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Little, Bentley 1960- (Phillip Emmons)

Little, Bentley 1960- (Phillip Emmons)

PERSONAL:

Born 1960, in Mesa, AZ; son of Larry (a teacher) and Roseanne (an artist) Little; married Wai Sau Li (a librarian), 1995; children: a son. Education: California State University, Fullerton, B.A., 1994, M.A., 1996. Politics: Liberal.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Fullerton, CA. Agent—Dominick Abel, 146 W. 82nd St., Ste. 1B, New York, NY 10024.

CAREER:

Writer. Has worked as a newspaper reporter/photographer, technical writer, video arcade attendant, window washer, rodeo gate keeper, telephone book delivery man, library aide, typesetter, furniture mover, and sales clerk.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Bram Stoker Award for best first novel, Horror Writers of America, 1990, for The Revelation, and nomination for best fiction collection, 2002, for The Collection.

WRITINGS:

HORROR NOVELS

The Revelation, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1989.

The Mailman, Onyx (New York, NY), 1991.

(As Phillip Emmons) Death Instinct, Signet Books (New York, NY), 1992, published under name Bentley Little as Evil Deeds, Headline (London, England), 1994.

The Summoning, Zebra (New York, NY), 1993.

Night School, Headline (London, England), 1994, published as University, Signet Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Dark Dominion, Headline (London, England), 1995, published as Dominion, Signet Books (New York, NY), 1996.

The Store, Headline (London, England), 1996, Signet Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Houses, Headline (London, England), 1997.

The Ignored, Signet Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Guests, Headline (London, England), 1997.

The Town, Signet Books (New York, NY), 2000.

The Walking, Signet Books (New York, NY), 2000.

The Association, Signet Books (New York, NY), 2001.

The Return, Signet Books (New York, NY), 2002.

The Policy, Signet Books (New York, NY), 2003.

The Resort, Signet Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Dispatch, Signet (New York, NY), 2005.

The Burning, Signet (New York, NY), 2006.

The Vanishing, Signet (New York, NY), 2007.

OTHER

The Collection (short stories), Signet Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor to anthologies, including Four Dark Nights, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 2002. Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Cemetery Dance, Grue Magazine, Gauntlet, Horror Show, and Eldritch Tales.

ADAPTATIONS:

The Store is being adapted as a feature film.

SIDELIGHTS:

Horror author Bentley Little attracted notice and praise with his debut novel, The Revelation, which received the Bram Stoker Award for best first novel. Many of Little's works are set in rural areas in the American Southwest, and this book is among them, detailing bizarre happenings in the small town of Randall, Arizona. These include the unexplained pregnancy of an elderly woman, a rash of deaths of farmers and their livestock, the disappearance of a local clergyman (while obscene writings appear in blood in his church and home), and the arrival of a strange new minister who seems to know everything about the townspeople and seeks their help in a battle he says is forthcoming. This all adds up to an apocalyptic tale. "Obviously, forces as old as the sun have converged on Randall, Arizona," observed an essayist for the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers.

Little's follow-up novel, The Mailman, may be his "tour de force to date," the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers essayist remarked. "Again, in a small community, a form of hell breaks out—but it is a very strange version indeed. Showing the flip-side of The Revelation's overtly supernatural and faux-religious horrors, The Mailman is squarely built on a foundation of paranoia." The eponymous mailman, John Smith, is able to control and frighten the town's entire population by misdirecting the mail. "Inch by inch," the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers contributor related, "he manages to make the townspeople drift from a happy-go-lucky joie de vivre, to a sense of mutual suspicion, to outright hatred." Eventually, the essayist added, "the scene is set for a form of fiery apocalypse."

Among Little's other works is The Summoning, a 1993 tale that concerns an extraordinary vampire capable of great evil and mayhem. In the novel, this vampire settles in a small town and proceeds to terrorize and dominate the population. A reviewer for Science Fiction Chronicle commented that the book is both "a good old fashioned vampire story and an innovative new one." The reviewer expressed regret that "this excellent book" might not get the attention it deserved, due to an influx of books in the vampire genre. In The Ignored, a new employee finds himself increasingly ignored by coworkers. He therefore determines to arrive at work dressed as a knife-wielding clown. A Publishers Weekly contributor called The Ignored a "nightmarishly brilliant tour de force."

The Town concerns a man, Gregory Tomasov, who wins the California state lottery and decides to move with his wife and three young children to his boyhood hometown of McGuane, Arizona. The Tomasovs do not realize the house they move into is haunted, having been the site of a murder-suicide. The Tomasovs begin behaving strangely and are blamed for numerous peculiar and horrifying events around McGuane—the birth of a cactus-baby and the violent deaths of several towns- people among them. A Publishers Weekly contributor praised the novel's "terrifying finale" and noted that "what, in a lesser writer's hands, would have been an obvious conclusion remains a mystery until the end."

The Walking finds a dead man reanimated and appearing to his son, Miles Huerdeen, a private investigator trying to determine the forces behind a series of mysterious deaths. Miles then discovers that there are numerous other members of the walking dead about, and that they are headed for a canyon in the Arizona desert, "formerly a government sponsored witch colony, where a vengeful resident's evil powers have yet to be fully unleashed," a Publishers Weekly contributor noted. The reviewer also wrote that "readers will gladly suspend disbelief for Little's deft touch for the terrifying." Meanwhile, Library Journal contributor Jackie Cassada praised Little's "uncanny sense of horror."

Snob zoning and luxury real estate get satiric horror treatment in The Association. In this novel, a couple who move to an exclusive gated community in a fictional Utah town find themselves living in what a reviewer for Publishers Weekly described as "the kind of deranged world" that protagonist Barry, a horror writer, "once believed existed only within the safety of his imagination." Behind this nightmare environment is the community's powerful Homeowners' Association, which creates and brutally enforces all manner of strict rules for residents. The reviewer judged The Association to be "an incredibly credible tale" and a worthy addition to Little's impressive horror opus.

An earlier novel by Little titled The Store takes place in Juniper, Arizona, a desert town where a retailer called The Store has decided to set up another one of its mega-stores, in which consumers can buy virtually anything they want at bargain-basement prices. However, The Store develops an overwhelming influence over the locals, who become consumed by commercialism at a terrible cost to their way of life. Matthew Tait, writing on the HorrorScope Web site, noted that the author "seems to have an overt grasp of local small town milieu and their inner workings." Tait went on to comment in the same review: "Not only is the writing mature, but the dialogue is established and at times hilarious."

In 2002, a collection of thirty-two of Bentley's previously published and unpublished short stories were printed in a volume titled The Collection. In one story, "The Washingtonians," the author bases his tale on the premise that George Washington was a cannibal leading to a modern secret society that carries on his name. "The Colony" presents an alternative-reality historical tale in which the United States never did win its freedom but, rather, the colonies' victory in the Revolutionary War was a public relations scam leaving America under the true control of the British. In yet another tale, "Roommates," a young man looking for a roommate for his apartment encounters a strange series of applicants, including a nurse who is obsessive compulsive about dirt. Kristine Huntley, writing in Booklist, noted that the author's "often macabre, always sharp tales are snippets of everyday life given a creepy twist." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that The Collection provides "a fascinating glimpse into how Little's creativity has evolved over the years."

Little returns to the novel in The Return, which features bizarre findings by archaeologists on a dig in Arizona. Soon after the discoveries, however, people begin to disappear while both humans and animals seem to become psychotic butchers. The Policy continues the author's penchant for writing horror novels with a strong satirical component. This time, an insurance salesman tries to convince friends and coworkers to buy unusual policies that promise to protect them from everything, including death. Whenever anyone refuses to purchase a policy, disaster befalls them, leading them to buy a policy that will protect them from further consequences. "One of Little's primary strengths is his ability to create believable characters whose lives are disrupted by a seemingly mundane yet supernatural force," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor in a review of The Policy.

The Resort features The Reata, a luxury getaway that turns out to include horrifying games of sport, such as women tied to poles on a golf driving range. However, despite some of the guests' understandably negative reactions to the place, they seem to be unable to leave as the resort staff convinces them that all the blood and mayhem they witness is normal. "Little weaves an explicitly repulsive yet surrealistically sad tale of everyday horror," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor.

In The Burning, Little tells the stories of numerous people who find themselves on the run from supernatural forces. It seems that each character's luck changes for the worse when he or she encounters a ghost train from the past. The stories of each individual, from a park ranger to a woman hiding from her husband, alternate until the tales become one as the characters finally encounter each other in Utah. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "this novel offers Steven King-size epic horror."

Little's 2007 novel, The Vanishing, features several prominent businessmen in California who suddenly become mad killers and torture their families to death. When journalist Brian Howells receives a letter with blood splatters on it from his estranged father, he soon finds himself teamed up with social worker Carrie Daniels, who is studying a strange rash of birth defect. Together, they set out to solve the mystery of why these men appear to suddenly become killers. The two eventually learn that the phenomenon appears to have something to do with otherworldly beings living in the Californian forests, and who were first discovered during the California Gold Rush. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the author "again displays … his robust ability to disgust (and delight) even the most seasoned horror enthusiast."

Little has won comparisons with and accolades from Stephen King and other prominent writers of horror fiction. "That Bentley Little has been praised liberally by writers as non-diverse as Richard Laymon, Stephen King and Gary Brandner (by generic horror writers, in other words) gives the reader two matters to think about," commented the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers essayist. "The first is that there should be no doubt as to what is in store (or even in Store) with a Bentley Little novel: his writing is one-hundred per cent horror, and he is clearly at ease with this. And the second is that he offers additions to the small-town-under-threat canon that the aforementioned trio have contributed to in the past. Bentley Little is on his way to achieving—perhaps surpassing—their critical stature."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Reginald, Robert, Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature, 1975-1991, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.

St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 2002, Kristine Huntley, review of The Collection, p. 1698.

Library Journal, January, 1990, review of The Revelation, p. 148; November 15, 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of The Walking, p. 101.

Locus, August, 1993, review of The Summoning, p. 46.

Publishers Weekly, January 5, 1990, review of The Revelation, p. 62; April 14, 1997, review of The Ignored, p. 71; April 17, 2000, review of The Town, p. 58; October 16, 2000, review of The Walking, p. 55; August 27, 2001, review of The Association, p. 62; May 20, 2002, review of The Collection, p. 53; August 12, 2002, review of The Return, p. 283; September 30, 2002, review of Four Dark Nights, p. 55; August 11, 2003, review of The Policy, p. 263; August 16, 2004, review of The Resort, p. 48; June 5, 2006, review of The Burning, p. 43; June 25, 2007, review of The Vanishing, p. 40.

Science Fiction Chronicle, August, 1993, review of The Summoning, p. 38.

ONLINE

Hellnotes,http://hellnotes.com/ (October 17, 2007), "Bentley Little Horror Author Interview The Vanishing."

Horrifying World of Bentley Little,http://www.geocities.com/bentley_little (December 24, 2007).

HorrorScope,http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/ (September 27, 2005), Matthew Tait, review of The Store.

Pop Culture Jeblog,http://thejebber.blogspot.com/ (September 26, 2007), Jeb Johnston, review of The Resort.

Words for Words,http://www.wordsforwords.com/ (February 6, 2006), review of The Collection.

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