the crossroads at midnight under a full moon I do the tech side of the operation, which involves the editing, syncing, posting, website stuff, and all the other various jazz that a “real” podcast has interns do for them, which was all more than I bargained for. BTW, we will be announcing the Horror of Nachos and Hamantaschen internship contest shortly, and Max Fun or Earwolf, we we are eagerly awaiting your call.
J.R.: This might be the height of spoiled laziness, but fitting in two movies per week or reading a book in a week and trying to think of interesting commentary or insights is harder than I thought it would be. Also, one thing I never noticed before is that it seems a lot of other podcasts pick out or select things that they already know they might like, whereas we don’t, so there’s a decent chance we will dislike what we are commenting on and rag on it. Also, I live in Queens, New York, and it seems the ambulances, taxis and people who hang out on my block must have advanced notice of when I’m recording so they all gather in full force to be as loud as fucking possible. One time while we were recording there was literally a goddamn whistling noise coming out of my pipes. So editing those sounds out has been a challenge (and by that, I mean a challenge for Derek, since he’s the tech guy).
What is your favorite decade for the horror genre?
Derek: The 80’s. I think a lot of the stepping stones for horror these days was laid then, along with the greatest wave of horror movie icons since the Universal Monsters. All my initial horror reading forays in the early 90’s were of books from then as well; King, Koontz, etc, and those are as solid a foundation to get yourself into the genre as you could ask for.
J.R. I don’t really know the answer to that. I’m inclined to say the 70s or 80s for horror movies, but there are enough things I’ve liked over a large enough expanse of time that I can’t commit myself to a decade. Maybe even in the 1920s, when Lovecraft was writing the Call of Cthulhu and a lot of “weird fiction” was of high literary merit.
A question for both of you: XBOX One or PS4?
Derek: PS4, but I grew up in a PS family so I might be biased. I’m not sure if for the most part it matters anymore rather than for a few games, and realistically a good PC is probably the best and most versatile game playing platform out there. It is a lot harder to sit on your couch and kick back with your keyboard and mouse rather than a controller though. I will always gives props to the Virtual Boy though.
J.R.: I was a Nintendo fanboy growing up, so I lived in denial about how superior the PS2 was compared to the Gamecube. I eventually got a PS2 and realized the error of my ways. I currently have an XBOX One that I bought on the advice of a friend, but if I were being honest with myself I should have gotten a PS4. Graphics are marginally better, there are more Japanese RPGs, some exclusives I want to play, and the controller is better.
Do you enjoy horror movies that are more campy slashers or thought provoking mind benders?
Derek: A campy slasher will always have it’s place in my heart, and on my TV if I’m in the mood for something I don’t need to really pay attention to. If I have the time for sitting down and giving something my full attention though, I’ll go for the provoking mind bender any day.
J.R.: I’d like to say thought provoking mind better, but in reality, the campy slasher is more of a safe bet in terms of enjoyment. If we were talking fiction, then of course the mind bender, but movies are a visual medium and there’s more room for error in a visual medium with something that – such as a nuanced, interior, contemplative work – might be better suited for fiction.
I find that horror is different in different cultures. For example, Japanese horror, I find, focuses more on psychological horror and poltergeists. What is your favorite horror culture and why?
Derek: I really like the whole Coffin Joe series and ultra weird and violent horror movies that came out of Brazil in the 60’s. Extremely subversive for the time in Brazil and 10 times that compared to what was going on in America at the same time. Even today if they would be considered a bit much for American audiences.
J.R.: that’s a good question, one that I don’t know if I have any answer to. Unlike Derek and his nacho-loving ways, I don’t know much about horror from Mexico, Central or South America.
Derek, your the author of The Field Guide to Nachos. If you were to create a bucket list of nachos to eat before you die, what would be on the top of the list?
Derek: The two best nachos I’ve ever had are the Big Foot’s Nachos Ur Way pulled pork nachos at Bigfoot Food and Spirits in the Seattle-Tacoma airport (I almost missed my plane getting those, but it would have been worth it) and Mount Nacheesmo at Tios in Ann Arbor Michigan. Mount Nacheesmo is the largest order of commercially available nachos in the US coming in at 5lbs, and while a lot of places would just throw together a bunch of cheap ingredients and try to pass that off, Tios artfully crafts an order that is delicious as you eat it, and while you munch on the leftovers for the next few days. Plus, if you can eat it all in an hour there you get a shirt and your picture up on the wall which is one of the greatest glories one can achieve in this life.
J.R. you’re the author of, You Shall Never Know Security. What do you find appealing about short stories?
J.R.: I suppose I write mainly short stories, though I’ve been working more on novellas recently. My second collection, “With a Voice that is Often Still Confused but is Becoming Ever Louder and Clearer,’ is largely novellas. I write short stories because I think that’s the idealized form for horror and dark fiction. I don’t really need many horror novels, and most of the ones I have seem padded, or would have worked better as shorter pieces. Also, realistically, when I am pressed for time with my day job and side jobs, so short fiction has just been more realistic and manageable. I want to get in and get out.
What are the subjects for upcoming episodes. Are there any that you’re really excited about?
Derek: Our culturally mandated Christmas episode is going to be something really special, but you won’t be able to experience that for some months yet. OR WILL YOU? No. No you won’t, but there are a bunch of pretty cool ones coming up as well.
J.R.: I enjoyed our nostalgia episodes, which we recorded but hasn’t been released yet. We both picked two horror movies we enjoyed as kids and re-watched them with our jaundiced, cynical eyes. I chose Demon Knight and Scream, and Derek chose Evil Dead II and Dead Alive. Surprisingly, we still both liked our selections.
Join marginally popular dark fiction author J.R. Hamantaschen and Derek Sotak as they discuss the world of horror in a light-hearted, frivolous and irreverent way. Expect horror fiction, horror movies, horror culture, and interviews / hang-out sessions with authors and creators in the field.
Listen to The Horror of Nachos and Hamantaschen podcast available every Wednesday of the month streaming on their website thehorrorofnachosandhamantaschen.com or on:
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