Revenge is a dish best served cold (‘La vendetta es una minestra che se mangia fredda). This isn’t just an old mafia saying, it’s what David Henry Sterry delivers in his delightfully macabre coming of age story. Morte Morte goes kind of like this: Boy is born. Mom is needy and one of your many step dads likes to play a game called Farmer and The Bull. “He was the bull,” writes Sterry, “I was the farmer. It was the farmer’s job to milk the bull. When my life flashes before my eyes right before I die, this is one of the things that I will see. Me, the Littlest Farmer, milking the Big Bad Bull.” But, just like all great black humor, that makes light of otherwise serious subject matter, Sterry doesn’t dwell on all of the shitty, cruel things that can happen. Instead, he delights us by serving cold, hard revenge on the depraved, brutish and sadistic suitors of his needy, tea drinking, most milky of women, English mother. Morte Morte does to perverts and physically abusive step-fathers what Quintin Tarantino does to revenge fantasy feature films. If you have ever harbored a deep desire for justice and you love words, Morte Morte is for you. It is the perfect antidote for our human sense of unsatisfied reciprocity. It’s positively pulchritudinous! – Maribel Garcia
Tag: mort morte
To buy Mort Morte click here.
“Mordechai Murgatroyd Morte takes very good care of his mother with any weapon at hand through the thickets of her murky life. Explosive prose threaded through with a loan from Sophocles and hints of A.A.Milne, Lewis Carrol, and the brothers Grimm, is smoothed with many, many cups of tea. Black comedy, indeed!” …Jean D. Harlan
For more info click here.
To buy Mort Morte click here.
“It’s fall now and the season for amusement parks may have drawn to a close but if you’re looking for one wild ride, you could do a lot worse than pick up Mort Morte by David Henry Sterry. By turns absurd, hilarious and tragic, this fairly quick read tells the story of Mordechai Murgatroyd Morte, a young man who follows his mother through her unfortunate marriages to several physically and sexually abusive men.
The novel begins with these lines: “On my third birthday, my father, in an attempt to get me to stop sucking my thumb, gave me a gun. ‘Today, son, you are a man,’ he said, snatching the little, blue binky from my little, pink hand. So I shot him.”
Although the abusive element is merely hinted at in the character of Mort’s father here (who gives his three-year-old son a gun?), the farcical quality is immediately apparent and sets the tone for Mort’s experiences with his mother’s future and more clearly terrible husbands. As she moves from conjugal attachment with one man and then another, Mort ultimately finds new ways of ridding himself and his mother of their nonsense by acts of gruesome murder.
As Mort advances into his teenage years and moves to Rome, Texas so that his mother may tie the knot with Billy Bob Bobby Joe Willy Dick Bodine (BB, for short), the first hint of Mort’s own intense sexuality emerges in a lusty relationship with Muffy Thunderbuck, his school’s goddess of beauty and sensuality. “In out, in out,” Sterry writes in multiple consecutive paragraphs, representing the relationship in absurdly physical terms, which reflects equally on the emotional hollowness of the men brought into his life by his poor “milky” British mother.
Cleverly, however, into the apparent hollowness of the prose one can read some of the most serious of childhood traumas–vulnerability, helplessness at the hands of abusive adults and the kind of resilient self-reliance that is the sanctuary for young men lacking the benefits of a stable household. Both socially awkward and intellectually brilliant (the latter quality of which captured Muffy’s heart, or did it capture her legs?), Mort becomes the dreaded agent of his mother’s constant widowhood and also her savior as he rids her time and again of negligent, angry men.
The novel seems to reflect the story of a sensitive young man and his mother struggling to survive in a tough, unforgiving world. The final irony of the story, however, occurs after Mort, having blown up his mother’s latest beau, Bartholomew Dinsdale Dinkleberry, with a vial of nitroglycerine, finds that he and his mother will be kicked out of Rome. Following a self-pitying visit to Muffy Thunderbuck for some physical “comfort”, Mort returns home to find his mother has slipped out of town, stating in a note she has left behind that she has moved ahead and will “find a good boarding school for bright young people who don’t quite fit in, which we all know you are, pet, and you will join us later. Everything will be fine, most likely.”
Only, Mort knows nothing will be fine. His mother, he realizes in an instant, is in many ways the cause herself of so much grief and self-destruction in submitting to the abusive routines of so many bad men. Whereas Mort always believed in his goal to protect, he now–at the moment of maternal abandonment–realizes it was her destructive personality which, aside from earning her a great future through the wealth of one now-dead husband, has callously prompted her to leave behind an awkward son.
The monumental irony then is upon the discovery of abandonment. If children are often seen as wild uncontrollable creatures, their adult counterparts fare far worse in this writer’s treatment. Mort Morte is the engaging and unusual story of a young man who finds the one person to whom he is most devoted to be the primary agent of his worst suffering.” – Joe Kovacs
To you the interview on Slashed Reads, click here.
David Henry Sterry is the author of Mort Morte, an absurd, hilarious, tragic and disturbingly haunting comedy published by Vagabondage Press in January 2013. David is the author of 16 books and a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.
What is your book about?
On my third birthday, my father, in an attempt to get me to stop sucking my thumb, gave me a gun. “Today son, you are a man,” he said, snatching the little blue binky from my little pink hand. So I shot him.
So begins my novel Mort Morte. It’s a macabre coming-of-age story full of butchered butchers, badly used Boy Scouts, blown-up Englishman, virginity-plucking cheerleaders, and many nice cups of tea. Poignantly poetic, hypnotically hysterical, sweetly surreal, and chock full of the blackest comedy, Mort Morte is like Lewis Carroll having brunch with the kid from The Tin Drum and Oedipus, just before he plucks his eyes out. In the end though, Mort Morte is a story about a boy who really loves his mother.
Is the book based on events in your own life?
Strangely enough, Mort Morte was my attempt to tell my life story. Fortunately, I didn’t kill my father on my third birthday. But my real life story is even more sick and deranged. Eventually I did tell my agent about my real life story and she urged me to write a memoir. This became Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent. The 10 Year anniversary edition of that book has just been released. As a result Mort Morte got put on the back burner. For 20 years. That’s why I was so excited when Vagabondage agreed to publish the book. 20 years is a long time to go between writing a book and getting it published.
What twists did the book take that surprised you?
The first twist came when I wrote the first sentence. Honestly, as I said, I was trying to tell my life story, and the first sentence just came out fully formed. I have no idea how or why. Clearly I must have some sort of repressed desire to shoot my father. Fortunately I have been able to repress that desire. For now anyway. Actually, the whole book was a series of twists. I didn’t plan it out or outline it or plot it in any way shape or form. It just came flowing out of me. The first draft took me three weeks to write. Mind you it took me over a year to revise and edit the book.
But it was almost like being in a fever dream. It just kept pouring out. All I had to do was get out of the way.
Are you a people watcher? If so, are they in your stories?
Absolutely. I learned most of the things I know about humans by watching them. I was a professional actor for 15 years before I wrote my first book, and I spent a lot of that time learning how people walked, talked, what they were saying with the language of their body, what was being communicated between the lines.
I moved around a lot when I was a kid, I never went to the same school for two years in a row until I was in college. So I was always the new kid, the outsider, the person who didn’t have friends. So I watched. I observed. I learned how to act like everybody else. And whenever we moved, I learned how to imitate the local accent. It was great training as an actor. It was also great training as a writer, to get the rhythms of the way people really speak.
One of my pet peeves is when you can actually hear the writer writing as a character in one of their books is talking. Almost all the people in my books are human beings I have observed. When I’m writing a memoir of course I try to remember exactly what they said, exactly what they looked like and exactly how they acted. When I’m writing a piece of fiction I take what’s there and let my imagination run wild. Either way, it starts with the way people really look and talk and act.
Do you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert?
Yes. I am a Gemini. But I don’t really believe in all that astrological crap. Even though that’s exactly what a Gemini would say. But as a Gemini I have two very distinct parts of my personality. I’m a hermit and I love holing up in my man cave and escaping into my imagination. Woody Allen once said the only things in life you can really control are art and masturbation. I try to keep my fingers in both those pies every day, in the privacy of my subterranean lair. But I’m also kind of an exhibitionist, and I love to go out and do book events and go on tour and present at writers conferences and book fares. So I kill both birds with just the one stone.
What are our thoughts on writing as a career?
In addition to being the author of 16 books I’m also a book doctor. I help talented amateurs become professionally published authors. So I’ve consulted with literally thousands of writers.
And I tell them all that by far the most important thing you can do if you want to have a career as a writer is to figure out how to make money.
It’s very hard to make money as a writer. I’ve been lucky in that way. But I’m also a hustler. That’s one of the things I learned in the sex business. How to hustle. Lots of writers don’t know how hustle. Let me be clear, I don’t mean hustle as a way of scamming, grifting, or ripping someone off. I mean hustle in the sense that you get someone to do what you want them to do.
I want publishers to give me money for my books. So I identify which publishers I want to work with who are most compatible with what I do, then I research them to the point of stalking. And of course I want readers to buy my books and fall in love with them. So I identify individuals and groups who I think will love what I’m doing and be passionate about my books.
As is the case with all hustles, you actually have to have Game. You have to make a good product if you want someone to buy it over and over again. If you try to pull the wool over someone’s eyes, eventually they will stop buying what you’re selling, and in the worst case scenario they will come at you with a lead pipe and try to split your skull open.
The great maxim of businesses as far as I’m concerned is: “Find out what people want, and give it to them.”
Mind you, I have books that I write for love, and books that I write for money. Mort Morte was more of a love book. That being said, I have made money off it.
What is your advice for other writers?
Research. Network. Persevere. And oh yeah, write. Write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I was a drug addict and a sex addict and I knew I was going to die unless I changed who I was and what I was doing. After a long search I finally found a hypnotherapist. She helped me get my addictions under control. I was a professional screenwriter in Hollywood at the time.
My hypnotherapist suggested I write about my life, since it was so much more interesting than the stupid ridiculous screenplays I was selling to Hollywood. I took her advice.
I found I really enjoyed it. And it was absolutely essential in staring down and overcoming the demon monkeys inside me which were destroying my life.
What do you want to say to your readers?
Buy my books. Tell your friends to buy my books.
How do you prepare to write love scenes?
Fall in love. Have lots of great sex. Have lots of bad sex. Get dumped. Rinse. Repeat.
David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.
His new books are Mort Morte, and The Hobbyist (Vagabondage, 2013).
His memoir,Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition has been translated into 10 languages.
He’s also written Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money and Sex, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.
He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.
He has appeared on, acted with, written for, been employed as, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, a marriage counselor, Disney screenwriter, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, a sodajerk, Michael Caine, the Taco Bell chihuahua, Penthouse, the London Times, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a human guinea pig and Zippy the Chimp.
“Like Dexter visiting South Park, like Aesop mixed with the Simpsons, like Diary of a Wimpy Kill as told by Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, Mort Morte is a brilliant, sad, deep, LOL book”
Holy mother of murder, Mort Morte! I’m thinking that David Henry Sterry ate Aesop for breakfast one day and burped this book out later that afternoon; there has to be a lesson in here somewhere, but I’m still stunned speechless so I can’t quite articulate it. I think it has something to do with the medicinal qualities of tea …
Mort Morte is the story of a boy who loves his mother, and who knows evil when he sees it. Mort Morte is a boy who is ready to right wrongs, unfortunately in all the wrong ways. Mort Morte is a troubled child. Then he commits murder. Not once, not twice, read the book to find out how many times. Mort Morte’s mother is a troubled woman. She keeps marrying the wrong man. Not once, not twice, read the book to find out how many times.
Seriously, MORT MORTE is a brilliant satire, a sad commentary on the dark side of life, and a hysterically disturbing story. I can’t say it’s my kind of humor, but the book is original, fast paced, and captivating. Despite all the aforementioned murder, I had to keep turning the pages to see what would happen next. And that is the sign of a great story.
To buy the book click here.
Here’s a new review for David Henry Sterry’s Mort Morte. To buy the book, click here.
“Mort Morte by David Henry Sterry reads like an elegantly simple children’s book designed for adults. The chapters are rarely more than a page long and sometimes just a few words in length. While the format of the book is basic, with beautifully placed and executed illustrations by Alain Pilon, the story centers around adoration, violence, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and revenge.
Mort Morte is a brutal coming-of-age story that’s frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious.
The narrator, Mordechai Murgatroid Morte provides a rollicking ride through the culture of a sophisticated and rough-and-tumble Texas with a dash of Harvard thrown in. Sterry’s use of the English language is masterful and sometimes whimsical, i.e. “The animal heads started spinning round faster and faster like I was on some kind of sick Taxidermilogical Tilt-A-Whirl….” At times Sterry’s writing is so raw it’s painful which is quickly eased by the guilty relieving pleasure of high humor.
Sterry has created a sympathetic character in Mort which is no easy challenge. Throughout his young life Mort suffers from fantastical anxiety dreams, he pulls rhythms and lyrics from melodies that mirror his moments of ecstacy, and at one point sums up his life “as a curious mixture of violent nausea and dizzying sexual fantasy.”
There’s a lot to like in this short, breezy book, notably its imaginative style and David Sterry’s love of language. No words are wasted here; Mort Morte succeeds mightily by saying a lot with a little.” – Liz Bulkley
“A lyrical roller coaster ride through the dark mind of a young serial killer. A post-modern fairy tale about what happens to a boy who is continually abused and bullied. The plot is surreal, but somehow all too real! I was quickly sucked in and enjoyed the book.” – Mateo
3 lucky writers get to present their pitch/query!
July 10, 7pm Word Books Greenpoint, New York 126 Franklin Street Brooklyn
It’s the greatest time in history to be a novelist. From the traditional approach of finding an agent and getting a big splashy six-figure advance with one of the Big Six (or Big 5, with the merger of Penguin and Random House into Penguin House), to partnering with a cutting-edge independent publisher, to taking matters into your own hands and DIYing it with e-books and print-on-demand, there are revolutionary new avenues for writers to reach his or her audience. But first, of course, you have to write a book that people want to read. You have to learn how to pick the right idea, develop deep fascinating characters, write believable dialogue, build a world, create suspense, hone your voice, craft a plot with a satisfying beginning, middle and ending, edit edit edit, rewrite rewrite rewrite, and use beta readers wisely. Novelists and agents will discuss how to write and sell a novel successfully. At the end of the presentation, we will randomly pick three writers who will get 90 seconds to present their pitch/query, which the panelists will then critique. So, all you novelists, come prepared to listen and learn, and maybe get a chance to kickstart your writing career!
David Henry Sterry is the author of 14 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor. He authored The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published with his ex-agent and current wife, with whom he co-founded The Book Doctors, who have helped hundreds of talented amateur writers become professionally published authors. His first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller, and has been translated into 10 languages. His anthology, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. He has been featured everywhere from National Public Radio to the London Times to Playboy, and he is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. His new illustrated novel is Mort Morte, an Alice in Wonderland meets Tin Drum coming-of-age black comedy about gun violence and children, and a boy who really loves his mother. www.davidhenrysterry
Arielle Eckstut is an agent-at-large at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, one of New York City’s most respected and successful agencies. For over 20 years, she has been helping hundreds of talented writers become published authors. Arielle is not only the author of eight books, but she is also a successful entrepreneur. She co-founded the iconic company, LittleMissMatched, and grew it from a tiny operation into a leading national brand, which grossed over 30 million in retail sales last year, and now has stores from coast to coast, everywhere from Disneyland to Disney World to Fifth Avenue in New York City.
Ayesha Pande is founder of Ayesha Pande Literary Agency. She loves to work with writers who dare to innovate, take risks, express something meaningful about our world. She develops concepts and ideas and strategizes long-term career goals, sells foreign, film and other subsidiary rights, brainstorms marketing and publicity plans; and advocates for her authors. She is especially passionate about discovering and nurturing talented new writers. She also consults with clients on creating an effective online media platform and advocate for their interests with the publishing companies. She works closely with her clients to edit and polish their work. She provides every client with personal attention and because of this, she limits the number of clients she takes on. Her interests include literary as well as popular fiction, including young adult, women’s, African-American and international fiction. She is also seeking authors of nonfiction, including biography, history, economics, popular culture, cultural commentary, memoir, graphic novels, and humor.
My first piece on Salon. Thanks to Arielle Eckstut. To read on Salon click here: http://www.salon.com/2013/02/14/i_wrote_my_way_to_true_love/
“You should stop writing these stupid movie scripts and write about your life, it’s so much more interesting.” Janine, my hypnotherapist, was not being unkind. She just had no filter. And she was right. That was the most infuriating thing about Janine my hypnotherapist. She was always right.
I had just gotten a three-picture deal with Disney. Well, it wasn’t really a three-picture deal. They hired me to write a script for one of their moronic ideas (Sinbad in the Army with dogs), and in the contract they locked me up for another two movies for slightly more money each time. But at the bottom of every page was writ in small letters: “We can terminate this contract for any reason at any time for perpetuity and eternity in this and every other conceivable universe and pay you NOTHING.” I asked my agent and she said I could tell everybody I had a three-picture deal with Disney. Even though I didn’t really. And that, in a nutshell, is Hollywood, baby.
But the thought of telling the truth about myself made me hot and clammy, sticky and jittery, teeth tearing into cuticles till they bled. I was much more comfortable working on my buddy script about two 12-year-olds who go to Vegas and beat the mob. Or my mobster-becomes-a-vampire script. Or my “Some Like It Hot” cross-dressing baseball script.
But I’d always wanted to write a book. So that night I started writing one. It was liberating. Gave my obsessive mind something to focus on besides my own sex-addicted self-loathing.
Turns out I wasn’t quite ready to tell that story yet. I hadn’t hit bottom. I was still living in my beautiful Craftsman home in the hills of Echo Park with my beautiful red sports car and my beautiful sex-denying fiancée. I hadn’t yet been fired by Disney, my Sinbad/Army/dog script unmade, my fictitious three-picture deal evaporated in a puff of smoke. I hadn’t yet been dumped by an entirely different beautiful damaged narcissistic sex-denying fiancée whom I DIDN’T EVEN LIKE. I hadn’t yet been whacked over the head with a metal pipe at 4 a.m. in Harlem by an angry disenfranchised crackhead while pursuing a transsexual thief masquerading as a female sex worker. That was when I hit bottom. The bottom of the bottom.
I decided I would try to get my book published. By this time I was living in the nasty skanky hovel in Venice Beach where you could satisfy all your crack needs by sticking your head out the window and yelling, “Yo!” I’d hang out at Muscle Beach with the steroid-bloated weightlifters and tourists and wannabe actresses, actors, screenwriters, producers, directors and other local whack jobs, begging people to read my book. Eventually I sent it to a woman who used to be my commercial acting agent in New York City. She said she loved my book, and asked me if I’d mind if she gave it to her goddaughter, who was a literary agent. “Do I mind?” I scoffed. “Are you kidding me? I will name my first child after you if you do me this kindness.”
I sent the Goddaughter Agent my manuscript. By that time it was called “Mort Morte.” A week after I sent the script I called to make sure she had received my manuscript. Contained herein is a valuable lesson for anyone doing business. Disregard the Follow Up at your own peril. Goddaughter Agent confessed sheepishly that she had lost it. I rolled my eyes, thinking to myself: What a bunch of buffoons these New York literary agents are. If I had done the typical writer thing, and assumed that the universe hates me, that I am a no-talent hack, and that the agent was rejecting me, I would not be writing this story now. But I did the Follow Up. My motto, which I adopted in Hollywood: I will not stop until the person I’m pursuing says yes or takes out a Restraining Order.
I sent her another “Mort Morte.” A month later, having heard not a peep from her, I called Goddaughter Agent. I didn’t snarl in a snarky voice, “Why haven’t you read my manuscript yet?” I was as nice as pie. I give good phone. I asked her how she was doing, cracked a joke that made her laugh. I never mentioned my manuscript. She promised me she’d read it as soon as she could. Later I found out she was Jewish. Well, she still is. And I was so nice that she felt guilty, and my manuscript moved up about 3 inches in the 12-foot pile by her desk. This was before the Internet, when people actually sent manuscripts through the mail! Can you imagine?!
One month later to the day I made the same phone call to Goddaughter Agent. Nice as pie. Unbeknownst to me, my manuscript rose a whole foot in the 12-foot pile. Nine months, once a month, I called her. One human gestation period. We could’ve had a baby in the time it took her to read my manuscript. Finally, guilt drove my manuscript to the top of the pile. By this time, we had a nice banter going. An idea popped out of my mouth, as if the Muse had pushed it out. I told her I was coming to New York for Christmas. She told me that if I did, she’d read my book and take me out to lunch. Of course I had no plans at all to go to New York for Christmas. I quickly accepted her lunch invitation 3,000 miles away. As soon as I hung up, I frantically bought a ticket to New York.
She took me to a swank restaurant, one of those places agents take writers when they want to impress them. She had seemed in my mind on the phone from 3,000 miles away like a very amiable dowager. Not at all. Turned out she was 20-something, totally cute, great smile, fabulous laugh, smoking hot body, kind eyes and spectacularly stylish, like she just stepped out of a magazine featuring wildly intelligent cutting-edge fashionista intelligentsia 20-something Manhattan babes. I was one smitten kitten. She told me she loved “Mort Morte.” And she had smart things to say about changes she wanted me to make. I was so used to getting the dumbest dumbass notes from Hollywood studio hacks that it was like a fragrant breeze on the first day of spring. She said if I made the changes, she’d represent me and my baby/manuscript. I was ecstatic. But there was something more. I liked this woman. A lot.
That night I couldn’t stop thinking about her. So the next day I called her and asked her if she wanted to hang out. She said she’d like to hang out. I later found out she had plans she broke for me. Nothing sexier than someone breaking their plans for you. We went to see one of Billy Bob Thornton’s most forgettable movies. I can literally remember nothing about it. Except that I was with her. Then she asked me if I wanted to go to a French restaurant near her apartment in Brooklyn. I was pretty sure that was dating code for: I want to hook up with you. Turns out I was right. The French restaurant was spectacular. But not as spectacular as she was.
Suddenly we were in her ridiculously stylish Brooklyn brownstone. She was so much fun to talk to. Religion, politics, books, America, the world, the universe. Einstein was proven right again, time really is relative. An hour passed in a minute. At a certain point she asked me in a funny, teasing and altogether endearing way, “Every first novel is about the author. But this book isn’t about you, is it? You didn’t kill your father and three of your stepdads, did you?”
I laughed. It was funny. The way she said it. What she was saying. Normally, I would’ve given her some lame retort that masked who I really was. I was like an anti-superhero. Instead of having a secret identity that was amazing and saved people, I had a secret identity that was a twisted grotesque monster bent on destroying me and all those who cared about me. But I decided to take off the mask. I was not going to lie about who I was or what I’d done. If she didn’t like it, that was her problem. I was so exhausted living a lie. I was ready to be set free by the truth. I’d hit the bottom. The bottom of the bottom.
So I told her everything. About the man who abused me when I was 17. About being sucked into the filthy underbelly of the Hollywood sex business. Becoming a drug addict and a sex addict and doing my time with Janine my hypnotherapist. I thought it would feel terrible to say all that to someone I was interested in. Just the opposite. It was such a load lifted. The black cloud that had been thunderstorming all over my life parted and the sun shone and the birds chirped and the angels sang. It was a transcendent moment. I thought if I told someone I was interested in about my sordid shameful dirty secrets that she’d be horrified and run screaming away from me. Just the opposite. Goddaughter Agent was fascinated. Spellbound. “That’s the book you should write.” Exactly what Janine my hypnotherapist said. Only now, I was ready. I didn’t care anymore. It was so good to be Out.
I moved in with Goddaughter Agent that night. I didn’t know I was moving in with her, but it turned out I was. Her name was Arielle. Well, it still is. She came out to visit me in Venice Beach. She was even better than I’d imagined. She helped me put together a proposal for my real story. That became a book called “Chicken.”
But much more important, I found the love of my life. Arielle AKA Goddaughter Agent. Two years after the Billy Bob Thornton movie and the French restaurant we were married high on a hill overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. A couple of years later we made a baby together. I know it happens all the time, babies being made, but it still strikes me every day as being spectacularly magical that two human beings, without any help at all, could make something as complicated as a human being. Olive. That’s what we called her. Well, we still do. She’s 5 years old now. Einstein proven right once again. That five years has gone by in about 10 minutes.
“Mort Morte” never got sent out by my agent/wife. As soon as we got married, she fired me as a client. But I still wanted to get that book published. I kept showing it to people over the years. Everyone seemed to love it, but they all thought it was just too weird. So I decided, at the suggestion of the lovely and talented Arielle, to go after a world-class artist to make some illustrations for my book. This led me to a French Canadian named Alain Pilon. I contacted him, and sent him my manuscript. He loved it and agreed to make a bunch of illustrations. All the while I kept tweaking and polishing, buffing and shining, making it better and sending it out there.
Finally, one day, to my shock and amazement, there it was in my inbox. An email from an editor who said how much she loved “Mort Morte.” I was used to this by now, and I knew the next sentence would be about why they couldn’t publish my quirky, wacky, coming-of-age Alice in Wonderland meets Tin Drum novel about gun violence and kids in America, and a boy who really loves his mother. But wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, this editor said she wanted to publish my book. I was gobsmacked. I showed the email to Arielle. We danced and made happy happy sounds.
Twenty years after I started writing that book I finally got it published. I’m a different person now than I was then. But every time I look at the beautiful Alain Pilon cover of “Mort Morte” I am filled with joy.
And that’s how writing a book led me to the love of my life.
David Henry Sterry is the author of 14 books, including his memoir, “Chicken,” an international bestseller that has been translated into 10 languages. His anthology, “Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys,” was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. His new illustrated novel is “Mort Morte,” a coming-of-age black comedy about gun violence and children, and a boy who really loves his mother.
2. Where did the idea come from for your book?
Illustrated coming of age black comedy: Diary of a Wimpy Kid as told by Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver
It’s a story of a boy keeps killing his dads to protect his mom: it’s a story of a boy who really loves his mother.
Two weeks. But it took me 20 years to find a publisher.
Alice in Wonderland. The Tin Drum. Oedipus.
It’s got spectacular illustrations by award winning artist Alain Pilon. It’s very short.
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|My new book Mort Morte with beautiful pictures by Alain Pilon. On my third birthday, my father, in an attempt to get me to stop sucking my thumb, gave me a gun. “Today son, you are a man,” he said, snatching the little blue binky from my little pink hand. So I shot him.So begins MORT MORTE a macabre coming-of-age story full of butchered butchers, badly used Boy Scouts, blown-up Englishman, virginity-plucking cheerleaders, and many nice cups of tea.Poignantly poetic, hypnotically hysterical, sweetly surreal, and chock full of the blackest comedy, MORT MORTE is like Lewis Carrol having brunch with the kid from The Tin Drum and Oedipus, just before he plucks his eyes out. Or Diary of a Wimpy Kid as told by Travis Bickle from Taxi DriverIn the end though, MORT MORTE is a story about a boy who really loves his mother.Here’s the story of how writing this book led me to the love of my life, my first piece on Salon.
A new review:
“Who do you think of when someone says black humor? Johnathan Swift? Joseph Heller? Kurt Vonnegut? Perhaps Roald Dahl?
Well, add David Sterry to your list. His newest book, Mort Morte is as black as sin and twice as fun. It all starts innocently enough. Our three-year-old protagonist, vengeful over his father’s depriving him of his binky, seeks revenge by shooting dear-old-dad with the very gun he had given Mort as a birthday present. Be forewarned, though. After that, things take a violent turn. This pithy little book with its delightfully cheeky artwork escorts us through murder after murder, each more hilariously executed than the last, before our hero is figuratively ridden out of town on a Texas-sized rail. Where does Mort go from there? Surely, you jest! Where else but Harvard? Buy a ticket on this one. You’ll enjoy the ride.”