Interview with horror author Wrath James White
By LM Campbell
Wrath, I am a bit disappointed in you. I tried that recipe at the beginning of Succulent Prey – and it tasted awful…
Like Sushi and caviar, it is very much an acquired taste.
I would think that if someone were given the luxury of tasting human flesh, a true cannibal would not smother his ‘long-pig’ in condiments…
That’s like saying that if you really loved fish you wouldn’t dip it in soy sauce and wasabi. I think you’d try it in as many ways as you could conceive. Jeffrey Dahmer cooked a man’s bicep in butter and onions and Gary Heidnick made a stew out of women’s corpses. There’s a tribe in Africa that makes a soup out of the corpses of their ancestors and serve it at the funeral and almost every pornographic fantasy you read on those cannibal messageboards involves some type of recipe and usually a barbecue pit. That’s why I put that scene in the book where Joe roasts poor Frank on a spit. It’s a common fantasy among cannibals. The Hickory flavoring was of course my idea. Whatever makes it go down better, I guess. Why are we even talking about the best way to eat human flesh? Well, I guess I did start it by writing a book about cannibalism. Anyway, next question.
The next question is about stereotypes. Unless there is something wrong with my monitor’s settings, you definitely look black. Now, I’ve heard that you use your hands for writing as well as for fucking people up. So, what is your reaction to seeing all these geeky, honky writers using racial epithets like ‘nigger’ if only to make their stories appear much more subversive or extreme than they really are?
When used gratuitously or maliciously it is likely to get a very hostile response from me. I certainly do not condone the use of that word and have violently corrected more than one individual for its misuse. Obviously, when a writer is portraying a character who is a racist it would be silly to avoid the word since it is a word that a racist would use. I would only take issue in that instance if the writer was glorifying this racist character.
Unfortunately, your act of aggression may only further perpetuate that person’s attitude…
The amazing thing is that in many cases the individuals don’t even realize that their attitudes and opinions are offensive. They’re shocked when they discover that black people are actually offended by their use of the word. They didn’t realize that it was a big deal. A foot in the face relays that message quite well. And in the cases of those who realize full well that they are being racist scumbags the ass-kicking may not educate but it certainly makes me feel better.
Anyone who seriously believes that violence never solves anything either can’t fight or knows nothing about human history. The instances where tyranny and oppression has been overthrown via non-violent resistance are so remarkable because they are so rare. I have often said that Martin Luther King would have only gotten a fraction of the support he received if most Americans at that time did not believe an all-out racial civil war was imminent. Groups like the Black Muslims, the Black Liberation Army, and The Black Panther Party for Self Defense played the bad cop to Dr. King’s good cop. If there was no threat of a violent racial explosion most Americans would have just ignored Dr. King altogether.
And there goes any hope I had of living down that Black militant label I’ve been getting stuck with lately. Seriously though, I’m not a militant I’m just not a pacifist. I think tolerating assholes only encourages them, whereas kicking the shit out of them at least discourages others from following in their footsteps.
Woody Allen was once asked why his films have no black people in them.
(Although I wish someone would ask him: ‘if he and his daughter/wife ever have a kid, will he eventually dump his wife and marry his daughter/granddaughter?’).
He responded that he isn’t black (obviously) and he could not realistically portray them on film. I guess I am talking around the question, but was there a particular reason why your protagonist in Succulent Prey was white?
The protagonist was white in this case because that’s the way he looked to me in my mind. Succulent Prey came about as a result of a lot of research on cannibal websites and messageboards and there really aren’t a lot of brothers posting on cannibal messageboards with screen names like BrutalChef69. It would have felt sort of silly and unrealistic to make the character black just because I am. In real life, it is far more likely that this character would be a white person than a black man.
And that leads me back to stereotypes. When people are asked who is the most ‘infamous serial killer’, they think of John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, BTK. What I say in response is: why? They are all in jail (or have died in prison). The greatest serial killer is the ever-elusive one. I think that there are just as many black serial killers out there as white serial killers – they are merely smarter than the white serial killers, or their circumstances allow them to stay outside the penumbra of social scrutiny…
I think that’s highly unlikely. With the FBI’s VICAP computer it is getting very hard for serial murders to go undetected. Their signatures give them away. Unsolved? Yes. Undetected? No. In the past many serial crimes in the black community may have been attributed to other crimes such as gangs and drug deals gone bad. The way they identify serial crimes now leaves less room for some cop’s racist pre-judgments to allow him to mislabel a serial murder as something drug-related. What’s more likely is that different social and economic dynamics breed different types of killers. When you hear about black serial killers being apprehended there is most often a profit motive linked to the crimes rather than just a guy who gets off on raping and killing women. There are of course exceptions and what I find curious is that there seem to be more of these exceptions than there used to be. Serial killing is beginning to cross cultural and economic lines more so now than ever. It would be interesting to see a study that would explain why there are suddenly more Black, Asian, Latino, and female serial killers than there used to be. I just can’t buy that women and minorities had been committing serial killings all along and were just smart enough to not get caught until recently. Maybe the whole melting pot thing is working and the races are just becoming less dissimilar. Perhaps we are acquiring each other’s sins as well as our virtues. Who knows? But I think it would be an interesting subject to research.
I think it would also be interesting to see what religions spawn the most serial killers. I have my theories about it, but I’ll keep those to myself for now. I just think that finding out why America spawns more serial killers than other countries, why middleclass white men tend to be more likely to become serial killers than men of other races or economic groups, why there are more male serial killers than women, and if I’m correct and there are more serial killers spawned by one religious group than another, this would all be valuable information in finding out once and for all what makes a man turn into a signature sex murderer.
I have always hoped that reading my work would be a catalyst for serial murder. And speaking of deviants, when I first began reading Succulent Prey I had a difficult time empathizing with the main character, Joe. Not because of his deviant nature, but because of who his deviation led him to. You and I have such different ideals of ‘beauty’. I tried replacing the fully-bodied cherubic look with pre-teen, meth-addicted prostitute. Unfortunately that body type was not suitable for the type of pornography you write. I guess that pornography can be a precarious undertaking because you can never satisfy everyone…
Again, when you go on cannibal messageboards you don’t find anyone craving the flesh of emaciated drug whores. The one common denominator is the voluptuous zaftig figures. There are a lot of stories posted on those messageboards about a “chef”, as they call themselves, fattening up a long pig for the kill. The fact that I also find more full-figured women (meaning large hips, asses, thighs, and breasts, not fat guts) more desirable than women with no hips, no ass, and small or fake breasts was also a factor. There’s a model that has become a favorite in hip-hop and black men’s magazines called Buffy The Body who has the biggest, roundest, most perfectly sculpted ass you’ve ever seen, smooth unblemished skin and not an ounce of cellulite. She is who I had in mind when I first started writing Succulent Prey because I could certainly see myself biting a chunk out of her ass. But her body is so unbelievable that I didn’t think it would sound realistic. So, instead I gave our heroine stretch marks and cellulite along with the ass, the breasts, and the thighs.
So, do you agree that Succulent Prey is as much pornography as it is horror?
It is very much an erotic work but it is far more of a work of horror. And as with all my attempts at erotica it often becomes straight pornography in spots. What separates the book itself from being pornography is that the book as a whole is not meant to titillate even though there are scenes in it that are clearly meant to sexually arouse the reader. On the whole the book is a study in the horrors of addiction. It is meant to make the reader think about what excesses we are capable of when under the influence of addictive behaviors or substances, in this case the addiction to human flesh.
Succulent Prey focuses on the understanding that sex is not about penetration, but about intimacy…
I define love as the desire to unite with the love object. Obviously, despite the rhetoric of wedding vows, two can never really become one and that reality and the frustration it causes is what makes love so passionate and intense. When we make love we are trying to achieve love’s end of making two individuals one, but it is temporary and incomplete. It’s not hard to imagine someone taking that desire to the next step and devouring the love object. Eating the object of your desire would not be at all incompatible with love as I define it.
I had the opportunity to talk with a couple cannibals (most notably Nico ‘The Vampire Of Paris’ Claux). And from what I gleaned, cannibalism is like S/M sex – it’s foundation may be in sharing a mutual, satisfying experience of oneness, but inevitably the Masochist ‘tops from below’, as they say, and the Sadist receives less and less satisfaction. Like Masochism S/M sex, cannibalism is about selfishness, not love…
It is about control, domination, and sadism but it can often be about love and obsession as well. Love is a way in which cannibals will often rationalize their behavior. No different than the way many sex addicts rationalize sleeping with many partners at once. That it is possible to love someone and cannibalize them in order to be closer to them can be demonstrated by guys like Issei Sagawa. To this day he believes that he committed cannibalism out of love for his victim. Jeffrey Dahmer expressed the same sentiment for his victims. And if you were to read some of the stories posted on these cannibal messageboards you’d be surprised how romantic many of them are. It’s hard to imagine cannibalism being romantic, but strangely enough I get it. At my funeral I think it would be cool to have my remains boiled down into a soup and served to all my loved ones so that I could be with them forever. I think there’s something romantic about that.