Where’s the Crime?

Our guest blogger today is Maine Crime Writer Chris Holm.

Thanks, Kate, for inviting me back to Maine Crime Writers! Last time I was here, I talked about the role Maine played in jumpstarting my writing career [http://mainecrimewriters.com/julias-posts/my-maine-muse-a-guest-blog-by-chris-f-holm]. Today I thought I’d talk a bit about my Collector series [http://www.chrisfholm.blogspot.com/p/the-collector-books.html], and just what the heck a fantasy writer thinks he’s doing crashing this-here crime-fic blog.

The truth is, my series straddles the line between crime fiction and fantasy, recasting the battle between heaven and hell as Golden Era crime pulp. Picture angels driving Crown Vics, and demons running speakeasies, and you’ve got the gist. My protagonist is a poor, undead sap by the name of Sam Thornton (in a nod to Dashiell Hammett’s first name and Raymond Chandler’s middle). Thanks to a devil’s bargain he made back in the ‘40s to save his dying wife, he’s condemned to an eternity of servitude to hell, collecting the souls of the damned and delivering them to their fate.

In the first book in the series, DEAD HARVEST, Sam’s dispatched to snatch the soul of a young girl accused of killing her entire family, but he comes to believe she’s been set up and sets out to prove her innocence. In its follow-up, THE WRONG GOODBYE, the soul Sam’s sent to collect is stolen, and he’s forced to retrieve it before his employers – who aren’t exactly the forgiving type – catch wind. And in my latest, THE BIG REAP, which came out this Tuesday past, Sam’s tasked with hunting down a group known as the Brethren; once Collectors themselves, they cast off hell’s bonds in a ritual that tainted their immortal souls and left them little more than monsters.

The first riffs heavily on detective fiction; the second is essentially a race-against-time thriller; the third plays out like a revenge tale. Each book has its share of creepy supernatural bells and whistles, to be sure, but all three of them are crime fiction at their core.

“Okay,” you may be thinking, “I get the what now, but I don’t quite grasp the why. What possessed you to smoosh together religion and pulp fiction in the first place?” Well, Slightly Prickly Hypothetical Interjector, I’ll tell you.

The fact is, the two trade in common themes and common archetypes – which is unsurprising when you consider that pulp fiction is essentially nothing more than a lurid update of the medieval morality play. James Cain, the progenitor of the modern roman noir, wrote tales of forbidden romance and temptation leading to violence, misery, and regret that may as well have taken place in Eden. Genesis speaks of the debauchery of Sodom and Gomorrah, while Hammett writes of Poisonville. And then there’s the time-honored trope of the femme fatale. Close your eyes and picture her. Chances are you just conjured up an image of a redheaded, acid-tongued temptress in the vein of Brigid O’Shaughnessy (or maybe Jessica Rabbit). But the Babylonian Talmud beat THE MALTESE FALCON by a good 1,500 years when it introduced the world to a sexy seductress of a demon named Lilith who matches that description to a T. (And who just so happens to be Sam’s handler in my books, but I digress.)

To my mind, the Collector series affords me the opportunity to take the archetypes so prevalent in crime fiction back to their ancient roots, and explore the notions of faith, redemption, and free will that both crime writing and religion wrestle with at every turn. And anyways, who wouldn’t want to see Lew Archer or Travis McGee go toe-to-toe with a snarling hellbeast? (Okay, maybe that’s just me.)

BIO: Chris F. Holm was born in Syracuse, New York, the grandson of a cop who passed along his passion for crime fiction. His work has appeared in such publications as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, and THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011. He’s been an Anthony Award nominee, a Derringer Award finalist, and a Spinetingler Award winner. He lives on the coast of Maine with his lovely wife – mystery reviewer Katrina Niidas Holm – and a noisy, noisy cat. If you’d like to Twitter-stalk him, he tweets as @chrisfholm, and you can find him on the web at http://www.chrisfholm.com.



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5 Responses to Where’s the Crime?

  1. Gram says:

    Now I have another author to add to my t-b-r list. Thanks, Dee

  2. Thanks, Gram! Enjoy!

  3. Barb Ross says:

    Chris–welcome back to Maine Crime Writers! Your books sound fascinating and the connection between religion and pulp via medieval morality plays has me intrigued. Off to the bookstore….

  4. Thanks, Barb! Always a pleasure. I hope you dig the books!

  5. Patrick Gomes says:

    OooH! cross-genre crime fiction.

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