Park City-based writer Zack Matheson pens crime caper ‘Island of the Lost Souls’
Ryan Summerlin January 3, 2014
Park City resident Zack Matheson has been a professional videographer, a music writer, a radio station general manager, a DJ, a wine salesman, a record store clerk, a brewery worker and a door-to-door dictionary salesman.
But he is mostly known for working in the restaurant business since he was 15.
A native of Tucson, Ariz., he began working as a busboy in area eateries, before becoming a server and line cook.
He is the former owner of the Morning Ray Café in Park City, before it fell on hard times when the economy crashed in 2008.
After an attempt to run another local restaurant, Matheson decided to turn to another passion — writing.
"I have a degree in creative writing from the University of Colorado Boulder and I’ve been writing short stories since I was a kid," Matheson said during an interview with The Park Record. "There was a librarian at my elementary school who tapped into my writing abilities and helped me develop a love of writing."
Matheson recently self-published his debut novel, "Island of the Lost Souls" through Create Space.
The book, which is available through amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, is set in Tucson and follows the exploits of Daniel Quinn, an Irish-Mexican waiter who, as Matheson said, is "the epitome of Generation X angst."
"He’s a slacker type and his grandfather is the deputy mayor of the city," Matheson explained. "Dan used to be a chef, but took criticisms of his cooking too seriously, so he became a server, which is fine with him."
His grandfather’s political views are independent and the Republicans don’t like him because he’s anti-development, and the democrats don’t like him because he’s always on their tails about being wishy-washy, Matheson said.
"Daniel’s life gets thrown into chaos when his grandfather is found dead," he said. "At the reading of the will, Daniel is given his grandfather’s diary and begins to learn things about his grandfather that he never knew."
In addition, there are coordinates that are stuffed within the diary’s pages that turn out to be GPS locations of a place in a site that land developers covet.
"This book has been in the works for the past five years, and I had a couple of failed attempts of starting a book," Matheson said. "When I started, it was a completely different thing than what I ended up with."
"Island of the Lost Souls" was originally going to be serious crime fiction.
"The first draft was OK, but was missing something," the writer said. "I realized the missing part was the voice of the narrator, Daniel, which didn’t really exist. I mean, he was a character in the book, but didn’t lead the reader through the story like he should have."
So Matheson began the rewrite two years ago, and shifted the focus around and got into Daniel’s head and thoughts.
"Once I started it, I knew I had what I wanted," he said. "I let it sit and did another rewrite and added some more details."
The novel is still crime fiction, but reads more like a comedy, Matheson said.
"It’s more akin to being a crime caper, something you would get from Carl Hiaasen or someone like that," he said. "It’s got a goofy edge to it."
Matheson also took cues from author Warren Ellis, a graphic novelist who writes crime books.
"Warren’s books are immensely entertaining and twisted," Matheson said. "I happened upon his novel ‘Crooked Little Vein’ and realized what I needed — that potty-mouthed narrator who is brutally honest. And that’s what set my book in motion."
Although considered a crime caper, "Island of the Lost Souls" is hard to pigeonhole.
"It’s got everything from Tucson history and war experiences, which are based on the life of my grandfather, who was kind enough to tell me he wanted me to edit his memoirs, which I did a number of years ago," Matheson said. "The book also contains recipes because Daniel is a chef. So in a weird way, you could almost call ‘Island of Lost Souls’ a cookbook."
In addition to basing a character’s experiences after those of his grandfather, Matheson said many things in the book are based on real-life experiences and people.
"There is a lot of me in Daniel, but I am not Daniel," Matheson said. "In fact, I pictured myself as one of the side characters, Zeke, who is the drummer in Daniel’s band."
The villain in the story was inspired after two people Matheson knows in Tucson.
"One is a well-known car dealer and the other is a well-known land developer," he said. "And while I would never call them out by name, some of the side characters and the people in the book are all people I have known from my days of working in the restaurant business."
"Island of the Lost Souls" isn’t the only book Matheson has published. After he completed that one, he compiled and published 19 original short stories in a volume called "Midnight in Suburbia."
"These stories are all over the map genre-wise, but a lot of them have a supernatural twist to them," Matheson said. "There are only a couple that I would label as horror stories."
One of the works, "The Neighbors," is a take on racism in the United States.
"It’s about a white, middle-class man who lives in a suburban neighborhood," Matheson said. "One day a family of zombies moves in and he isn’t sure how to handle that."
Another story explores the concept of rock ‘n’ roll guitar gods.
"In this case, the musician is a guitar ace that is modeled after a World War I Flying Ace," Matheson said. "So he’s so good that he actually kills people with his guitar solos."
Matheson grew up as a fan of science fiction writers Philip K. Dick and Harlan Ellison.
"When I was in college, I worked with Edward Bryant and would be able to sit down with him and talk with him about writing, which was awesome," he said. "I also like Chuck Palahniuk. He tends to tackle dark and weird things in a humorous way. He rarely writes about anything in a serious manner. ‘Fight Club’ is the perfect example."
Matheson also cited Elmore Leonard, Tim Dorsey, Christopher Moore, Hunter S. Thompson and Don Winslow as some of his idols.
"They are the ones who inspired these crazy thoughts that are found in my head," Matheson said. "In fact, Don is one of my favorite writers these days. He can create stories with so much dark material, but make it funny. He finds humor in the strangest places."
For more information, about Zack Matheson, visit www.facebook.com/zack.matheson.5.