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Dead Lines

By: John Skipp,Craig Spector
Narrated by: Seylan Baxter
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This audio edition of Dead Lines includes a new foreword by David Niall Wilson as well as an author's foreword by Criag Spector and an afterword by John Skipp. 

Dead Lines is about a young writer/artist type named Jack Rowan, who lives in NYC and whose career never took off. His life is in the toilet. He's broken up with his girlfriend and is crashing on the couch in the loft of his more successful photographer friend, Glen, while Glen is off in LA on a shoot. In the first chapter, Jack finishes his manuscript - a collection of short stories titled Nightmare NYC - takes swigs of vodka then boxes the manuscript up, writing, "Do Not Open Until Doomsday" on it. He then hides it in a crawlspace in his friend's apartment. Then he walks up a ladder he set up in the living room, puts the rope he tied to a steam pipe around his neck. He takes one last swig of the bottle, looks at a photo in his hand of himself and a woman, and says, "Look what you made me do."

Then he tosses the bottle and pitches the ladder off. The rope goes taut. Jack's neck snaps as he pinwheels around in midair, knocking over the ladder, swinging wildly as he hangs himself. Finally, he goes still. His body hangs there for weeks, visible through the fourth floor windows of the loft...if anyone was looking, which no one was. He remains there until Glen gets back. 

Glenn freaks out and promptly moves out. The loft is renovated for new tenants. A couple of girls who don't know each other move in. Meryl is from a wealthy family in Boston and is trying to escape her overbearing father by going to college at NYU. Katie, the other girl, is a waitress who used to know Glenn...and Jack. Meryl convinces Katie to pretend to be her roommate to get Meryl's father off her back. At first Katie says, "No, thanks," but then she goes back to her Svengali-esque boyfriend, Colin's, apartment, where she lives. She finds him in bed with two girls - customers - as Colin is a low-level drug dealer and all-around scumbag. They fight. 

Katie shows back up on Meryl's doorstep that night and takes her up on the offer. Meryl is surprised. She wasn't expecting a roommate for real. But Katie has no place to go, so Meryl lets her crash there. They start to become friends.

One night while Meryl is fixing up her room, she finds the box containing Jack's lost manuscript. She starts to read the stories and becomes intrigued with this mysterious writer and his dark, brooding, moody vision of the city. 

What neither Meryl nor Katie realize is that Jack's soul, upon the moment of his death, literally imploded into the atomic substructure of the apartment, frozen in a kind of tormented limbo, forever, until Meryl starts reading his stories. And the sheer energy of her reading his words in bed each night, and fantasizing about him, starts to bring him back. His soul coalesces, bit by bit, and awareness and consciousness return. Suddenly, he's back, and he's Jack - but he's dead, a presence haunting the loft, which is his prison now. 

But Meryl keeps reading, drawn deeper into his world each night. By day she searches for him in bookstores - but his work has never been published. She see echoes of his images on the streets of the city. She can feel his presence through his stories. Her nightly fantasies become dreams...and the power of her dreams allows Jack to visit her, like a succubus, a night-lover in spirit.

©1989 John Skipp and Craig Spector (P)2020 David N. Wilson

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  • Keef Caru
  • 07-04-21


great story but a struggle with understanding the choice of narrator. I am not, even as I finish this, sure I understand why they went tits route.