Stephen Graham Jones Says Goodbye to Jade Daniels in The Angel of Indian Lake


We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Stephen Graham Jones’ The Angel of Indian Lake, along with a note from the author. The final installment of Jones’ Indian Lake trilogy picks up four years after Don’t Fear the Reaper as Jade returns to Proofrock, Idaho, to build a life after the years of sacrifice—only to find the Lake Witch is waiting for her.

The Angel of Indian Lake will be available March 26th from Saga Press.

It’s been four years in prison since Jade Daniels last saw her hometown of Proofrock, Idaho, the day she took the fall, protecting her friend Letha and her family from incrimination. Since then, her reputation, and the town, have changed dramatically. There’s a lot of unfinished business in Proofrock, from serial killer cultists to the rich trying to buy Western authenticity. But there’s one aspect of Proofrock no one wants to confront…until Jade comes back to town. The curse of the Lake Witch is waiting, and now is the time for the final stand.

New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones has crafted an epic horror trilogy of generational trauma from the Indigenous to the townies rooted in the mountains of Idaho. It is a story of the American west written in blood.

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The Angel of Indian Lake

The Angel of Indian Lake

Stephen Graham Jones

The final installment of the Indian Lake trilogy.


My Heart is Jade Daniels

Is “trilogy” a verb?

I submit that it sort of is.

Related: I never knew it as a verb until The Angel of Indian Lake, where, you know, I had to either trilogy or change my name, cut my hair, and move away from Colorado, as people wanted to see where Jade Daniels’s story might end.

I sort of wanted to find out as well.

Well, really, I sort of just wanted to hang out with her for one more book.

I like the way she talks, I mean. I like who she is, and who she isn’t.

And, what’s hard to even imagine is that, when I first wrote My Heart is a Chainsaw, she wasn’t even in it. Back then—2013, maybe 2014?—Chainsaw was ’Lake Access Only,’ and it was narrated in royal first person, with “we” instead of “I.” Instead of Jade being at the center of this swirling madness, there was a boy in an iron mask. A boy with, um, some pretty severe father issues.

Indian Lake was there already, though. And Sheriff Hardy, Terra Nova, Proofrock. I think Camp Blood may even have been a shadowy specter over on the other side of the water.

The book didn’t work, though. It all hinged on an isolated species of turtle I’d dreamed up—that I now mis-remember as actually a species—and… I don’t know: I’d meant to tell a slasher, but then I was ramping off into turtles and the raptors that preyed on them? The turtles made for a narrative turn I liked, don’t get me wrong, and there were plenty of dead people in the lake, which is necessary for a story like this, but… it was a misfire.

So, I did what you do with books like that: put it on the shelf and tried to write better books.

But Indian Lake wouldn’t quit sloshing around in my head.

After Mongrels in 2016 and Mapping the Interior in 2017, I was casting around for what to pour myself into next. I wrote a big crime novel, Texas is Burning, and then an anthropology thriller, American Neanderthal—both unpublished. I tried writing a novella for Ellen Datlow three times, but got carried away, ended up with The Babysitter Lives and The Only Good Indians and another horror novel (en route) before finally lucking into Night of the Mannequins. This is… 2018, maybe?

Nothing else was working, so I hauled down that book about Indian Lake, with the idea that I could put a foot pump on it, air it up into a workable story. Wrong. Ten pages in, I could tell I no longer had access to the decade-long love affair I’d had with Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides—that Greek chorus I needed to document all this high-altitude killing was gone.

So, I started over from nothing, and I decided to shake things up by starting at the very end, after some massacre I hoped I’d figure out along the way. There I was, standing on the Pier in front of Proofrock, all the dead floating facedown in the water, and that was when I noticed that one of these dead men had a pale western shirt that was floating out to his sides like wings, the pearl snaps glistening in the water.

I stood, walked as close to the edge as I could, because there was something there.

No: someone.

You know that scene in Apocalypse Now where Martin Sheen in tactical facepaint slowly comes up from the water?

That happened here, for me.

This is where I met Jade Daniels for the first time.

She stood up in the shallows and she was writing all this down, trying to document the massacre, because her book on it was going to be her ticket out of Idaho. And, man, was she glaring at that dad in the pearl snap shirt. Her pencil was digging deeper and deeper into the paper.

This is when I quit writing My Heart is a Chainsaw, and she took over.

It didn’t go right at first, or at second either—Hardy used to play a bigger role, and Letha Mondragon was a YouTube influencer with her make-up channel—but it finally got together enough that Joe Monti bought it for Saga. At that point, there were no Slasher 101s, and when there finally were, right near the end, they were each ten or twelve pages long, which Joe and my agent BJ Robbins wisely told me was indulgent, so I dialed them all back shorter.

At the end of the novel, though, everyone was dead. I figured that was my duty as a horror novelist: stories end like Hamlet, don’t they?

So I thought.

Maybe three weeks before everything was finalized, though, Joe started asking me a question I didn’t want to answer: What if just one or two people maybe survived? I bucked and fought against this, but finally, to show him how bad an idea it was, I wrote an ending where two or three people lived. It was supposed to be laughable, an illustration of failure.

But it wasn’t.

Joe was right.

So, when he and my agent asked what was next, I shrugged, said, the rest of this Indian Lake trilogy, of course.

Meaning, I had to write the sequel.

It wasn’t just daunting, it was terrifying. I had no idea how to do a thing like this. But I could crawl inside The Empire Strikes Back and The Two Towers—happily. Without those two books as guiding lights at the end of this long dark tunnel I was calling Don’t Fear the Reaper… I get lost, I flail around on the page, I have no idea what to do.

What I learned from them was, in retrospect, so obvious: tone. That’s ninety percent of what the middle book in a trilogy is. When I saw the second season of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, I could tell right off it was a trilogy, just because of the tone.

This doesn’t mean I had any real idea who was dropping all these bodies in Reaper, though—that’s not how I write. I didn’t figure that out until about two-thirds of the way through. And then? Joe gave me the best note I’ve ever gotten on anything I’ve written: “Can you make it… gorier?”

Yes, Joe, I can.

I can always do that.

And, again, if he doesn’t say that, I don’t think Reaper comes together.

Then, though: a third? You mean I have to somehow wrap up all these threads in a single book, when I never planned a trilogy, when I have no idea what to do or how to do it?

Yes. Call something a “trilogy,” you’re kind of committed.

So, to be sure I was starting from the right place, I wrote another novel real fast, I Was a Teenage Slasher, out in July, here. What I wanted to do was empty my head and my heart of everything “slasher” I could, so that, for The Angel of Indian Lake, I could start from zero, on a completely empty tank. Meaning I’d have to dig deeper than I had for either Chainsaw or Reaper.

This is when “trilogy” started feeling like a verb for me.

You’ll see in the acknowledgements some of the impediments that popped up, writing this, but, in short, I had no time. But what I did have was Jade Daniels.

Just like with that 2018 ground-up rewrite of Chainsaw, I gave her the reins, the pencil, the rudder on that airboat skipping across Indian Lake faster and faster, Terra Nova coming fast, blood in the water…

And I so want to be back there again.

I so want to drift across Indian Lake in Mr. Holmes’s flying go-cart.

That was what was, and is still, in my heart.

“How to Cross a Blank Page,” though, yeah.

Especially when I was now committed to coming up with something more over-the-top than the Jaws massacre-on-the-lake in Chainsaw, when I was now obligated to maintain the rapidfire body-a-minute pacing of Reaper.

And all those questions and narrative stubs I’d left hanging in the first two installments?

Angel would have to tie them up, close them off, but in a way that also opens the story up, lets it resonate.

“Trilogy” is a verb, yes.

I can feel it pulsing in my wrist, thrushing through the arteries in my neck, flooding my head with blood and blood and more blood, until the only way out is to reach my hand up from all that slick redness, reach up and—

Let Jade take my hand, pull me up.

This is her lake, after all.

This is her town, her people.

And she’ll fight for them better than I ever could.

Thank you all for reading her, for hanging out with her for these three books. I hope you saw something in her that you can feel surging in yourself. And maybe you found a slasher title or three along the way.

They’re all floating in the shallows by the pier, in this Bay of Blood.

And, again, Joe’s big note for this third installment was the saving thing. I’d originally titled the book “Born for Halloween,” since Jade most definitely is, but Joe made me dig deeper, for The Angel of Indian Lake.

I so wanted everyone to live through Angel, too.

I’m still that dude who Hamlets everyone at the end of the original Chainsaw, though.

It’s time to say goodbye to Jade Daniels, yes.

That doesn’t mean I ever let her go, though.

—Stephen Graham Jones


The Angel of Indian Lake
SCARY MOVIE

This isn’t Freddy’s high school hallway, this isn’t Freddy’s high school hallway.

If it were, Tina would be twenty feet ahead in her foggy plastic bodybag, being dragged around the corner on a smear of her own blood.

Instead—again, but it always feels like the first time—I’m the one in that bodybag.

I’m helpless on my back, there’s no air in here, my feet are travois handles to pull me with, and the lockers and doorways and educational posters and homecoming banners to either side are blurry, are in a Henderson High I’m not part of anymore.

Not since Freddy got his claws into me.

I want to scream but know that if I open my mouth, what’s com.ing out is a sheep’s dying bleat. I clap my scream in with my palm, try to clamp my throat shut, tamp the panic down, but my elbow scraping on the plastic wall of this bodybag rasps louder than it should, and—

He looks back.

His face is scarred and cratered, and there’s a glint of humor in his eyes like he’s getting away with something here, a glint that spreads to his lips, one side of his twisted mouth sharpening into a grin right before his head Pez-dispensers back because his neck’s been chopped open, and what comes up from that bloody stump is the grimy hand of a little dead girl fighting her way back into the world, and—

And it doesn’t have to be this way, according to Sharona.

She’s my twice-a-month therapist, courtesy of her champion and main benefactor, Letha Mondragon.

It’s only a movie, it’s only a movie, Sharona’s taught me to repeat in my head.

To fight my way through panic attacks, I’m supposed to think of my life as playing on a drive-in screen. Not that I’ve ever been to a drive-in. But evidently, late in their evolution, there would be six or eight or ten drive-in screens all in this big-ass Stonehenge circle, each with their own parking lot. If you didn’t like what was playing on one screen, you could take your popcorn, cruise over for the next movie, and the next, until you found one that worked for you, that helped you through this night instead of trapping you in it.

“You’re the consumer here,” Sharona told me so, so earnestly our first session. “And what you’re paying with is anxiety and dread and panic, see?”

The first part of me being the one carrying the popcorn, it’s sup.posed to be buying into this being all a movie, all a movie. Like that was ever enough to keep the horror in The Last House on the Left from touching you where it counts.

Sharona doesn’t know horror, though. Just feelings, regrets, strategies, and how to see through my own rationalizations and paranoia, my bad history and worse family shit.

I say quid pro quo to her a lot, but I don’t think she ever really gets it like I mean it.

The way she explains what I’m feeling in moments like this—“feeling” being clinical-speak for “consumed by”—is that my anxiety is a straitjacket constricting me: at first it feels like a hug, like somethingI should nestle into, but then… then it doesn’t know when to stop, does it, Jade?

StraitJacket of course being a 1964 proto slasher, post-Psycho but very much providing a model for Psycho II nearly twenty years later. Thank you, Robert Bloch.

Sharona has it wrong about straitjackets, though. In a straitjacket, you can breathe. I know this from experience. You don’t open your wrist out on the lake and then get trusted with your own fingernails and teeth, I mean.

Where you can’t breathe, though?

In a bodybag.

When Proofrock and all what I’ve done and not done and should have done if I were smarter and better and faster and louder are col.lapsing in on me and there’s no air at all, then a knife finger materializes blurry and real through the foggy plastic cocooning me, it materializes and then it loops through a delicate metal tab, to zip me right in.

Sorry, Sharona.

One bullshit tool you’ve given me to work that zipper down from the backside is to write letters to someone I respect or care for, who could and would offer me a helping hand, to clamber up out of this.

Which is just a reminder that everyone I love is dead, thanks.

Excerpted from The Angel of Indian Lake, copyright © 2024 by Stephen Graham Jones



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