Sunday, March 4, 2012

Carmen Sandiego, Meet Sam Thornton

Hilary here, with a very special guest: my friend Chris F. Holm, author of the short-story collection 8 Pounds and the new novel Dead Harvest. It feels strange to introduce Chris as a guest — if you read my post on Tuesday, you already know that he's just joined the Criminal Minds crew. But back in January, I asked him if he'd guest-post to mark the release of his debut novel, Dead Harvest, which was published by Angry Robot Books on Tuesday. I've been excited about the release of this book for months, because I was fortunate enough to get an advance read. Dead Harvest is already earning raves from reviewers. One of my favorites is from the fabulous Jenn's Bookshelves: "I found it nearly impossible to believe that this is Holm’s debut novel. It is a perfect marriage between urban fantasy and crime fiction... I’m thrilled that this book isn’t the last we’ll read of Sam, for Holm has created a completely engaging and addictive character. I simply cannot wait for more. Highly, highly recommended."(Read an excerpt at Criminal Element.)

Chris, being the very good sport he is, took on the Carmen Miranda question we have on Criminal Minds this week. Take it away, Chris...

First off, thanks to Hilary and her fellow Criminal Minders (which, now that I’ve typed it, sounds disconcertingly like some new BBC procedural) for letting me come sully up their otherwise quite classy blog. And second, no thanks whatsoever to Hilary and her fellow Criminal Minders for lodging the theme song to Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? so thoroughly into my head I’ll have to watch YouTube clips of the Muppets doing Mahna Mahna for like an hour to pry it out again. (Good lord was my little sis obsessed with that show. She could watch it for hours on end. As a result, I can’t so much as happen across a mention of the city of San Diego without the words, “Do it, Rockapella!” leaping unbidden into my head. This may explain why I grew up to kill folks on the page.)

But enough about my children’s-programming-related trauma; it’s time to tackle the question at hand. So, where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? I have no idea. But given that she’s a sticky-fingered filcher with a criminal network that spans the globe, there’s a very good chance my protagonist, Sam Thornton, may one day know. And that’s very bad news for Ms. Sandiego indeed.

See, Sam Thornton is a Collector. He collects the souls of the damned, and ensures they find their way to hell. It ain’t the most glamorous of gigs, to be sure, but he didn’t choose it – it chose him. Sixty-odd years back, Sam was collected himself, after a bad bit of business with a demon and a deal struck to save a dying wife. Now he’s doomed to spend eternity as the devil’s hitman, in service of a debt he can never repay. And believe you me, the jet-setting Ms. Sandiego may’ve racked up enough frequent flyer miles to travel first-class to the moon and back, but she’s got nothing on ol’ Sam. Because Sam, being long dead, is somewhat, uh, corporeally challenged; his body’s buried in New York’s potter’s field. So Sam’s forced to resort to possession. (He prefers the recently deceased, because the living have a nasty tendency of trying to wrest back control of their bodies.) Sam can possess anyone, anywhere, at any time: all he needs is a target to focus on. So while Carmen’s arguing with the gate-agent about the size of her carry-on, all Sam’s got to do to get ahead of her is thumb through the obits in her destination city until he finds a ride he likes, and BAM – he’s there.

Lucky for Carmen, Sam’s dance card is pretty full. In DEAD HARVEST (out now!), which takes Sam from the hallowed halls of Oxford to the gritty streets of Staten Island, Sam’s sent to collect a young girl condemned for slaughtering her family – only when he tries to take her soul, he finds it untouched by sin. So he does something no Collector’s done before: he defies hell’s orders and sets out to prove her innocence, discovering along the way that he and the girl may both be pawns in a plot to jump-start the End Times. Charles Ardai called it “Jim Thompson meets John Milton,” which strikes me as way too nice, but I’ll take it anyway. And Hilary’s been very gracious with her praise as well, for which I’m incredibly grateful, even if I blame her just a little bit for putting this godawful song in my head.

The second in the series, THE WRONG GOODBYE (out this October), finds Sam in full-on globetrotting mode, kicking ass and taking souls in such far-flung locales as the Colombian rainforest, the streets of Amsterdam, and the desert wilds of the American Southwest. As for whether he runs across a certain travel-happy master thief along the way, I’ll never tell…

Thanks so much for visiting, Chris. Or, um, "visiting." (Apparently, Criminal Minds has turned into the Hotel California.) Please visit his website and blog, and follow him on Twitter. A little bit more about Dead Harvest:

Sam Thornton collects souls.

The souls of the damned, to be precise.

Once taken himself, he’s now doomed to ferry souls to hell for all eternity, in service of a debt he can never repay. But when he's dispatched to retrieve the soul of a girl he believes is innocent of the horrific crime for which she’s been damned, Sam does something no Collector has ever done before: he refuses.

And more about Chris (better yet, read the full version of his very funny bio at his website, too):

Chris F. Holm's stories have appeared in a slew of publications, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Beat to a Pulp, and Thuglit. His novella “The Hitter” was selected to appear in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011, edited by Harlan Coben and Otto Penzler. He's been an Anthony Award nominee, a Derringer Award finalist, and a Spinetingler Award winner. His debut novel, DEAD HARVEST, is available February 2012 via Angry Robot Books, with its sequel, THE WRONG GOODBYE, to follow that October.


nigel p bird said...

those covers are diamond. looking forward to both reads.

Joshua Corin said...

Welcome to our gang of hoodwinkers, Chris.

Hilary Davidson said...

Thanks so much for "guest" posting, Chris — and apologies for not letting you leave. (Hey, we're the Criminal Minds, what did you expect?)

For everyone else reading this, please do yourself a favor and pick up DEAD HARVEST. It's an exceptional book!

Chris said...

Thanks, all! Of course, I've no idea how I got here. I remember I was sapped walking home one night, and then I woke up at CM. Hilary offered me a plate of gluten-free cookies and told me this was my home now. Long as the cookies keep coming, I'm cool with that.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Welcome, Chris!

Michael Wiley said...

Great to have you with us, Chris.