J.F. Gonzalez R.I.P.

I am heartbroken to confirm what you’ve probably already seen on social media this morning — my long-time collaborator and one of my best friends, J.F. Gonzalez, passed away earlier this morning after complications from an illness. What follows will be a bit of a balancing act — trying to serve his fans and readers and answer any questions they may have about the status of his future works, while also trying to serve our friends and peers, and also protect his family’s privacy. As a result, it will be very long.

J.F. (Jesus) Gonzalez was born in 1964. He was a lifelong fan of horror and weird fiction. His life is one that would make many horror fiction and heavy metal fans envious. As a young man, he hung out on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, watching first-hand as many then unknown heavy metal bands (Guns n Roses, Motley Crue, Poison, etc.) soon rose to prominence. He also hung out with the Splatterpunks and other up-and-coming horror writers of that era, again watching first-hand as Skipp & Spector, David J. Schow, RC Matheson, Brian Hodge, and many others rose to prominence. His very first signing (when he was still just a newbie starting out) was with Richard Laymon and Bentley Little. He had seen and done more in our industry before writing his first novel than many will do in their entire careers.

His first professional foray in the industry was in the early 90s, as the editor (along with Buddy Martinez) of the horror magazine INIQUITIES (which lasted three issues). It was followed in 1994 with the horror magazine PHANTASM (which lasted four issues) once again co-edited with Martinez.

From there, Jesus moved on to writing short stories and novels. With Mark Williams, he wrote CLICKERS, a loving tribute to Guy N. Smith’s CRABS series, as well as other “munch-out” novels such as James Herbert’s RATS series, all viewed through the lens of H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos. In time, CLICKERS became a bona fide cult classic, earning him a devoted readership.

CLICKERS spawned three sequels — CLICKERS II: THE NEXT WAVE, CLICKERS III: DAGON RISING, and CLICKERS VS. ZOMBIES, all co-written with me. Jesus had asked me to collaborate with him on the first sequel as a) Williams had passed away and b) he knew I was a fan of the original novel. We soon found out that we worked very well together, with both of us able to end in the middle of a sentence and pick up where the other person left off without thinking about it. Our styles meshed. Our imaginations meshed. And our love of the genre meshed. I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with a number of our peers over the years, and enjoyed every one of those efforts, but with Jesus, it was often like I was writing with myself. He used to echo the same thing.

In addition to the CLICKERS series, we’d recently just finished writing LIBRA NIGRUM SCIENTIA SECRETA together (which is the last thing he completed before his death).

We also had plans for two more Clickers books (HIGH PLAINS CLICKERS and SOUTHERN FRIED CLICKERS) and a reworking of a novel we were originally supposed to ghost write for the William W. Johnstone estate, DAY OF TERROR.

It is SOUTHERN FRIED CLICKERS that summons my happiest memory of Jesus. And I have hundreds of happy memories regarding him, but this one is my absolute favorite. We were on a long drive and were bullshitting back and forth, and somehow, we got on the idea for SOUTHERN FRIED CLICKERS, which would take place in Mississippi and Louisiana. We were brainstorming plot points and scenes and lines of dialogue, and Jesus came up with the idea of the Clickers attacking a Klu Klux Klan rally, and somebody hollering, “That’s the biggest crawdad I ever done seen!” This caused us both to double over with laughter, because it was ludicrous, and we were exhausted, and punch-drunk, and his southern accent was atrocious. We had to pull over to the side of the road because neither of us could drive. And for nearly twenty-minutes we sat there, laughing. Every time one of us stopped, the other would repeat the line, and we’d start giggling again. By the end, our stomachs hurt and both our faces were streaked with tears.

Jesus’s biggest contribution to the genre was undoubtedly his novel SURVIVOR (which was born out of an earlier novella called Maternal Instinct). Unflinching and brutal and possessing a sharp emotional core, it is often cited along with Jack Ketchum’s THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, as one of the best extreme horror novels of all time. And it is. But that was a double-edged sword for Jesus. He much preferred to write pulp and supernatural horror, but SURVIVOR exploded in popularity, and many readers assumed he was primarily an extreme horror writer instead. He got a chance to address this for himself in SIXTY-FIVE STIRRUP IRON ROAD, a novel we co-wrote with Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum, Bryan Smith, Wrath James White, Nate Southard, Shane McKenzie, and Ryan Harding. The chapter where meta-Nate and meta-Jesus are talking to the characters about extreme horror? Trust me, that wasn’t fiction.

Other books included PRIMITIVE, THE CORPORATION, THEY, FETISH, THE BELOVED, RESTORE FROM BACKUP (with Mike Oliveri), SECRETS, OLD GHOSTS AND OTHER REVENANTS, WHEN THE DARKNESS FALLS, SHAPESHIFTER, BULLY, THE KILLINGS (with Wrath James White), HERO (also with White), BACK FROM THE DEAD, DO UNTO OTHERS, IT DRINKS BLOOD, THAT’S ALL FOLKS, SINS OF THE FATHER, CONVERSION, SCREAMING TO GET OUT, and several more.

Jesus was a dear and trusted friend to most of our generation of writers — those of us who started out in the late-90s and rose to success in the 00s. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who disliked him (other than the trolls, nuts, and crazies who seem to dislike everybody). Every year, he gladly pitched in with Comix Connection’s annual Creator Cookout to raise donations for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. He was also a supporter of the Scares That Care charity. He was generous and kind, but he also had zero tolerance for fools or assholes. He was an instrumental and core member of the Dorchester War, and that situation would have had a very different outcome without him on our side. More recently, he’d been settling into and enjoying the teacher/veteran/elder statesman role that so many of us find ourselves also settling into, and was genuinely enjoying advising/helping newer creators such as Shane McKenzie and Mike Lombardo.

Most importantly, he was a husband and a father and a brother and a son. Those of us who know him know that he absolutely doted on his wife and daughter, and never made a decision — personally or professionally — without first considering how it would impact them.

Jesus died early this morning, from internal bleeding, following a tenacious fight with cancer. His family were with him and got to say their goodbyes, for which we can all be grateful. Many of you have been wishing him well online this past month. Last week, those messages were passed along to him when myself, Robert Swartwood, and Mike Lombardo visited him. Rest assured, he knew that people cared.

In a few weeks, when things have settled down, I’ll help his family go through his literary estate. He communicated to me before his hospitalization that he had several half-finished novels and stories under contract, and that I should take care of those. If you are one of the publishers to which he had one of those contracts, please feel free to contact me at briankeene@live.com. If you are one of his lifetime subscribers, you can do the same. Thank you in advance for your patience, and understand that it will be several weeks before we begin to delve into what needs finished and who is owed what, and what remains unpublished, and thus, it will be several weeks before I respond.

He also communicated his desire for me to spearhead a fundraising anthology for his family. Quote: “I’ve contributed to enough of those over the years. Fuckers better contribute to mine.” It will be an invite-only project, mostly among his friends and peers from the early days until now, and I will reach out to those individuals in a few weeks, as well.

For his fans and readers, I can assure you there are more works to be published, but again, I don’t yet know the full extent of it. I will update you at a later date.

I know that everyone — friends, fans, peers, readers — want to help. Right now, the BEST way you can help is to purchase a copy of LIBRA NIGRUM SCIENTIA SECRETA or, if that’s beyond your price range, purchase one of his other books in paperback or Kindle or encourage others to do so. Because Jesus was so judicious in deciding who he worked with (Deadite Press, etc.), you can be certain that the proceeds from those sales will indeed go toward his family.

In closing, I’d ask that you please respect his family’s privacy. You’ve lost your favorite author, but they’ve lost a father and a husband and a son.

***

I fucking miss you already, brother. I made it through this whole thing without breaking down, but I am now, and it’s only 2:30 in the afternoon and that bottle of bourbon is looking good. I think I might drink it. Or I might go to that seedy bar you, me, Coop, and Bob went to that time (the one with the car on the roof) and I might get in a fight just so I can hit something. And I hear you now, reminding me about responsibility, so I won’t do either of those things. Instead, I suppose I should write, but I feel like I’ve lost my right arm, Jesus, and I can’t fucking fathom writing anything after this. Not for a while. Not for a long while. I fucking wish we’d become tugboat captains or forest rangers when we had the chance, but I also know we wouldn’t have been happy with that, either. Yes, this job sucked, and we both said it to each other all the time, but if not for this job, I would have never met you, and my life would be a whole lot fucking emptier and incomplete as a result. You were right. This tour was cursed, but I also know that it was a blast taking that road with you. Anyway, you rest easy, old friend, and when you reach R’lyeh, tug on Cthulhu’s tentacles and tell him it’s from me, and that I’ll be along at some point, and that he might as well hand over the keys now. And I promise you I’ll keep my promise.

***

Mike Oliveri, Jesus, and myself (2000).
Mike Oliveri, Jesus, and myself (2000).
Me, Norman Partridge, and Jesus, 2004.
Me, Norman Partridge, and Jesus (2004).
Me, David Schow, and Jesus, 2007.
Me, David Schow, and Jesus (2007).
Jesus and me, 2012.
Jesus and me (2012).

39 thoughts on “J.F. Gonzalez R.I.P.

  1. This sucks. A lot.

    Jesus was always a super nice guy. Not just to me, but to everyone he met. I really think there wasn’t one bad bone in his entire body.

    The man was an amazing writer and a great friend. Even up until last month, we’d trade emails every so often just to say hello. I’d let him know how the West Coast was faring while he told me how cold it was back East.

    He’s in a better place now, and I’m glad he’s not suffering. But it sucks to lose him.

    Rest in peace, brother. We’ll fucking miss you down here.

    1. Ok am so sorry for your and our loss. No words can do anything, just want to say I’m so sorry, and I’m here if you need anything at all. I’m so sorry.

  2. Thank you for this, Brian. I have so many terrific memories of this gentle, creative, giving man. Now I’ve added Southern Fried Clickers to them. If there’s anything…

  3. I had the opportunity to work with Jesus a number of times because you pointed me in his direction, Brian. He was so easy to work with. What a great talent…but what an even greater human being. I can’t express how much I appreciate the fact that you will be helping with his literary estate…you are a good man, my friend. And you made me tear up a few times reading this.

  4. I read of his passing a short time earlier on Goodreads, and immediately looked to you for the truth and facts. Your eulogy both broke and gladdened my soul. My thoughts, prayers, and condolences are with his family, friends, and loved ones. I hope to purchase Libra. I’d just purchased Clickers and Clickers II, and will keep buying, I’ll definitely purchase any and all benefit anthology.

  5. Beautiful, brother. Made me cry. It was such a privilege working with him over the years and his friendship meant a lot to me. You introduced him to me at that fateful 2004 Horrorfind. I’m going to go find something of his to read today.

  6. I remember meeting him at a signing with Mr. Keene, he was very nice and I bought a couple of his books.
    I liked him so much I got a Lifetime Subscription to all of his books. He was very considerate and regular with his mailing. He evan answered a e-mail personally when I asked him a question.

  7. Let me echo Ellen. I never met Jesus in person, but we had some lovely correspondence over the years, and it was easy to sense his generous spirit through the wires. And of course I fetishized those three issues of Iniquities, where I first heard his name, back in the day. My thoughts and sincerest condolences to his friends and family.

  8. I was a new fan but I admired how talented he was despite his brief presence in my life. Everything I read on message boards, his authors notes, and other posted information revealed to me that he lived a strong and fulfilling life. We can only be so lucky to live life to the fullest as J.F. Gonzalez has lived. A true man to admire and and a amazing writer to aspire to be. J.F. Gonzalez left behind a legacy with his friend Brian Keene and I’ll never forget him no matter how long I live. I know my sentiments are shared among all of his fans.

  9. “Jesus was a dear and trusted friend to most of our generation of writers…”

    How many of authors had INIQUITIES and then PHANTASM on the goal market lists when they first started submitting stories for publication in the ’90s? I know I sure did. He was one of the nicest guys in this business and he’ll be missed by a lot of people…

  10. Beautiful words. You introduced me to him the night I met you at Horrorfind. The two of you couldn’t have been more gracious. So sorry to hear he is gone.

  11. We were privileged to meet JF a couple times at signings and conventions, he was a pleasure to be around.

    Love his books, if you haven’t read any yet…follow those links Brian set up. I can’t recommend the Clickers series and Survivor enough…top notch!!

    Godspeed.

    Mark (& Paula)

  12. Hey Brian – to show how out of it I am, I didn’t even know he was ill. But really sorry to hear this. The few times I met Jesus, he was a really nice guy and he was one helluva writer. I remember hanging out with him and Mike Oliveri at the one Horrorfind convention I went to about 10 years ago. SURVIVOR absolutely blew me away.I know you guys were close. Condolences to his family and close friends. This is really sad news. And a complete shock to me.- Lauran

  13. Didn’t know him well, but we exchanged emails many years ago about the then-passing of our mutual friend Mark, and J. and I almost collaborated on a short film. He was a super-nice guy, and my prayers are with his family. Ordering some of his works tonight.

  14. After reading SURVIVOR way back in ’07, I corresponded with Gonzalez via MySpace. He was generous and classy, eager to share his perspective on the realities of being a horror writer–his words were both sobering and encouraging, and I had the sense that he genuinely cared about the younger writers who one day hoped to sit at the table he occupied with some of the most respected and accomplished writers in the genre. I found it a little disheartening that, at least at the time of our correspondence, he kept his identity as a horror writer mostly secret from his day-job co-workers, and he certainly deserved more commercial success than he received in his lifetime–but he obviously had a tremendous impact on the lives of his peers and readers, and that’s a whole different kind of success that any of us would be lucky to have. In his honor, I’ll be spending the next few days with SCREAMING TO GET OUT & OTHER WAILINGS OF THE DAMNED.

  15. When I think of who got me back into loving Horror novels after years away from reading them it was you Brian and Jesus. Thank you for such a loving tribute to this great man. I was not privileged to meet him but we communicated via email a couple times. I have read his novels from way back and have always admired him. Though I was not lucky enough to be a friend of his I feel such a sense of loss at his passing. I miss you Jesus and this world feels empty without you here. You live on in your great stories and I cherish them all the more now. I know you were a wonderful man through Brian and others’ stories through the years. Brian if there is anything I can do to help his family let me know. I love you both. Peace Jesus.

  16. I never got the chance to meet Jesus, but I’ll never forget him. As a lost and terrified new writer, he made me feel welcome and encouraged me when he had no reason to. I’ll forever cherish every conversation we ever had and every lesson he ever taught me.

  17. Sorry to hear this news, and condolences to Jesus’ family and loved ones. Always enjoyed his company when we got a chance to hang out at a con. In fact, I can remember the first time I met Jesus (and Buddy), both of them decked out in black leather dusters back in the INIQUITIES days. Fingerless gloves, too–they looked like they could have been heavies in THE CROW. Those were the days. I remember giving him a copy of the Roadkill MR. FOX, and (later) he took a story for PHANTASM. Seems like yesterday…

    Norm

  18. Thank you for posting this heartfelt, beautiful piece. He and I grew up together, and were thick as thieves on our street in Gardena. It’s amazing how many accomplished and acclaimed artists grew up on that street, and he was one of them. It’s so nice to know how much he is appreciated by his literary community. RIP, C.

  19. So sad to hear this, Brian. I looked at the list of novels and novellas that Jesus wrote alone or in collaboration and am amazed at the quality and quantity. I resolve to read everything Jesus wrote…again and please keep us informed about that tribute anthology.

    So sad…I’ll pray for Jesus and for his family and friends this Sunday.

    Take care,
    Troy

  20. I purchased 2 of the Clicker books in the series, signed, from e-bay and did not realize that they were sold to me directly from J.F. Gonzalez. I only realized this upon opening the books and reading his inscription to me. I will cherish these books forever. Heartbroken. Rest in Peace.

  21. Man, I’ve been out of the loop and somehow missed this until just now… don’t know how I missed it. I hate hearing this news. I’ve always loved the man’s writing and had some great interactions with him on Twitter — we shared a big appreciation for Karl Edward Wagner and some neglected old-school Victorian writers that a lot of people don’t read anymore. I never got to meet him but I feel fortunate that I got those exchanges on Twitter. He was consistently nice and very knowledgeable, and he’s going to be missed in a big way.

  22. I am so sorry for your loss, friends are special. I had the pleasure in reading one of his crazy-good books (bdsm-murder), drove miles to find but worth the travel. May J.F. remain in your heart and others forever.

Leave a Reply