Author of the Week: Reb MacRath
As both an author and fan of hybrid genres - “horror noir” being my favorite, and in fact I sometimes call my own indefinable work “Vihorror” - I am naturally an instant fan of recent Seattle transplant Reb MacRath, who smoothly blends elements of suspense and the supernatural into unique literary cocktails that are potent, intoxicating, and smooth, even if some of the characters are on the bitter side.
But he garnishes his concoctions with whimsical if dark humor, keen insight into human nature, and most of all, a natural flair for old-fashioned storytelling that has garnered him fans, accolades, and some interesting true tales of both success and failure along the rocky way…
You write both noir and horror. Do you see a connection between the two?
The noir Boss MacTavin series draws on my horror background. In Southern Scotch, the first book, the man who’ll become Boss MacTavin, is in the wrong place at the wrong time one night—and is beaten nearly to death, half-blinded with a cigar, then raped with a pool cue. All that in the first 50 pages. The horror is just as strong in my literary thriller The Vanishing Magic of Snow. But the connection runs both ways: all of my four horror novels have strong mysteries at their centers.
The root of this binary mischief? My first published book, The Suiting, was a noirish thriller with a supernatural twist. For my next book, I had a dark thriller in mind—but a 2-book contract required me to write horror. For my third book, I changed agents and pitched the rejected proposal again...but found myself regarded as a horror writer. Now, as an indie writer, I let the noir and horror come at me as they may. And I’ve invented a new genre that I call Glitter Noir, where horror, noir and stylistic razzmatazz can party to their hearts’ content.
Amazingly, you juggle several ongoing series at once. How do you keep track of the various main protagonists, and how are they similar or different from not only each other, but you?
Well, I’m here to tell you that it gets pretty damned tricky at times. And I’ve started compiling a two series ‘bibles’, one for the Boss series and one for the new Seattle BOP. The bibles contain the issues you address: age, height, eye and hair color, important bits of history, likes and dislikes, etc.
With the Boss MacTavin books, this was really life or death because the first two books in the series had first been drifted back in the 90s. So when I’d learned enough as a writer to whip the books into publishing shape, I had to reread the books and start taking notes as I went. And, light bulb, I thought of a bible for Boss.
You are the recipient of the coveted Stoker Award for your very first novel, The Suiting. Did this honor in any way impact the trajectory of your work, or your career?
The Stoker was a great honor and I treasure it still. But it had less professional impact than it could and should have. I’d made a disastrous change of agents, passing on a few all-stars who insisted I finish my third book, Mastery, before they took it to market. I needed money now, though, to help pay for a trip to Japan. Also, my publisher had decided to pass on the option for book three and the horror market was clearly in a bad way. So I panicked and signed on with an agent who’d gone off on her own from a large, successful agency. She had a reputation earning her clients ‘pocket money’ quickly.
Well, that’s exactly what I got...and went from hardcover to paperback originals...which barely listed the Stoker Award. Let me add: I received complaints from a British horror publisher and a major film company that she had ignored their requests for copies of my work. (This was before email and the internet.) And she still failed to follow through after I complained –and sent her a hundred bucks to send out copies. So my decision cost me and that wasn’t the fault of the Stoker but rather my need for quick loot.
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
I hope you won’t mind a mixed bag because my reading’s all over the map.
Genre: Hammett, Chandler, John D. MacDonald, Mickey Spillane, Lawrence Sanders, Ira Levin
Classics: Pushkin, Oscar Wilde
What’s next for you?
For now, I’ve moved on from the hard-boiled Boss MacTavin series to Seattle BOP and I’m planning to turn out one short novel a year. I still hope to nail the perfect fusion of the writers I’ve listed above. And I pledge to do my damnedest to be a better founding father. Glitter Noir deserves the best.
Reb MacRath’s first novel, THE SUITING, won a Stoker Award and has been called one of the world’s 100 most influential horror novels. Under the pen name Kelley Wilde, he published three more horror novels before turning to mystery/suspense. His body of work includes The Boss MacTavin series; The Fast and Furies series; and The Kelley Wilde horror novels.
Cheers, Reb! See you soon at Noir at the Bar Seattle.
Amazon Author Page
PHOTO: REB MACRATH
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New Orleans, LA