Dana I. Wolff is my horror genre pen name. I also write mysteries and thrillers under the name J.E. Fishman. And I exist in the world as Joel E. Fishman, writer, reader, entrepreneur, husband, father, world traveler, occasional rider of horses, relentless swinger of tennis racquets, chef without portfolio, daily feeder of dogs, constant keeper of the pond.
I have always been interested in the rhythm of language and how words stimulate our senses and, in turn, give rise to stories. This is true whether I’m reading the poetry of Wilfred Owen (Isn’t all life, in some sense, “an ecstasy of fumbling”?) or Edgar Allan Poe or Philip Roth or Mary Shelley or Stephen King or Saul Bellow (“Chicago, that somber city”) or Peter Straub or Ira Levin or Shirley Jackson or my talented contemporaries too numerous to name.
When I was twelve years old, my mother died, and this experience of death during my formative years led me to realize that every story ever written—even the sweetest love story—is at bottom the story of our own mortality.
So, I write about dead people. Why they turn up. Why they come to untimely ends. How their passing casts a shadow over those of us who—for the moment—remain alive. How they haunt us until that very instant when the dark angel approaches and kisses us on our parched lips.
I also have a small obsession with New York City and its history. I grew up on Long Island at a time when rough edges still challenged that runaway suburbia. I lived in Soho after college, then moved to Brooklyn Heights with the love of my life, and we still maintain a small apartment in the West Village, just up from the NYPD Bomb Squad, which I am privileged to write about—fictionally but from an insider’s perspective.
Almost all of my books and screenplays are set in New York City or touch upon New York somehow, because the Five Boroughs, teeming with unbridled energy, render wholesale the infinite possibilities of life—and death. There isn’t a corner that hasn’t been visited, over the years, by both farce and tragedy.
The one exception to my New York rule is a historical screenplay I wrote, based on deadly true events, that’s set twenty miles from my main residence in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Chadds Ford is famous for two things: the great Wyeth painting family and The Devil’s Road (real name: Cossart Road), a little-traveled byway that twists through dark woods—the purported site of eerie happenings, and a place where the very trees twist as if recoiling from a force of muscular evil. No wonder M. Night Shyamalan used it as the setting for his horror flick The Village.
Most of my books have been Amazon bestsellers. Mr. Wolff, my alter ego, has even higher hopes for his Typhoid Mary tale, The Prisoner of Hell Gate, set among the ruins of Riverside Hospital on abandoned North Brother Island. His ambition is simple: May this book scare you—to death.