The following is from the biography section of the upcoming horror anthology: Musings From A Demented Mind by Derek Ailes and James Coon. The release date is September 7, 2015.
I was sitting in the office at work when I found out about JC’s passing. Even though no autopsy was performed, his death was ruled complications from diabetes. Five days later, I met with his sister, Linda, and his niece, Amber. I asked them if they could locate a couple of notebooks filled with stories he had been writing from the 1990’s until a week before he passed away. To my surprise, not only did they find the two notebooks; they found his whole school writing file that included stories going all the way back to the 1960s.
I had already decided minutes after finding out about his passing that I was going to write a collection of short stories based on all of the conversations we’ve had over the past fifteen years. He had a lot of interesting stories to tell. I wanted to include his story “Sirens of Lake Station” and I wanted to finish the story he started a week before ─ “Travelers”. With receiving his writing file, I found several other stories that I decided to also include in this anthology. There are a lot more stories of his in the file, but these were the ones that fit this anthology perfectly.
Here’s a little background on James Coon:
He was born on July 5, 1952 in Connersville, Indiana to Lloyd Coon & Mary Phyllis Teller. He was preceded in death by his parents and infant brother, Danny.
He graduated from Wheeler High School in 1972. He had been working overnights in the produce department of Strack & Van Til and Wiseway Foods in Valparaiso, IN for twenty years and had previously served as an insurance representative. He enjoyed bowling in leagues, but relished the challenge of searching genealogy records. He was a diehard White Sox fan. He was a serious reader and I mean serious reader. Everywhere you turned in his house were stacks and stacks of books. He loved mysteries, science fiction and books on haunted houses and alien abductions. He was also one of the biggest DC comic book fans I have ever met. He spent a lot of time at Galactic Greg’s Comic Book Shop along with Barnes & Noble in Valparaiso, IN. He would have me order numerous books through Amazon for him on a regular basis. Back when I used to sell used books on eBay, he would give me a long list of books to look for him when I was out hunting the resale shops for rare and out of print books.
His father would take him to the movies when he was a child and that is where his love for classic movies began. Film noir was one of his favorite movie styles. We would sit for hours discussing all the movie classics, and he would tell me about all the behind the scenes details of each film he watched. http://www.imdb.com was one of his favorite websites, and he would visit the website after watching each film. When he was in the retirement home, he would watch all the classics on Turner Classic Movies. I was always amazed at how he could recite every little detail about each movie. I gained a new respect for the classics over the years thanks to him, and my classic movie DVD collection has been steadily growing ever since.
JC went to a school for the hearing impaired where he learned to read lips and to use sign language. He was misunderstood by most people and they never realized how brilliant he really was. It wasn’t until I began reading all of his writings that I realized he was more brilliant than I ever realized. Then again, we are talking about a guy who would read anything he got his hands on. In the months he was in the nursing home, he read over forty books.
His ability to read lips came in handy at work. I heard a lot of interesting tidbits about my co-workers from when he read their lips when they were gossiping back and forth.
He had been living at his mother’s house all of his life and inherited it several years back after her death. He was a very private man and only a select few of us had the honor of being a part of his social circle.
I first met him in 1999 when I started working at Wiseway Foods. I would work as the dairy assistant and on Sundays I would also sweep and mop the floors since my buddy, Jim Butler, would be off that night. I would go over to produce, mop the floors, and talk with JC. We immediately hit it off thanks to both of our love of the Beatles. Neither of us took George Harrison’s death too well. JC and I were both comic book geeks and avid readers. We had endless amount of things we could talk about and JC found it easier to talk to me about his personal life than anyone he knew.
JC and I would talk for hours about music, haunted houses, alien abductions, his experiences with haunted houses and cemeteries, his family and his genealogy research. After my brother, Mark Cusco Ailes, published his first book, JC brought me a yellow notebook that had his story “Sirens of Lake Station” in it and told me he wanted to one day write a whole novel out of it. He also told me several story ideas he had and, luckily for this anthology, he went into detail on how the stories would go.
Over the years, we had many adventures playing tricks on unsuspecting co-workers, our late friend, Jim Hampson, being one of the main ones. I remember one time, Hampson was in produce mopping the floors and JC ran to his CD player and put a Native American Chanting CD on. The moment the CD started, Hampson jumped back in fear. We never laughed so hard after watching Hampson almost hit the ceiling because he jumped so high.
JC and Jim Butler, (we just called him Butler at work. There was a time when we had five Jims working at Wiseway and that is why we called everybody by nicknames) possessed a strange relationship. JC would go out of his way to antagonize him on a nightly basis. Besides the normal arguing with him over comic book trivia and which was better DC or Marvel (Marvel in my opinion, but I like both), JC would wait for Butler to bring his scrubber into his department to clean the floors, and he would deliberately move things into his path. I spent way too much time refereeing the two of them. Butler knew he was doing it on purpose.
JC’s health had always been poor. His diabetes was way out of control and one of his legs was so black from the diabetes that his doctor wanted to have it amputated. JC was a very stubborn individual and didn’t want to have his leg amputated. He searched for a doctor until he found one that was willing to treat his diabetes without an amputation being an option. This was a mistake he lived to regret for years to come. After having a heart attack two years back, his health was on a downward spiral until he ended up in the hospital and his current doctor told him that if he didn’t have the leg amputated, he would be dead within a month.
Finally, he had the amputation which he should have had decades before. He ended up in a retirement and rehabilitation center. He was fitted for a prosthetic leg. Once he was released from the retirement center, he went back to work. He was healthier and moved around with a speed and determination that I had not seen before. He had major plans for 2015. He was going to officially retire this summer and finally write a book. I told him if he wrote the book, I would make sure it would get published. He began writing “Travelers”. The Saturday before he passed, he brought me the first page to see what my opinion of it was. He wanted to write the book and then have a comic book made out of it, as well. He was no longer saying he would write and publish someday; he was serious now. I don’t know if it had to do with the fact I had three published books by that time and was planning a fourth one, but he wanted to see his name on a book.
It does sadden me to think that this didn’t happen until after his passing. This whole project is me keeping a promise to help him get published and show the world the side of him no one else had a chance to see.
Part of this project is me saying goodbye to a friend in a way only I can do.
Author Derek Ailes