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 [email protected] 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.