Who is Max G. Morton? There’s a surprising dearth of information online about this writer and publisher; a Google search yields about two articles, while in comparison, an eBay search usually shows up one or more of his books going for upwards of two hundred bucks each. So who the hell is this mysterious figure who is simultaneously virtually unheard of and in such high demand?
I first came across Max G. Morton on the cover of a Cold Cave record (the Life Magazine Remixes EP) and in a couple of said band’s earlier tracks; that’s his voice on ‘Heavenly Metals’ from the Cremations LP, weaving a hallucinatory fever dream of Terminator-tinged post-apocalypse, John Carpenter by way of Bill Burroughs and bad acid, and on New Morale Leadership‘s ‘Summer Trenches’, a nostalgic ode to suburban melancholy. These snippets weren’t much, a few scattered words all but lost in Wes Eisold’s dreamily ambient electronics and synthesised loneliness, but they were enough to get the ball rolling. I needed more, and some serious cyber-trolling and an undisclosed sum of money later I managed to lay my hands on a few of Morton’s ultra-rare published works. They were well worth it.
In addition to a number of zines, Morton has so far published five books: Indestructible Wolves Of The Apocalypse Junkyard (featuring extremely NSFW pen-and-ink artwork by Mark McCoy of Charles Bronson, Ancestors, Youth Attack, etc.), Looking For The Magic (featuring collages by Dominick Fernow of Prurient, Vatican Shadow, Hospital Productions, etc.), Initiation, 23 (featuring work by a host of musicians-turned-artists/authors, including McCoy, Fernow, Eisold, and George Hirsch of Blacklisted), and Live… Suburbia!, co-written with Anthony Pappalardo of In My Eyes and Radio Silence fame. Of these, only the last is still in print and readily available (check it out!) the others were all released in limited quantities through Heartworm Press, the independent publishing company founded by Morton and Eisold, and are all now highly sought after collector’s items.
Indestructible Wolves Of The Apocalypse Junkyard and Looking For The Magic make up the first two parts of Morton’s sprawling multi-book memoirs, chronicling his life from a childhood spent running amok in the suburban wasteland of late seventies and early eighties Florida through chemically-enhanced excursions down the seedy backstreets of pre-Giuliani New York City. Morton has a vivid, drug-damaged way with words, a hallucinatory, impressionistic stream-of-consciousness flow reminiscent of William Burroughs’ sexually charged sci-fi fantasies and cut-up technique crossed with Kerouac’s spontaneous prose and Jim Carroll’s smarter-than-your-average-smart-ass charm. Much of Morton’s work reads like Carroll’s Basketball Diaries and Forced Entries if Carroll had grown up on eighties hardcore, metal, skateboarding and schlock cinema. His apocalypse junkyard is populated with perverts, punks, prostitutes, skinheads, junkies, crooked cops and an impeccable taste in music.
But Morton’s work is far from pop culture-laden shock writing for its own sake. There is a definite heart beating underneath all the bravado, exploitation and cultural trivia. Morton’s writing is at times hilarious, frightening, poignant, and confessional, and is always electrifying, easily standing alongside the work of Carroll, Burroughs, Genet, Celine and countless other self-mythologising chroniclers of society’s underworld.
In addition to his own writing and Heartworm Press, Morton also runs the indie publishing company and record label 23 Wolves, through which he has put out Twilight Man, the first novel/memoir by the infamous Boyd Rice of noise pioneers NON, as well as cassettes by modern punks Give (Voodoo Leather) and No (Can You Dig It?). He also co-runs the Midnight Movies review blog, covering a range of awesomely tacky eighties movies, and has recorded music/spoken word collaborations with F. Sean Martin of Hatebreed (as Jet Fuelled Horses), and Jason Wood of Grinning Death’s Head (as Trampling The Cross Underfoot). His next book Apocalypse Junkyard is currently in the works.