Joseph Souza has been cranking out excellent horror and mystery novels for a while now. But with Fujita’s Itch, Souza takes the reader on a wild ride of absurd proportions. Joe was kind enough to meet me for a couple drinks at the Downtown Lounge to talk about his new book.
Fujita’s Itch is a kind of tripped out book, it reminds me a bit of George Saunders, but underneath it all there seems to be a bit of a message about corporate America. Is that true or am I reading too much into it?
I wrote Fujita’s Itch to be like a very bad dream that one can’t wake from. A sort of Wizard of Oz meets Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. And yes, I love George Saunders. The man writes like no one else does today, so I owe him a nod of gratitude.
It would be too easy for me to go all soft and say that Itch is anti-corporate story. It’s more an anti-fascist tale. It’s my belief that we are now living in society where fascism is being dictated by political correctness, and that any belief that runs counter to their orthodoxy leads to ostracism and contempt. Itch is a story that tackles these issues in a satirical way. And while I believe that most corporations are good for America and their employees, providing good wages and living conditions, there are also many that reward conformity, mediocrity. In a previous job, I saw it firsthand. I witnessed the evil behavior of a destructive corporation when they buried hundreds of barrels of trichlorethylene in a pit behind their facility. It then leaked from the barrels and sickened and killed dozens of kids who drank from that well water. Itch then is more about the powers ruling society and the immense powers they attain in their position of authority. Whether it’s the government, the military or big business lobbyists writing the regulations, power truly begets power until the people become unwittingly enslaved by their own demands. In Itch, Phineas merely uses the power of tornadoes to achieve both wealth and affluence, but as a divine force he can use to oppress the masses and achieve social order. Call it climate control if you will, but the tornado becomes an almost mythical, religious symbol.
You are known for your horror books and your best selling mystery “Unpaved Surfaces” what led you to write something as out of the ordinary as Fujita’s Itch?
Fujita’s Itch are stories that come from the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind. I love them because they are irreverent with a tinge of horror mixed in with a healthy dose of satire. Many people find Fujita’s Itch, the main story in this collection, to be my finest work. Like some of the works published by Strawberry Books, I yearn to write about the underbelly of society, and to explore these themes in an unconventional and unique way: sexual exploitation, violence, terrorism, fascism and the degree to which certain events affect our lives. Because of my own experiences in life, and the way I perceive reality, I seem to relate best to the outcasts and fringe members of society. My itch is relieved by writing about these miscast, bedeviled losers.
Other than being a writer you have been a teacher, cabbie, social worker, truck driver, editor, bouncer, barber, wrestling coach, paralegal and intelligence analyst in the DEA, why can’t you hold a job?
I’ve held a lot of jobs. Too many to remember. These stories stem from my blue and white collar experiences. I guess I’m a lousy employee, but I sure learned a lot from these jobs. Many stories and many great characters. I have more characters for books than I’ll ever get to write about.
Like me, you live in the Portland, Maine area. Why do you think so many amazingly cool people like us chose Portland as a place to live?
We live in Portland because it is authentically weird. The weather here is harsh and to survive here one must have character and resolve. Many people have deep roots and that creates a strong sense of place. It’s not like Portland, Oregon where flakes move there because there are other flakes like them. We’re like the characters of Fargo: tough, resilient and independent. And because Portland is a small place, we get to know most of the characters that inhabit this city. Plus there are great bars where we writers can drown our sorrows. Portland is a great place to live.