5 BOOKS THAT MADE ME THE WRITER I AM

 

Christopher Rice

RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris: When I was young, it scared the crap out of me. The murder of Freddie Lounds actually had me in tears and running to my parents for comfort. When I re-read it as an adult, I was astonished by the depth and sophistication of the chapters spent inside the point of view of its main killer, Francis Dolarhyde. They were chapters that said, Crime fiction can be art; it’s characters as complex as those in a Dickens novel. (Incidentally, the Dolarhyde story ended up being one of the most exquisite stretches in my pal Bryan Fuller’s dazzling TV series based on Thomas Harris’s most popular character, Hannibal.)

SWAN SONG by Robert MacCammon: It’s an epic, nightmarish and ultimately hopeful apocalyptic journey. And it’s better than The Stand. And I love The Stand, but I’m sorry. This one’s just better. MacCammon always keeps a master’s grip on his elaborate, ornate and full-bodied stories, but Swan Song delivers a perfect marriage of that skill with ten times the usual scope. I’ve never written an epic on this scale, but my memories of disappearing into this book leave me with a strong desire to try. One day. After I read it again.

THE GALTON CASE by Ross MacDonald: When I first started writing crime fiction, I quickly learned that MacDonald was the well from which many of the writers I’d come to love took regular, sustaining drinks. As my friend the novelist Jan Burke once said, MacDonald can sum up an entire character’s looks, demeanor and life story in about four lines of prose. Sure. Chandler’s fun. I mean, who can beat those one liners, right? But Chandler’s plots usually contort themselves into an atmospheric multi-car pile up. By comparison, MacDonald created sleek, multi-pronged cutting instruments that slice deep into the psychological dynamics of tortured families and a mid-20th Century Southern California that was rapidly becoming emblematic of the American dream.

THE WITCHING HOUR by Anne Rice: I know. Obvious choice. Rare is the mother who doesn’t play some sort of role in the person her child becomes. Still, this was the novel she wrote that sprung out of our shared experience in New Orleans after she first hit it big. The house was ours, and the city was our own. Aside from being a swooning, sensuous epic that gathered me up in its pages, it also became my master class in how to bring a setting to life – by peopling it with a cast of characters, both human and not, who give voice to its crosscurrent of cultural influences and spiritual ambitions.

SAY UNCLE by Eric Shaw Quinn: In the early 90’s, the “gay novel” had become stereotyped as either an explicit catalog of the author’s sexual conquests or a grim social chronicle about a group of friends and lovers in the big city dealing with the terrible realities of the AIDS crisis. Then Eric Shaw Quinn came along with a gay version of Auntie Mame. Rollicking, big-hearted and insistently fun, it took on the then revolutionary concept of a gay man raising a child. (One publisher rejected it on this basis by calmly asserting, “You and I just see the world in a different way, Mr. Quinn.) When I first read it, I didn’t know Eric and I would go on to be lifelong friends. (Today he writes the Write Murder mystery series inspired by his time as a celebrity ghost writer.) But at the time, the novel’s daring concept and brave hero taught me that sometimes our greatest limitations lie in how we choose to see ourselves.


Author bio: Christopher Rice is the New York Times bestselling author of A DENSITY OF SOULS a recipient of the Lambda Literary Award, and a Bram Stoker Award finalist for his novels The Heavens Rise and The Vines. He is the head writer and an executive producer of The Vampire Chronicles, a television show based on the bestselling novels by his mother, Anne Rice. His newest book, BONE MUSIC, is being published by Thomas & Mercer in March 2018.

About his new book BONE MUSIC:
In his genre-bending new thriller BONE MUSIC (Thomas & Mercer; March 1, 2018), New York Times bestselling author Christopher Rice has given birth to a new series and an unforgettable female protagonist whose tormented life will haunt and enthrall readers.

For the first seven years of her life, Charlotte Rowe was raised by two of the most notorious serial killers in American history, who tried to mold and train her in their own image—right up until the day a SWAT team burst out of the woods to arrest them. Haunted by her parents’ crimes and her own complicity, Charlotte resolves to hunt down the kind of evil she know all too well—and when an experimental drug endows her with new and shocking powers, she finally has the strength to fight back. A superhero origin story, a tale of female empowerment, and a dark window into the mind of evil, BONE MUSIC is the first book in the “Burning Girl” series.