Saturday, July 4, 2009

On The Nightstand

by Brian Lumley

I'm on the last leg of this issue of my secret project (which I hope will be public knowledge soon), so I don't have a lot of time to read, but I've still managed to make it through the first two books in Brian Lumley's NECROSCOPE series.

I hadn't really heard of Lumley before I went to work at Borders, but I'd vaguely heard of the first book in the series, NECROSCOPE, probably because there were a couple of NECROSCOPE comic books in the early 90's, including one at the company where I started out -- Caliber Comics.

Truth be told, I probably wouldn't have read any of these books if I hadn't developed a serious interest in learning how to write prose around the same time I started at Borders. I'd always read a lot of Horror, so I was pretty sure that if I was going to write anything it would be in that genre, so I started educating myself by reading as many Horror novels as I could get my hands on.

I read a lot books by authors I'd always loved, studying how the constructed sentences, paying attention to the flow of their plotting and the various ways they kept the narrative moving forward. When I'd finished with those, I started in on many of the classics of the genre, like THE EXORCIST, THE STEPFORD WIVES, ROSEMARY'S BABY, and others. And when I'd read as many of those as I could, I started in on the authors my favorite writers were always talking about, which led me to guys like Richard Matheson, Richard Laymon, Fritz Leiber, and Brian Lumley.

I tried some of Lumley's Cthulhu Mythos stories first, which to be honest, was a bit of a mistake. It's good stuff -- well-written and evocative -- but the NECROSCOPE series is where Lumley really seems to shine. His blend of Vampires and British espionage is original and engaging, written with his usual flair, but tackling old subjects in a new and interesting way. I burned through all of the NECROSCOPE books at the time, skipping over the VAMPIRE WORLD novels (which I thought were going to be more Fantasy than Horror) and the two LOST YEARS novels (since I have a hard time when an author goes back to do a new story stuck in the middle of a long series you've already gotten to the end of).

But with the DARK TOWER books finally read and back on the shelves in my office, I'm now on a mission to read all of the NECROSCOPE books -- including the ones I skipped first time through -- from the start of the series to the end, and I'm pleased to discover that I still enjoy Lumley's writing as much as I did when I first picked them up.

I'm not as interested in the Horror genre as I was when I started figuring out how to write prose, but I learned a lot about writing from reading Lumley. He's a tight plotter, excellent with characterization, and very good at the old pulp rule of "if your hero is in trouble, throw more trouble at them whenever possible". It's an entertaining way to write, and a lot of fun to read, especially when the writer creates a sympathetic and complex main character like Harry Keogh.

And seriously, how can any book with an exclamation point in the title not be entertaining. Pure Pulp fun written by a real master of the craft.

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