New Trade Paperback Edition of Claw Hammer





Claw Hammer was first published in 1989 by Pinnacle Books. The story itself has haunted me most of my life. I’m extremely grateful to Crossroad Press for the opportunity to finally revise this tale and tell it the way I wanted to tell the story in the first place.

I lived in Chicago and worked at the American Society of Clinical Pathologists’ Chicago headquarters, directly across West Harrison Street from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office, when I wrote Claw Hammer. My ASCP job was to sell continuing education classes to pathologists, and I got to sit in on many of those classes because I was the person who registered pathologists for various courses, set up microscopes in classrooms at conference centers, ran the overheads and slide projectors, hawked new books published by the Society or the College of American Pathologists, and hosted cocktail parties for the docs at national medical conferences. One of those ASCP classes featured the latest techniques of tool mark analysis available to forensic pathologists interested in identifying the instrument of death. I was fascinated to learn about the variety of ways people, more often than not, used common household implements to kill beloved family members and friends. That fascination manifested in Claw Hammer and many of my other novels.

That class also reminded me of several terrible tragedies that had happened to grade-school classmates of mine in my own hometown of Rockford, Illinois. I recalled awakening one dawn, when I was only about eight or nine, to the sound of sirens. I learned that a neighbor had allegedly gone crazy during the night and killed his entire family—all but one daughter who survived—with a claw hammer. The milkman, the same milkman who had just delivered milk to my house, discovered six broken bodies when he entered the neighbor’s house to put milk in the refrigerator as he normally did twice a week. In those Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver days of the early 1950s, people were very trusting and nobody ever locked their back doors. All that changed, of course, after an entire family was murdered in our close-knit suburban neighborhood. It never dawned on us that locking the doors would do no good if the killer lived inside the house and had keys to the locks.

Not long after that first tragedy, the mother of another female grade-school friend was electrocuted in her bathtub. Supposedly, a radio fell off a shelf and added 110 volts to an afternoon bubble bath that fried the lady’s brains and turned her into a boiled lobster. Police arrested the lady’s husband and charged him with her murder. My young friend had to leave school to go live with her grandparents. I never saw her again.

One of my favorite uncles, Eric Ekebom, was a Rockford police detective sergeant and I remember asking to see his gun when I was too young to know any better. He told me he hadn’t had to use his gun even once in more than twenty years on the police force. He did carry a gun, he explained, but he said he really didn’t need one because “Good detectives use their brains and not guns to catch criminals.” I’ll always remember that.

When Pinnacle Books bought two of my novels and wanted them delivered right away, I wrote a rough draft of Claw Hammer, more an outline than a novel, and sent it off with the expectation   I would have time to revise and polish the manuscript later. I had one day between the time I received the page proofs and the deadline for getting the completed novel back to New York in time to make the publishing window. I overnighted the proofs back. I have never missed a deadline. In the old days when I was learning the newspaper business, we published what we had in order to make a deadline. “Go with what ya got,” the city editor called out as the daily deadline approached. Some stories were incomplete or inaccurate, but we knew we always had the next day’s edition to round out the details or publish a correction. I’m glad Claw Hammer endured to see a next edition.

Computers make the writing and publishing businesses much easier. Revisions don’t require retyping the entire manuscript. Editors e-mail page proofs, and writers e-mail corrections   back. This time around, I actually had time to make revisions and correct page proofs. I accept full responsibility for any errors you find in this edition.

I hope you find the story a good read.


Now Claw Hammer by Paul Dale Anderson is available in a new trade paperback from Gordian Knot and Crossroad Press. Only $9.99 at





2 thoughts on “New Trade Paperback Edition of Claw Hammer

  1. This book has a great amount of personal significance to me, because it marks the beginning of my friendship with Paul Dale Anderson. In 1989, when Claw Hammer first came out, a co-worker at Rockford Public Library told me about it and I was immediately intrigued. I’ve always been a horror fan, and I was impressed that a local author had published what promised to be the type read that was right up my alley. I got hold of the book and I was not disappointed – I devoured it, and I decided that I had to meet this Paul Anderson. At the time, I was running the Northern Illinois Writers Conference, so I immediately hired him to present a workshop, which he did – and I had the pleasure of meeting him and his lovely wife, Gretta. Paul and I connected immediately and were to go on to become great friends. That same year, I performed on my fretted dulcimer at an event sponsored by Rock River Friends of Folk Music, and Paul and Gretta were in the audience. I again had a chance to talk with them and it just reinforced to me what intelligent, interesting people they were. Paul got a job at the Library soon thereafter, and our friendship clicked; we went on to share grisly stories and try to outdo one another with demented humor and the sharing of our love for language. We co-wrote a stage production to commemorate the retirement of Joel Rosenfeld, our director; I wrote parodies on four show tunes and Paul did the script. I have pictures of us from that era, posing with Mr. Rosenfeld – me sporting a dreadful spiral perm and Paul with his signature beard, bushy black hair, and evil yet charming smile. We spoke often about Claw Hammer, and Paul encouraged me in 2008 when I wrote my own novel, The Five Notebooks.
    Paul left the library at some point but came back; both of us had been through enormous life changes. The connection had survived; I remember rolling my desk chair up to his cubicle and pouring out my heart. I imagine I was ranting about work, or maybe just the state of things at large; in any case, he listened. We’d often see one another in the staff lounge, each in a corner with a book, and that twinkle in his eye continued to make me smile. Remember—at this point, we were friends. Co-workers and kindred spirits. Nothing even vaguely romantic crossed my mind in my interactions with Paul; he was a happily married man, devoted to his wife.
    I retired from the library in 2010 and Paul retired the following year to devote his time to Gretta, whose health was failing. When he posted on Facebook of her death in January of 2012, I broke down and cried for this kind man who would have done anything under heaven for her to live. I sent him a letter immediately, expressing my condolences, and I attended Gretta’s memorial service. That winter, I thought often about my dear friend Paul, now so broken and bewildered. He would come into the Friends of the Library shop were I volunteered, and we’d talk frankly about his loss, and I noticed in these conversations that he spoke freely to me as if I were family. I was honored by that. I still considered him a dear friend and I wondered what life had in store for him.
    Months later, Paul sent me a message on Facebook – basically a greeting. What started as banter turned into a deep conversation that went on for quite some time. Through the written word, we mutually decided to meet. AGAIN – for me, it was to touch base with my dear friend, share a bottle of wine and some memories, and give him a chance to talk his heart out with someone who knew him and would listen to what he needed so express. Both of us were blindsided by what transpired that night—we fell in love.
    We didn’t expect to fall in love. Love is sneaky and capricious and I think love has a sense of humor as demented as the twisted plays on words that Paul and I have always shared. Love calmly sailed in that evening and tapped both of us on the shoulder, stunning me. (I can only speak for my own reaction.) For him, it meant more than just beeing moonstruck; he had to cope with the well-meaning but intrusive comments that inevitably came his way, most not complimentary to me. For me, it involved a 180 degree change in the way I chose to love, along with equally snide comments from others who thought I was temporarily insane. It could have disrupted my household, but it did not. Love was the joker, but the joker wasn’t wild; love was sensible and compassionate. For almost five years now, Paul and I have continued to love one another deeply while choosing not to marry and not to share a home. My mooring points are intact, and he is doing his dream; he followed his heart and gave up his hypnosis practice to return to his true calling: writing. My challenge is to remember to give him the personal, physical, mental and emotional space he needs so he can do this work.
    Why do I share all this? Because it was through Claw Hammer that we met, and now Claw Hammer is born anew – this time updated and presented in trade paperback with a gorgeous cover that calls out “Buy me!” I reread it, of course, as soon as I got my autographed copy, and I found that even then, the Paul Dale Anderson of 1989 had the chops and the talent and the gift for plotting and creating memorable characters that is the trademark of the Paul Dale Anderson of today. I watch him now, with joy, as he has begun editing the sequel to Spilled Milk, and I relish in his Instruments of Death series. His Winds series took me to a different level; he combined personal catharsis with his deep knowledge of everything from military strategy to Eastern spiritual practices to the history of our beloved city; weaving a series of genre-bending, gorgeously written books – well worth reading. In addition, his short stories are masterpieces.
    So, Paul—you and I have walked through this forest apart and together–marveling at trees, sitting on stumps, tripping on vines, laughing into the sun and crying in the rain. I am honored to call you beloved friend and now loved one as well. And I celebrate this by seeing Claw Hammer come full circle. I know that even though Gretta is on the other side, she’s still right beside you, feeling pleased that you are happy and that you’re back in the world of writing. I’m proud to be by you side now, and I couldn’t be prouder of you, Paul Dale Anderson. as I hold in my hand my copy of Claw Hammer, which is still a perfectly-paced, intelligently written and terrifying read. I love you, Paul, and I love your writing. All your books. But this one will forever be special. —-Lizza


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s