October 16, 2013

Socrates and Sidekicks: a guest post + giveaway by Stephen Kozeniewski, author of "Braineater Jones"

Braineater Jones wakes up face down in a swimming pool with no memory of his former life, how he died, or why he’s now a zombie. With a smart-aleck severed head as a partner, Jones descends into the undead ghetto to solve his own murder.

But Jones’s investigation is complicated by his crippling addiction to human flesh. Like all walking corpses, he discovers that only a stiff drink can soothe his cravings. Unfortunately, finding liquor during Prohibition is costly and dangerous. From his Mason jar, the cantankerous Old Man rules the only speakeasy in the city that caters to the postmortem crowd.

As the booze, blood, and clues coagulate, Jones gets closer to discovering the identity of his killer and the secrets behind the city’s stranglehold on liquid spirits. Death couldn’t stop him, but if the liquor dries up, the entire city will be plunged into an orgy of cannibalism.

Cracking this case is a tall order. Braineater Jones won’t get out alive, but if he plays his cards right, he might manage to salvage the last scraps of his humanity.

So that's what Braineater Jones is all about in a nutshell, and if you're looking for something a little different in your zombie fiction, I'm guessing this new novel will fit the bill. The folks at Red Adept Publishing brought this book to my attention, and as a result I invited the book's author, Stephen Kozeniewski, to write a little guest post to give potential readers a little glimpse at his intentions and inspiration behind this irreverent novel. Enjoy!

a guest post by

Stephen Kozeniewski

Ancient Greece. Athens. 2500 years ago.

Alcibiades stumbles drunkenly into one of Socrates’s discourses with his entire entourage trailing him. And when I say “entourage” I mean it almost exactly in the modern sense. Alcibiades is the pre-Christian equivalent of a movie star, widely considered to be the handsomest man in ancient Greece.

Socrates is having a sober, reasoned discussion with the rest of his students when Al bursts in, expecting a party. Not finding one, but still three togas to the wind, Alcibiades decides to relate a drunk story to the disciplined philosophy students. The story, as drunk stories are wont to be, is about Alcibiades’s sexual exploits. Of course, this being ancient Greece and there being very few sexual taboos and almost no distinction between gay and straight, young and old, orgy and wrestling, Alcibiades’s story is about trying to seduce Socrates.

Picture, if you will, being at a college lecture when George Clooney or Scarlett Johansson, (depending on your ‘druthers) stumbles in, bottle of Stoli in hand, and starts regaling the class with the tale of that time he/she tried to sleep with the professor. Yeah, that basically.

So what this story boils down to is basically this: prostitution also being not such a big whoop in ancient Greece, Alcibiades offers to trade a night of steamy May-September romance with Socrates in exchange for wisdom. You know, the hardcore, mainline wisdom that Soc doesn’t even share with his regular students who don’t get drunk and come and mess up his classes.

So Socrates being, you know, arguably the wisest philosopher of all time and all responds, “Ah, but that’s an uneven trade. You would get by far the better of the deal.” Point being, the pleasures of the flesh are fleeting and all but worthless compared to the consolations of philosophy.

This is the famous story about Alcibiades. I’m not quite sure why it’s the famous story about him, because dude had a life. To get the full scoop, I strongly recommend you check out TIDES OF WAR by Steven Pressfield, or, you know, I’m sure there’s an old scroll by Thucydides or Plutarch or somebody. But to boil it down, as an admiral and a general Alcibiades was never defeated. And while that puts him in a class with only a few others in history (Belisarius…um…Belisarius again…) what’s even more amazing is that he pretty much never fought for the same guys twice.

During the Peloponnesian War, which was kind of the ancient Greek equivalent of a civil war, except, you know, city-states, so not really, ol’ Alcibiades had a habit of becoming the greatest military commander for one side, leading them to spectacular victory, and then suddenly turning coat and going over to the other side and doing the same exact thing for them. He fought for Athens, Sparta, Athens again, Persia, and just back and forth like a pinball. You might think the belligerents in this war would’ve gotten fed up with Alcibiades’s nonsense, but I guess when you’ve got Kobe Bryant on your team you don’t worry whether he’s going to suddenly turn free agent on you, you’re just happy he’s on your team for right this second.

In my younger years I came across the story of Alcibiades and was transfixed. There was something compelling to me about a man being the consummate warrior, such a perfect soldier that he cared only for the glory of battle, and not for the banner he fought under. At the time, which was I suppose around 2001 or so (which hopefully isn’t me dating myself) I was also a bit of a Western nut, and it occurred to me that a great place to relocate the story of Alcibiades was the Wild West. And thus was born the character Alcibé, a military genius who pinballed, like his namesake, between loyalty to the Union, Confederacy, Plains Nations, and Mexican Empire. It would’ve been epic. Heck, I might still finish it some day and then you can then claim, “Hey, I remember that guy talking about that on that Wag the Fox guest post!”

Fast forward to 2009 and you’ll find me diligently (read: not really) slaving away on a little zombie noir lark called BRAINEATER JONES. I never in a million years imagined BJ would get published, so I didn’t really worry about throwing the whole kitchen sink into it. As a matter of fact, I cribbed generously from a number of my other unpublished manuscripts. You might even say that BRAINEATER JONES is a Frankenstein’s monster (ha!) stitched together from my other works.

You might, if you were privy to my computer which, for your own sanity and the healthiness of your libido, I hope you never are, note that the character Ivan Skaron shows up in BJ as a brainy intellectual and in an old movie script of mine as the king of the vampires. Coincidence? Well, no. I needed a name for my brainy intellectual and Ivan’s seemed to fit the bill. So, too, when Jones decided to adopt a wiseacre severed head as his partner, was he mysteriously possessed of the moniker “Alcibé,” which had previously only existed in my novel about the Gunfight at the Peloponnesian Corral.

I can’t say crazier things have happened (because they haven’t) but there you have it, the two and a half millennia long trail of how Braineater Jones met his best friend. If you’d like to read their exploits together you can buy the book from fine retailers like AMAZON.COM, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple.

And if you’d like to hear more from me, which, after reading this guest blog, you almost certainly won’t, you can find me at twitter here: https://twitter.com/outfortune or on my blog here: http://manuscriptsburn.blogspot.com.

Stephen Kozeniewski lives with his wife of 9 years and cat of 22 pounds in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. He was born to the soothing strains of “Boogie With Stu” even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn’t even really want to get into right now.

During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow.

He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German.

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