According to legend, the Wunk is a creature that has the ability to burrow into the ground almost instantaneously, and can even shape-ship to look like other animals, or even humans. Which is why, the legend goes, no one has ever seen one. And probably also why he’s never been the star of animated movies or episodes of The Bionic Man. But the Wunk is finally getting their due in Gone To Ground (paperback, Kindle), a new noir mystery novel by Aaron Rosenberg that casts the cautious cryptid as the possible (and reluctant) witness to a murder. In the following email interview, Rosenberg discusses what inspired and influenced this noir novella.
To start, what is Gone To Ground about, and when and where is it set?
At its core, Gone To Ground is a murder mystery. It’s set in the Roaring Twenties, somewhere along the New England coast, at a big house party of the well-to-do. A young woman gets murdered, and the host is the main suspect. He claims he actually saw the killer, and that someone else did as well — but they can’t find anyone to corroborate his story because his supposed witness cannot be found. And we go from there.
Where did you get the initial idea for Gone To Ground, and how, if at all, did that idea change as you wrote this story?
I was thinking about the Wunk and its particular trait, which is to vanish when spotted but to do so by digging a hole in the ground, diving in, and then pulling that hole in after it. That made me think about, “what if they were a witness to something, and had just vanished without a trace?” Which led to the murder mystery.
Gone To Ground sounds like a horror story, but one with a bit of noir flavor. Is that how you’d describe it?
Noir, absolutely, but I’d say more mystery than horror. The story is really all about the murder case and how it unfolds, and how various characters — including the Wunk — play a part.
As you mentioned, Gone To Ground takes place in New England. H.P. Lovecraft is synonymous with creepy things happening in New England. Was he an influence on Gone To Ground?
He wasn’t really, no. His work is significantly darker than this, very bleak and hopeless. From the start I wanted this to feel a bit lighter in tone. Yes, there’s been a murder, but at the same time the world itself is not utterly horrible and of course there are good people in it, and strange and wondrous creatures.
Speaking of influences, are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Gone To Ground but not on anything else you’ve written?
For some reason when I started writing it the Twenties setting just appeared and took hold. That means there’s no getting away from F. Scott Fitzgerald as an influence. I’d say there are also some elements of Agatha Christie in there, though I love mysteries so I probably have other works influenced by her, too.
And how about non-literary influences; was Gone To Ground influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
Well, amusingly, I’d just finished another book right before this one, Death In Silents, which is also set in the Twenties and involved Rudolph Valentino. Because of that I’d steeped myself in Twenties-era films and styles, and I’ve no doubt those influenced my choice of setting. There was also the relatively recent version of Murder on the Orient Express, which has always been a favorite, and that was amazing visually.
As you mentioned, the Wunk is at the center of Gone To Ground. In deciding how this cryptid would look and act, did you consult anything specific, like any specific books or website or whatever, or did you just make it up?
I did consult several websites — the Monster Wiki, the It’s Something Wiki, and the CryptoWiki — and they all had basically the same information, which wasn’t a whole lot. After all, this is a creature who’s best known for its ability to disappear. I was really intrigued, though, by the idea of this super-shy creature that can also change shape, and that got me thinking about what it would be like, how it would act, if it had those two opposing impulses.
Gone To Ground is the second book in eSpec’s Systema Paradoxa series after John L. French’s When The Moon Shines. Are there any other connection between your book and John’s?
Sadly, no, the two aren’t connected at all. Which is a shame, because that’s always fun when authors can build on each other, or include subtle references for those who read both.
Has there been any talk of having all of the cryptids in the Systema Paradoxa get together like The Avengers, maybe to fight The Bionic Man or Van Helsing or something?
Not that I’m aware, but I’m game! The Wunk stands ready!
Finally, if someone enjoys Gone To Ground, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next and why that one?
As I mentioned, I have another book, Death In Silents, that’s set in the same period. It’s a bit darker, and more of a thriller-mystery, but it’s certainly closest in feel to this one. I’d also recommend Incursion or Digging Deep, my first two novels in the O.C.L.T. series I do with David Niall Wilson, which are modern-day but still have the horror / dark fantasy and thriller / mystery elements, very X-Files meets Mission: Impossible.