Friday, May 10, 2013

A Horror Checklist, Befitting the Release of Benjamin Percy's "Red Moon." Percy is Coming to Boswell on Tuesday, May 14, 7 pm.

So we're very excited about Benjamin Percy's appearance for his novel of lycans (werewolves), Red Moon. Hes coming Tuesday, May 14, 7 pm (note the date). We've had several reads on the book and Stacie and Sharon were gracious enough to write something up for me to use.

From Sharon:
"Ben Percy’s new novel is about werewolves. Not a single misunderstood monster wandering the countryside, but lots of them. They are living openly and considered part of society. This opens up some fascinating political questions. Do Lycans have the same rights as humans? Can they run for office? Clear your schedule and get ready to become lost in Red Moon."

From Stacie:
"A phenomenal writer at a cellular level, Benjamin Percy continues to develop into a beastly literary force. In his latest, he tears up the epic horror novel, transforming it into a war novel, a political novel, a novel of judgment and of revolution. When werewolves, who have lived side by side with humans through history, feel oppressed to the point of breaking, a faction rises up against the U.S. government using terrorist tactics, forcing everyone—lycan and human—to decide which side they stand on, and which lines they are willing to cross. Red Moon is terrifyingly good, with sharp claws, sexy rumbles, and plenty of blood and guts."

Benjamin Percy was just on the new book club segment of Wisconsin Public Radio's show "45 North" with Anne Strainchamps, talking about Red Moon. You can listen to it here. Anne and her producer Rhonda asked if I would mention a few other titles that fall into the category of literary horror, a what to read next, so to speak.

As I often note, I am a bit of a delicate flower regarding violence. I can read a bit of it, but when the body count piles up and it gets very graphic and torture-y, I have to bow out. But the great thing about Benjamin Percy is that you can read one of his other books, which while spooky, aren't quite as graphic. I am a big fan of both The Wilding and Refresh, Refresh. Both have film project possibilities. Percy is working with Guillermo Arriaga on The Wilding, while the title story of Refresh, Refresh is in development with James Ponsoldt.

Our buyer Jason immediately suggested Victor Lavalle's The Devil in Silver. He's sometimes listed as La Valle, by the way. Names are a complicated thing, aren't they? His latest novel is set in a psychiatric ward, the setting for many a creepy tale. Jason called it a "spooky and wonderful book that looks at how hiding from our problems doesn't make them go away."

Another author we thought of was Christopher Buehlman. His first novel, Those Across the River, is a cross between horror and Southern gothic. A fellow moves back to his hometown in Georgia and bad things start happening at the cemetery. Jason is my go-to man once again, noting "Buehlman’s vision is beautiful and creepy, and nothing good will come of it." I know that Wisconsin Public Radio is always looking for local roots--Buehlman entertains each summer at Renassance Faire as an insult comic. Strainchamps wondered if that came into play in the story, but that is not the case.

One book that has a similar setup to Red Moon, but has several major differences at its core, is Justin Cronin's The Passage, the book that sort of led the charge for literary writers to take up blockbuster writing. In his world, a virus has turned humans into vampric creatures called "virals."  The difference is that these are straight-ahead adrenaline reads; there isn't the underlying social commentary that Red Moon has.

Another werewolf series that has won fans with Boswellians is The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan. Mel's rec said "The prose is exquisite and the content will transport you to a parallel contemporary reality where werewolves live among people." It's a very different take on the werewolf story, with the implication that it might be a bit more carnal.

So many of these books are trilogies. I wondered about this, as at one time I heard that Percy's book was imagined as a trilogy, but the publisher decided to push for an all-encompassing one-volume read. I wonder if that's because some of the adult series books have lagged. The kids' series seem to go on forever.

And that's when Anne asked me where the women writers were, and I started contemplating the same. It strikes me that women writers who are playing off of horror are being pushed to write teen novels. After reading about Amy Tintera's Reboot, it struck me that this could have easily been an adult novel if the protagonist had moved from teen to early twenties. The books are about a virus that kills people, and the government brings them back for a sort of special ops, only the longer you are dead, the more soulless you are. Hannah called the book "action packed" and I've heard Stephen Kingian (Daddy Horror, at least for his first 20 or so novels) thrown about.

One woman writer who seemingly beat out the virus that turns women who want to write for adults and are instead transformed into those for teens (a LOT of teen novels are submitted initially as general trade fiction) is Juliana Baggott, whose novel Pure is classic post-apocalypse creepiness, with folks fused to animals, other people, the earth, whatever, after a nuclear blast. I guess our protagonist has a doll hand. Baggott was a noted poet and a novelist, whose first novel, Girl Talk, shows how much of a 180 she tried to do with her new series.

Finally, a female novelist conquering the adult horror world! But wait, Jason noted that the paperback came out at $9.99. That's teen pricing, as the book is not rack size. Similar titles from other horror authors are either trade priced at $15-17 or rack priced from $8-10. I think much the way a type cover turns to a woman cut off at the head, Baggott has been repositioned.

Stacie noted to me that Percy and Baggott have been on panels together and he's quite the fan of her work.

We return to this idea of using the horror genre without the violence, in the wonderful novel Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon. I've mentioned this book before, and most recently saw it on Jean Thompson's recommendation page, which I was browsing in advance of her recent visit for The Humanity Project. What I should also note is that Chaon's book makes a sly wink to The Other, Thomas Tryon's novel which many consider one of the best horror novels ever. Since Chaon visited Boswell (or rather a bar nearby), NYRB Classics has reissued the Tryon.

And finally, another book that Stacie and Greg tout as one of the greatest horror masterpieces ever, The Watcher, by Charles Maclean. A guy wakes up, does something unthinkable, and is on the run, trying to make sense of what's happening to him. The Guardian called it the #1 horror novel of all time. I don't know where Greg and Stacie rank it, but it's apparently high.

Don't forget to creep out with us next Tuesday, May 14, 7 pm, for our event with Benjamin Percy and Red Moon. Hear the voice for real, in person!

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