Local author says ‘there are too many stories to tell’ to focus only on one genre

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Local author John Davis IV sits in his library with his books scattered across the table. Davis is working on another horror novel. | Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. — Local author John Davis IV recently sat in his happy place — a personal library with each wall lined with his favorite books. 

Spread across the table in front of him were nine books he has authored on a variety of topics. Davis said he doesn’t subscribe to writing in only one genre because “there are too many stories to tell.”

Davis began writing at age 14, but he said his love for books began at age 12 when his mom gave him a book — “Mack Bolan: Tuscany Terror, The Executioner 52” by Don Pendleton, a 162-page men’s adventure — which still sits on the shelf in his library.

“I became a writer because I was first a reader. That book is the whole reason I am here today,” he said.

Davis caught the writing bug two years later when a teacher noticed a writing assignment he turned in. 

“It just kind of clicked. I can tell stories too. After that, I can’t tell you how many novels I started as a kid, which never went anywhere,” he said with a chuckle.

Davis said finding character names has always been a challenge for him.

“Getting to choose character names that fit who the character is or who the character might become is really important to me,” he said. “If the character is real and human, and people can feel what that character is feeling, the story will come alive. 

“You can have all these crazy circumstances in a book, but if your character is well connected with people, that’s OK because they care about the person.” 

“Average Joe,” a suspense thriller Davis independently published in 2018, centers around the character’s name, which develops throughout the book. In the book, Joe Pruitt, an average Joe with an ordinary life, is forced to become a stronger version of himself when he is the only witness to the kidnapping of a young girl.

Davis did plenty of research on human trafficking for “Average Joe,” especially on young girls. He thought of his daughter as he researched and wrote the book, and he said he saw a lot of himself in Joe Pruitt — just an average guy. 

“He is not ex-military. He’s not a martial artist. He’s not a soldier in any way. He’s just a dude who becomes a tough guy to save this little girl,” he said. “It’s really intense with a lot of violent action, but there are emotions going through these characters. This book, more than anything I have ever written, I wrote through a lot of tears.” 

Davis also writes in the horror genre. He published the “American Revenant” series in 2018 which includes two novels, three novellas and two short stories. He also has a collection of short horror stories titled “Dark Doors” and two other books in the horror genre.

“I like horror because — pardon the pun — it strips away the flesh,” he said. “It brings us to the most human elements in a way that most other genres don’t seem to do. You know, science fiction gives us an idea of what could be, but horror comes down to the very ones of the human condition.” 

Aside from the blood and guts, Davis said “the most pure sense of horror is dealing with life’s hardest moments.” Whether it’s abuse, a car accident or health issues, he said real-life trauma feels like horror. 

“You’ll slough off those nightmares from reading horror books maybe in a day or a few weeks, whereas in real life, sometimes you just can’t process the horrors for ages,” Davis said. “It can take decades to deal with.” 

His horror writing brought the community together in 2015 in a short film, directed by Josh Mullner, based on “Hometown Exodus,” the first book in the “American Revenant” series. Hannibal locals took on the parts of zombies who fought the main character Dean Fletcher, played by Nick Louderman of Hannibal. 

“Just to have people come together to create the film, it was a lot of fun,” he said. 

One of the best parts of making the film for Davis was helping people reach their dreams. He wasn’t aware he and Mullner were doing that until actors approached him during filming. 

“Several times throughout and even afterward, people came up to me and told me they had always wanted to play a zombie,” he said. 

Davis is working on an untitled horror novel.

“This book is a bit of a departure for me. When I sit down to write, I usually have the very beginning to the very end of the book in mind. This time, I just have a character type in mind,” he said. 

Davis said the story is situated in a haunted town, and the main character is an ex-military tough-guy. 

“He has to evolve from being the guy who could punch his way through everything into the guy who could think his way through something that is beyond the realm of human possibility,” he said. 

For updates on his books, follow John Davis IV on Facebook.

A list of books by John Davis IV:

  • American Revenant (series includes two novels, three novellas and two short stories): The Zombie apocalypse in and around Hannibal.
  • Dark Doors: A collection of horror stories. 
  • Rage Against the Dying: A revenge thriller set in St. Louis.
  • Average Joe: A suspense thriller about an ordinary man who witnesses a kidnapping and leaps in without thinking to help.
  • Tales of Junction (co-authored with Guy Cain): A very different kind of zombie tale.
  • Of Dust and Bones: Post-apocalyptic tale reminiscent of Mad Max.
  • Searching for Stephen King: The Artist Edition – A man And his friend survive in a wasteland while searching for the last Stephen King book they need.
  • Fractured Glass: 35 Years of Poetry: Poetry written by Davis over the years.

To view the 2015 film American Revenant, go to https://youtu.be/Yn6VSq2idOY?si=9686wu3JqcXh2meo

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