Very few know the name these days, but Doug Lewis was one of the most important figures in the small horror press. He and his wife Tomi ran a Colorado bookstore called Little Bookshop of Horrors. They had a program of author appearances and readings in the late eighties and early nineties. I used to hear about them and feel unbelievably jealous. I wanted to be part of the horror fiction scene, but I lived under near impoverished conditions in those days. Buying books was difficult. Traveling from Virginia to Colorado was impossible.

The reading nights led Doug and Tomi to start a small publishing venture called Roadkill Press.

I was a feverishly passionate horror fan. Cynicism hadn't entered my brain yet. I saw the movies, rented the tapes, and read the books. Things were rapidly changing. The whole original splatterpunk thing was on the way out. Really, it was dying even as it began to build momentum. Movies and publishing were being turned upside down. Some of the big names in horror fiction were writing thrillers or fantasy. Horror was still alive, but it wasn't like the colorful eighties. Dell/Abyss was doing dark, brooding original paperbacks. Jeff Gelb and Michael Garrett kept our whistles wet with their series of Hot Blood anthologies. There were a lot of serial killer books floating around. And a little publisher out of Baltimore was taking a foothold on the genre.

I was reading an issue of Cemetery Dance Magazine in 1992 and I saw an ad for a publisher called Roadkill. Steppin' Out, Summer '98, by none other than Joe R. Lansdale, was for sale. He was my favorite writer at the time. The price was only around $7.95. Other small press books were considerably more expensive and I couldn't afford them. Details were vague, but I assumed Steppin' Out, Summer '68 was a novel.

I promptly ordered a copy and it duly arrived, but I was shocked to discover not a real book, but some sort of pamphlet. I heard about chapbooks at the time, but I didn't really know what one was.

I got over my initial disappointment and really enjoyed the story.

Included was a flier for other Roadkill titles. As far as I know they only did chapbooks. I was hot to build my collection and I couldn't afford the pricier small press editions, so I ordered a bunch of them.

These were clearly my people. In addition to Lansdale they did chaps by Dan Simmons, Ed Bryant, Nancy Holder, Norman Partridge, Steve Rasnic and Melanie Tem, and Nancy A. Collins. All were lovely little delicacies. One in particular, Not Broken, Not Belonging, by Alan M. Clark and Randy Fox, was a particularly beautiful edition.

I did most of my reading from the library, I bought new paperbacks at WaldenBooks, and I ordered chapbooks. It was the dawn of modern small press horror and I got them from other publishers like Crossroads Press (no relation to the current monolithic publisher of ebooks and POD editions), and Subterranean Press.

They're all gone now. I gave them away and got rid of them in other ways. I miss them all now. Especially since cool chapbooks are rarer than they once were.

The final chapbook by Roadkill was a good one: The Bars on Satan's Jailhouse, by Norman Partridge. This was in 1995. I didn't know it was the last to come.

I later heard that Doug's beloved wife, Cheri Lynn "Tomi" Lewis got cancer and died in the year 2000. Doug was understandably devastated and from what I've heard he let his own health decay. He developed diabetes and supposedly lived how he wished to live despite the disease. He died on May 20, 2024.

Is a handful of chapbooks that big of a deal? Yes, I think it is. Roadkill won a Stoker in 1993 for Best Non-Professional Publisher, beating out Cemetery Dance and Charnel House. They provided vital links from author to fan with intimate little books that felt a lot more personal than mass market publishing and assembly line purchases at Amazon. Roadkill fueled the fire I had in my heart for horror fiction at a time when the field was much smaller and a hell of a lot harder to access.

I never spoke to Doug or Tomi, but I felt a kinship with them. Their mail order service was top notch and they published the best of the best. I was sad when they stopped making chapbooks and I'm sad today upon hearing about the death of Doug Lewis. The efforts of Doug and Tomi helped create the industry we take for granted today and I will always be grateful.

Written by Mark Sieber

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