I once wrote an email to Brian Keene, author of The Rising.
Surprisingly enough, he not only liked the email, apparently he has told his friends about it.
I’m just happy he got past the first two sentences.
Note, the following email contains spoilers of the very end of the book. You’ve been warned, so don’t come bitching to me when you figure out the ending.
I have two words for you…
I meant that with reverence.
There’s a reason why I would call you, someone I don’t even know, a sonovabitch (with reverence). It’s a little bit of a story. Hopefully, I still have your attention and you will read the email in its entirety. Maybe I won’t sound like a complete asshole by the end of it.
So last August, a few of my friends and I made the annual “pilgrimage” to Horrorfind. Hell, I don’t think I’m much of a pilgrim since I live in Annapolis, but friends from California flew out and one guy drove down from Jersey. I’ve always been the lazy one in the bunch, but this is all irrelevant. The point is, I was at Horrorfind.
One of the great things about Horrorfind Weekend that smokes the competition is its support for authors. I’ve been to a couple different horror conventions, but only Horrorfind has author readings, signings, tables, etc. I’ve been introduced to a couple of great authors thanks to Horrorfind – Jon Merz, Scott Nicholson, David Williams, Wrath James White (admittedly, I have yet to buy one of White’s books, but the man has an amazing presence when he reads his work). And now you.
I had picked up a flier for The Rising somewhere during my travels around the convention and, for some reason, the need to buy that book was at the back of my mind for months after the show. I can’t explain it. So one day my buddy (the one from Jersey) came down (made another pilgrimage) to my place to hang out for the weekend. It was actually the opening weekend for Dawn of the Dead (2004 version, of course) and that was one of the reasons he came down. Odd thing about being a horror fan, sometimes it is hard finding your own kind. You know they are out there, but they never seem to live nearby. Maybe that’s a good thing because, thankfully, I never see more than four Goth kids at any given time, in any given town – yet I’m starting to think they are the same four, they just travel from town to town making guest appearances. Unless it’s a Marilyn Manson concert (whom I like, but I won’t see because I hate crowds). But I digress.
Anyway, we popped into Barnes & Noble (or Borders, one of the two, they both suck) to browse around before the show and, again, those pestering needles hit my brain again; “buy that book.” Seeing how I forgot the title – ADD does that to a person – I asked my buddy from Jersey if he remembered it (as he was interested in it, too). Long story short, he remembered, Borders & Noble had it, I bought it and we were out the door.
I bought it on a Saturday, started it on the following Monday and finished it Tuesday night. Keep in mind, I am gainfully employed full-time.
The book, quite simply, was amazing.
I’m a fan of “apocalyptic” type books, but generally, they usually aren’t that good. There used to be only two that I have read and reread and reread. Stephen King’s The Stand (which is the definitive end-of-the-world book) and Robert McGammon’s Swan Song. Now there are three. Not only am I sure that I will reread your book, but I place my enjoyment of it well above Swan Song. It is that good. I read on your blog something along the lines that you don’t thing it’s your best work. That is downright frightening. Admittedly, I have not read any more of your work yet, but I can guarandamntee you that I will be picking up some more of your books.
Now to the sonovabitch (with reverence) part…
As I was getting closer and closer to the end of Rising, I kept thinking to myself “how’s he going to wrap this up.” I was extremely concerned that after reading a helluva book, I was going to be let down by the ending. I was paranoid that it was going to end by having Jim running into the house, grabbing the boy, and they all ride off into the sunset. But, no! It wasn’t that damn simple.
YOU LEFT ME HANGING! You sonova, well, you get the point.
I felt like I was 13 years old all over again, and Han Solo was being carted off to Jabba the Hut and God only knows what was going on with Luke.
And I thank you for it.
Like Richard Laymon, you did two very important things that go against the grain of typical writers. First, and most importantly, you didn’t treat me, the reader, like an idiot. You didn’t spoon feed me and you didn’t give a fuck about my feelings. Which leads me to the second thing I liked about your book, you killed off quite a few likeable characters. Brian (can I call you Brian? You can call me Steve), you have a gift of developing great, likeable – sometimes unlikable – and interesting characters in a relatively short period of time (or pages). And you have no problem killing them off. God bless you for having the balls to do that. Certainly, I do not like seeing characters I like die, but without death, there is no drama, and man, you bring the pain. Thumbs up to you, sir.
Before I go, I have a couple questions, provided you have the time. I noticed in your bio on the back of the book, you are the fiction editor of Horrorfind.com. Are you going to be at this year’s Horrorfind? If so, will you be doing any readings? Also, are you still going to be in Burke on the 17th? Thanks for any info you can provide.
So that’s my diatribe. I hope you didn’t find it too much of a waste of your time.
If you haven’t read Keene’s work, you are missing out.