In a recent review for this website I raved about Nick Cutter’s horror novel The Troop, writing that it was one of a handful of novels that have genuinely frightened me. I was very pleased – and a little frightened – to have an opportunity to follow up my review with an interview with Cutter himself. Continue reading, but do be aware that there’s some adult language present in the conversation:
So I’ve heard that there is no “Nick Cutter,” and actually he’s an alter ego for a writer who will remain nameless. Is this Nick Cutter a split-away personality? Is he a villain? A madman? Did this “other” writer need to use a pseudonym to distance himself from this horrifying novel?
Ah, Nick Cutter. That marvelous bastard! Some call him a madman, others might call him … no, they call him a madman too. The truth is, the name was my agent’s idea. He felt that some kind of separation between the two spheres I’ve written in so far, “literary” (I use the quotation marks because I’ve never felt my stuff to be literary in any way, but that’s often how it’s shelved) and horror. But I grew up reading and watching and loving horror, and it’s a great pleasure to be able to write a novel in that genre. Stephen King and Clive Barker and Robert R McCammon were the guys I grew up reading; their books were mother’s milk to me, and I’m sure that’s reflected in The Troop.
You really pushed my “ick” buttons with all of those worms. Where did you get the idea? Even better-why did you get this idea? What happened to you, Nick?
Well, if you must know as a child I worked at a bait shop with my tyrannical stepfather, and he shoved me into a giant vat of nightcrawlers when I was three … no, that didn’t happen. Y’know, the primary use of that villain was that it was inescapable. Other threats you can run from. The zombie? Run your ass off! The werewolf? Same deal! The shark? Just don’t go in the water, dumbass! But the worms are inside of you. You can’t outrun them, because they’re frolicking, fancy-free, under your skin.
Were you ever a scout? What were you like? Did you spend your time lighting animals on fire and putting snakes in your scoutmaster’s sleeping bag?
Yes. I was a shitty Scout. I was a great many shitty things at that age: a shitty son, a shitty student, a shitty representation of boyhood and so on. I spent a lot of time goofing off and playing with matches with my friend Darren. We were mutual bad influences on each other. We accidentally set fire to the trampoline in the gymnasium where the meetings were held—and when I say “accidentally,” it was only so because, in our ignorance, we weren’t aware that the trampoline material might melt so easily. It started burning through, a widening hole, bits of flaming rubber raining down around us as the trampoline itself made these eerie musical sounds as the elastic material snapped. So yeah, that was Scouts.
I picked up some references to The Lord of the Flies. Am I right? Further, how would you have done had you been one of the boys in Golding’s novel?
Absolutely. Huge influence for the book, and just an outstanding book in its own right. I think a lot of people don’t like it, because they were forced to read it in high school and almost any book suffers when you’re being forced to read and assess it. Anyway, I would’ve died pretty quick on that island with those British schoolboys. Kids were tougher back in Golding’s day. I mean, unless they needed a trampoline-burner, I’d’ve been in a pickle. Meat for the beast.
What were some of the other literary influences on The Troop? Any movies, maybe? I thought of Eli Roth’s film Cabin Fever a little bit, and maybe James Gunn’s Slither. Will we be Seeing a The Troop movie?
Apart from the ones I’ve mentioned before—Carrie, The Ruins, Lord of the Flies, Battle Royale—another influence, or actually just a really fabulous and awesome book I read years ago and re-read recently, is Irvine Welsh’s Filth. A tapeworm is prominent in that one, too. Such a goddamn good book. Beyond that, filmically … Slither is such a fun movie. So much fun. And so yes, even though I didn’t think of it, that’s kind of the tone I wanted for The Troop: weird as it seems, I wanted readers to have fun. To be icked out, sure, and distressed at some points, but overall it was written in good fun! Some will read it and want to assess my mental state for making a comment like that, but whatever. Otherwise, filmically, the works of David Cronenberg, the daddy of body horror, and Carpenter’s The Thing were influential too.
The Troop horrified me, yet I can’t help but to inflict this horror on others by making them read the book? Am I infected with some kind of Cutter-induced parasite?
This is natural, my friend. Let it happen. Spread the sickness. All is well. DO IT! THE WORMS COMMAND THEE!
You’re a monster, Nick. I just want you to know that.
I’m a Canadian, Matt. We’re all monsters, deep down.
MORE ABOUT THE TROOP:
Once a year, scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a three-day camping trip—a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story and a roaring bonfire. But when an unexpected intruder—shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—stumbles upon their campsite, Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror. The human carrier of a bioengineered nightmare. An inexplicable horror that spreads faster than fear. A harrowing struggle for survival that will pit the troop against the elements, the infected…and one another.
Part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later—and all-consuming—this tightly written, edge-of-your-seat thriller takes you deep into the heart of darkness and close to the edge of sanity.