Of all the novels I read last year, my favorite was The Necromancer’s House, a blend of horror and dark fantasy and literary fiction. I liked it so well that I took the unusual step of sending a Facebook friend request to the author, Christopher Buehlman.
Somewhat surprisingly, he accepted my friend request; it is not every day that a World Fantasy Award nominee agrees to connect with an unknown reader. I dashed him a quick note to say I liked his books, he dashed a quick note to say thanks, and that was that.
Well, apart from that one time with Goblin, I mean. My dearly departed cat had a penchant for walking on the laptop keyboard. One evening she contrived, all on her own, to send an instant message to Mr. Buehlman. It was not a very well-written piece of communication, as Goblin was functionally illiterate.
Cat-texting: it’s drunk-texting for the single woman.
Months later, out of the blue, I received a message from the author: he was going to be in town, and did I want to grab coffee?
For those of you who may be confused, permit me to clarify: this is not done.
Authors do not seek out fans. Or rather, they seek fans in a in a very broad sense, as when they do book signings or attend conventions—but they do not go looking for individual fans to hang out with. Of course not. They’ve read Stephen King’s Misery.
But far be it from me to tell a writer how to conduct his business. On a recent Sunday afternoon I drove to a coffee shop and met Chris—and yeah, I’m totally on a first-syllable basis with him now—and spent a couple of hours talking about his novels and his writing process and sundry other bookish things.
He is a delightful person, funny and smart and thoughtful. You will have to take my word for this.
His books are among the best horror novels being written today. You do not have to take my word for this. See for yourself:
- Those Across the River: This debut novel is better than most writers manage in their whole careers. It's reminiscent of Stephen King in that you've got an ordinary town that seems slightly off, but our hero can't put his finger on why, and the insular townsfolk aren't telling. Which of course leads to carnage.
- Between Two Fires: Alternate title: One Bad Thing After Another. The demons of Hell are waging war on Heaven, and they have loosed a plague upon the earth. The people call it the Black Death. This is an apocalyptic story of good vs. evil, set against the backdrop of medieval France.
- The Necromancer's House: Andrew is a wizard and a recovering alcoholic. He loves Anneke, but she's a lesbian, so he settles for sleeping with Nadia, who is a bloodthirsty mermaid, but nobody's perfect so let's not judge. But when Nadia unwittingly kills the son of Baba Yaga, Andrew must prepare to battle the most powerful witch in the world.
- The Lesser Dead: Prone to introspection and teenage angst, Joey Peacock is Holden Caulfield, if Holden Caulfield drank blood and could be killed by sunlight. Joey is a monster--Buehlman's vampires are not the sparkly kind--but he might not be the worst predator in New York City in 1978. Some new vampires have just arrived, strange little children who don't know the rules, and their appetites are insatiable.
Remember: if you read Buehlman's books and like them, he will have coffee with you. Or at least that's been my experience.