Josh Malerman is on a roll with Black Mad Wheel – (Interview)


Ferndale’s own Josh Malerman is going to have quite a year! Our library’s patrons will recall Malerman’s spotlight role as author of  Bird Box,  an imaginative and splendidly nerve-wracking dystopia/suspense novel that we featured for our FERNDALE READS series of programs and events back in 2015.

Bird Box (ECCO/HarperCollins) was his debut, but all the while he’d spent his days here in Metro Detroit honing his craft as a novelist with 14 completed works, never having shopped one of them. He’s also been seen on local stages and headlining music festivals as the lead singer and guitarist for local rock quintet The High Strung.

But NOW… The exciting news for our local boy is that Del Rey Books has acquired Malerman’s next novel, Unbury Carol, along with a second untitled future novel. We don’t want to say too much, but Unbury Carol is “…a dark, lyrical adventure novel about a legendary outlaw racing against time to save his first love from being buried alive, while being trailed by threats both mortal and mystical….”


If that weren’t exciting enough, we’re happy to announce that Malerman’s next novel will be published in less than two months. His latest, Black Mad Wheelcomes out May 23 (ECCO/HarperCollins). Bird Box really hooked us with it’s premise: bizarre new creatures begin appearing across the globe, and any human who glances their uncanny appearance is inexplicably driven into terminal madness. His next novella, A House At The Bottom Of A Lake was a fever-dream allegory for the surreal adventure, graceless advances, and unfounded fixations of falling in love, while also evading aquatic specters and haunted tunnels.

Now we have Black Mad Wheel, which combines the foreboding odyssey-vibes of Heart of Darkness, with the nuanced sci-fi suspense of Lost. Malerman’s new one plunges the reader into the depths of psychological horror, where one can’t always believe everything one hears….

Black Mad Wheel Local rock stars “The Danes” are eager to regain their respected titles as the “Darlings of Detroit” and score another #1 hit song. An opportunity to travel to the deserts of Africa to seek out “a mysterious and malevolent sound” takes them on a harrowing journey through the scorching sands and into the heart of an ominous and twisted conspiracy. That’s a long way to go just to find a fresh new sound…

But the plot thickens when, back home in the states, a nurse tends to a patient who is already healing from his mysterious/nearly-fatal accident with remarkable speed. Who is this patient, what happened to him, how is he healing…and what devilry will he demand of Ellen while he’s in her stead?


Your first two published works were heavy on stoking readers’ imaginations. It wasn’t something like a visceral jump-scare like a prowler in the basement or a monstrous man-eating cat… Talk about going that extra mile, premise-wise, and how that imagination is coming into play with Black Mad Wheel…

Josh Malerman: The early reviews are describing it as a “trippy” book, which is both surprising to me and not. It’s not surprising… because I am, after all, a trippy guy. But the book… …hmmm… …to me Black Mad Wheel is a green and black oil panting, slashes of desert tan, characters who are scared, yes, but never completely out of control. The imagination runs free in Black Mad Wheel, just as it should in everything we do, and with every toy we play with… But, the mission the Danes are on is straight as an arrow. So maybe that’s it right there: the book is an arrow shot through a rainbow fog.

Trippy is a word we haven’t heard used,  yet, to describe your brand of ‘horror…’ Do we mean trippy like Lovecraft, or trippy like Huxley… or trippy like DeLillo?

Josh Malerman: Great question…, because in 2017, there are many varieties of “the trip!” Haha… But, I’d say more DeLillo than the other two…

What inspired Black Mad Wheel…? Something primal? Do the roots of your ideas for a storyline usually spring from a nuanced kind of human anxiety? And then blossoming and mutating from there?…….Isn’t horror just all about anxiety?

Josh Malerman: I think it was you, Jeff, who once pointed out to me that a lot of my stories feature fixated characters. And while I haven’t actually paused to wonder if a lot of horror is based on similar obsessions, I’m thinking right now that it is. Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? A man or a woman gets hooked on a thought or a person or a plan and then.. uh oh… we’re losing control… uh oh… the whole book is spinning. Whether it’s “the monster” or not… the killer who collects elbows or the father who believes he’s in competition with the neighbor or the child who can’t wait to get home to talk to the ghost in his Slurpee cup… all these characters are, yes, fixated. And maybe most of horror hangs by that hook, huh. Well, of course that then makes me question whether those who write/read/love the genre are also obsessors. I am. Are you? You are. Is everyone?

Everyone here at the Ferndale Library is looking forward to Black Mad Wheel in May… But tell us about what it was like to then get picked up by Del Rey? Here you were, just five years ago, with 14 books and nothing published… Now you’re on Del Rey! That’s a whirlwind toward vindication…

Josh Malerman: I feel as though I’ve come home! The editor who picked up Unbury Carol seems to prize that imagination we already spoke of…, and certainly isn’t afraid to publish something that’s more colorful and/or multi-sided than, say, a straight bullet thriller. I love that! It just feels like… if the next one finds me of a mind to write, like, a small, black and white story? Okay, great, go for it. And if not? If I see the follow up to Unbury Carol as a Rubik’s Cube of numerous suns all setting at the same time…? The horizon painted legion? So be it!! ‘Let’s roll,’ they seem to be saying. As long as the story is inspired, let’s roll.

Let’s roll……. like a wheel….
Black Mad Wheel 


More info: 

Also: Malerman will be appearing at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor on the day Black Mad Wheel is released; more info

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