Friday, 11 April 2014


Paul Bingham’s Down Where the Devil Don’t Go is an impressive literary debut: a collection of blisteringly mordant, intensely disturbing, and often hilariously funny short stories. In this anthology, Bingham takes aim at the dark heart of the lumbering beast that is post-modern America—in the process, he ruthlessly skewers Hollywood, NPR, feminism, trendy white ethnomasochism, the music industry, and the military-industrial-entertainment complex, among numerous other grisly subjects, maintaining all the while a surprisingly poignant empathy for his memorable gang of rogues, villains, perverts, and anti-heroes.

I caught up with Bingham, who bills himself eclectically as “a theologian and consultant” who “earns a living as an equine podiatrist,” to pester him with some questions regarding the details of Devil.

AN: This is your first published work, and biographical information about you is scarce, but you clearly learned your craft well; you can flat out write! Where did you “cut your teeth” as an author, and who have been some of your influences?
PB: I’ve written prolifically since childhood. Writing is as necessary as breathing to me. Several novels, a book of poetry and a novella precede these stories, but finding a publisher for them was difficult.

My literary influences are varied. I like Mishima, Junger and Houllebeque of course, but I’ve read rather more of Evelyn Waugh, Alice Thomas Ellis, Alan Stang, and Charles Willeford. Bill Branon is aforgotten writer these days, but Let us Prey made the New York Time’s best-seller list. Mike Brown’s Escape From Outer Alcatraz, and Kurt Saxon’s The Wheels of Rage, incidentally inspired by Brown’s antics in the ‘70s, are low-brow influences. Whichever of Jonathan Bowden’s works I could get my hands on, the last eight years, or so.
      AN  I read Where the Devil Don’t Go as a kind of devastating satire of the present state of things in the monstrosity that America has become. Speaking generally, where did you draw the inspiration to compose this anthology?
PB: I had the luxury of being out of touch with the world, as it was in 2005, working on a novel and a job far removed from the urban life. I wanted to write a fun O’Henryesqe version of 21st-century America, that was informed and had an appeal to the intellectual and common paper-back reader, alike.  I quickly realized, after plugging into the world around me, that it was impossible to write stories that were both family-friendly and realistic.
      AN Are things as grim as they appear to be from these stories? Are we as depraved, corrupt, and loathsome as most of your characters? Is there any hope for us?
PB: We’re all doomed. It rather odd that this attitude must be taken, actually, because all the degeneracy in this country fundamentally impairs man’s ability to live a productive and rewarding life. His mind is always elsewhere.  Everyone believes we’re doomed, only not really. If you really believe you’re doomed, then why not live every day  as if it were the last, and savor the small moments and pleasures of life. Instead, we have individuals making their lives an extended flirtation with disaster on an hourly basis.   All we have left is doom.  So, the good news is, we’re doomed.
      AN The first story in your collection, titled “Population I,” has been described as a story of an author dealing with “writer’s block,” yet you have rejected this notion. What is this story “about,” to you, and how does it relate to the other stories in Down Where the Devil Don’t Go?
PB: The story is about a person who should not exist. Time has made him a tiresome conservative. In another decade, he might be a pathetic figure for whom the reader feels pity.
I wrote an attack on a liberal literary culture that was already going downhill. It’s virtually irrelevant, these days. The core remainder is ultra-conservative in a Dennis Kucinich sort of way—they probably view him as some of sort of fascist, though. I do, in a charitable sort of way.
      AN: Your prose strikes me as “cinematic,” by which I mean it possesses a certain visceral quality which makes the reader picture the events unfolding on a gigantic movie screen in Surround Sound. I hope you don’t find it insulting that I’d describe the second story in Devil, “What the Dead Men Fear”-- a rollickingly ultraviolent action-adventure tale-- as “Tarantino-esque,” (or perhaps you’d prefer the old-school “Peckinpah-esque”) As a writer, do you have a certain relationship to the visual medium—specifically, film-- and do you think that this permeates into your prose?
PB: Yes. I always hated Cormac McCarthy’s work, as a kid, but then the Coens did No Country for Old Men and I realized that was the kind of thing I was trying to do with these stories—make them multi-purpose for our age and culture.  I’ve never read No Country for Old Men, but I understand it was an old movie script from the ‘70s that McCarthy dusted off to pay for his young son’s higher education.  I loved The Counselor, but some of the scenes scared me half to death. Wouldn’t want to see it again. It was perfect though.  Some critic made a snide remark about McCarthy coming into his own as a pulp-action screenwriter, but the Counselor  is a work of art, from the dialogue down to Cameron Diaz’s character which is the perfect troll for the Mexican Cartel types who loved Machete. Of course they classify her as Hispanic, though.
      AN: Your third story, “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Hollywood”-- which concerns high-profile corruption, skullduggery, and murder as perpetrated by the sociopathic elite-- will probably prove to be the most controversial of the bunch (even the title is brilliantly provocative), yet it would be unfair, I think, to characterize it as a mere hit piece against Those Whom We Must Not Name. What drew you to this subject specifically?
PB: Fred Phelps. I’m interested in marketing and film-making and when you’re into all that, and from the Heartland, it’s easy to accept the illusion that the Jews are out to get you or least bar you from success.  Right now, things have changed a bit and I’m back to blaming Freemasonry because there are no Jews handy in my precinct.
But seriously, it’s what you, when you mix some mockery of Joss Whedon, a tribute to P.G. Wodehouse gone horribly wrong, and the plight of the Palestinian Christians together.   I didn’t write this story for the Alt-Right, but it’s a textbook on how to approach the subject in fiction.  Not that most Alt-Righters, yourself excluded, should be writing fiction in the first place.
      AN The final story of the lot, “I Feel Alright,” treads familiar ground (i.e., the travails of a shell-shocked war veteran), yet manages to escape cliché. Your character Josh Rollins ends up making a choice not to acclimate to ordinary life, a choice that some readers would view as foolhardy and self-destructive, yet it’s a decision that has a certain integrity when looked at in context. Your thoughts?
PB: It’s anti-middle-class and anti-suburban. In other words, heroic.
       AN: Finally, I understand that your next project is to compose an opera based on Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Tell us more!
PB: One of my favorite writers of 2014, is Michael Sajdak. I’d place his book, Unchecked Privileges, alongside yours as one of the best and most originally created works of 2014. Hoping to collaborate with him on this, down the road, as we share an interest in making films and producing plays.  This Rock Opera is progressing very slowly. I have a great collaborator and we’ve already recorded some of the music, which is available on request, as a sampler.  Got some of the song-lyrics written,  but the play is going to take awhile. I’m a one-draft man, so that draft has to be just right. Think something like Jonathan Bowden’s films, only,  hopefully, with more actors.  I’m publicizing this unfinished project now, because we’re currently casting parts. If you can sing and dance, and have a good-midface profile, are in the Midwest region or can afford to travel, next year, get in touch…

Purchase Paul Bingham's Down Where the Devil Don't Go from Nine-Banded Books, or from

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