Gores Truly is femme-driven but certainly not man-hating. Occasionally, we want to give our readers a chance to contribute to the horror-fest that we all adore - including those wielding the Y-Chromosome. The following article has been Murder-Her approved. Watch out! It’s an Invasion of the Y-Chromosome!
Those Across the River a horror novel by Christopher Buehlman
Review by Bonez Magee
So I literally just finished Those Across the River, the debut novel by Christopher Buehlman. I have read other reviews that keep comparing Mr. Buehlman to the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Well, personally I think those reviewers need to get their heads out of their ass. Buehlman is a beast of his own making in his debut novel. I have read a decent amount of King and have forced myself to read some Dean (You were the bomb in Phantoms Yo!) Koontz and as much as I like King, I hate him equally as much. And I will never understand the appeal of Koontz because to me his books read like shit falling from a corpse’s ass while it’s being thrown onto a pyre. So I find it unfair to compare Buehlman to either.
Buehlman’s solid grasp on the South during the Depression Era is solid and captivating and, in itself, worth the read just to experience his descriptions and settings. The story takes some time getting to the true horror aspect but is totally worth the wait. But once you get to what is on the other side of the river you quickly realize that you do NOT want this story to end. Because of the setting, this book really sucked me into the zone where time passes very quickly when you read a good book. It also helps that I am a tried and true southerner and can relate to the environment on a sort of native level. But even if you’re not from the South, it’s easy to appreciate the picture that is painted for you.
As a service to those who have yet to read this book, let me assure you that what is on the other side of the river is not vampires or zombies. I find myself completely burnt out on all of the shit horror that comes out these days surrounding these two overdone themes. I won’t tell you what is over there but Buehlman does a great job with the mythos and classic presentation of those across the river that any classic horror fan will truly appreciate. The author keeps it simple and clear of any unnecessary fluff or useless spin on the scare of things. If anything, he has captured that feeling you got when you were a child watching any of the classic black and white monster movies. It’s pure enjoyment with a healthy splash of fear and surprising dose of sexuality. Those Across the River is a refreshing breeze in a heat wave of predictable and lack luster horror that is out at the moment. Proof that you do not need cheap scares and copious amounts of blood when solid writing and storytelling can do the job of shock value. Not that shock value is bad; it’s just nice to be reminded that it is not always necessary. I highly suggest this book and will go out on a limb and guarantee if you’re any sort of fan of classic horror you will love Those Across the River.
BONEZ: So, why a horror novel? Have you always wanted to write in the genre?
BUEHLMAN: Horror novels are among my favorite kind to read when they’re done well-the problem is, they’re so hard to do well. It’s a narrow window-one reader’s scary is another reader’s cheesy. Bad horror is comedy, only the joke’s on the writer. Don’t believe me? Go to the horror shelves and poke around. If your experience is like mine, you’ll be lucky if every fourth one has a compelling concept and at least decent prose. One in ten might have excellent prose. Things are changing, though…Michael Koryta, Sarah Waters, Andrew Davidson and others are making a dent in those shelves. Hopefully, I’m doing my part. And, yeah, I’ve wanted to write a horror novel ever since my dad swiped The Shining from me at age ten when I got stuck on page one and asked him what a “prick” was.
BONEZ: What was it about the Depression era that made you want to place the story in this time period?
BUEHLMAN: I like Depression Era and Jazz Age literature. I also like taking a setting that’s already bleak and raising the stakes with the supernatural. One reviewer said my style was as much F. Scott Fitzgerald as Dean Koontz. That made me happy. The first part, particularly.
BONEZ: Will you be sticking with Horror/Suspense or do you have other aspirations?
BUEHLMAN:: I write horror novels, and I’m contracted with Penguin for two more, but I write comedy plays. “Hot Nights for the War Wives of Ithaka” opens at Tampa’s Jobsite Theater in March. I’m eager to try my hand at a teleplay or screenplay.
BONEZ: Frank & Eudora have a very active sex life in the book. You also have some other very sexually provocative moments in this story. What is it about sex and horror that makes them go hand in hand?
BUEHLMAN: Your question just made me think about the old Frankie Goes to Hollywood song “When Two Tribes Go to War,” where the singer proclaims that ‘sex and horror are the NEW GODS!’ But I think they’re the old gods, aren’t they? One is procreative, the other is about death, and you can’t have one without the other. Asexual reproduction means blobbing off copies of yourself that are arguably also you, making you all but immortal. Sex means differentiation, and differentiation means unique individuals. That must die to make room for new ones. Our beginning and our end. Hope and despair. What’s more interesting than that? If an attractive person says “I want to make love,” or an armed person says “I’m going to kill you,” I promise you’re paying attention. The man and woman in my story have a lot of sex, but I think it is important to show some of that so that we understand what kind of couple they are-not everybody has that kind of chemistry over the long term, but some do. I suspect the (very few) bloggers or critics who say there’s too much bedroom noise in Those Across the River haven’t been in that fever. Alas for them. And Viva Frank and Eudora…for a while.
BONEZ: What is your favorite horror story from any medium that you can enjoy over and again?
BUEHLMAN: The Stand by Stephen King. I just read it for the fourth time in my life (I’m averaging about once a decade!) and each time it gets a bit richer. I don’t know if King writes capital ‘L’ literature, but his best work is VERY sure-footed; that dog hunts. I dearly loved meeting Tom Cullen, Nick Andros, and Stu Redman now that I’m older than many of them, having first encountered them as a teenager.
BONEZ: Outside of fictional horror, what scares the living shit out of you?
BUEHLMAN: The only things that scare the living shit out of me are outside of fiction. Supernatural stuff is fun scary; a very different thing than real scary. I would rather read about vampires because when I close the book, they stay in the book. I don’t want to read about home invasions or serial killers because that shit happens. Or did you want me to tell you what my phobias are? Maybe you want to use that against me. Maybe if I say I’m scared of crowds you’ll remove my tongue, sew my eyes shut, and let me loose in a concert. Or if it’s heights you’ll put me on a three-legged chair at the top of an abandoned railroad trestle. No thanks, Bonez. We’re not playing your sick little game.
BONEZ: Curse, foiled again! Do you have a “guilty pleasure” when it comes to the Horror Scene? Are you a closet Twilight fanatic?
BUEHLMAN: Guilty Pleasure? Maybe True Blood. Sometimes I’m very aware of the fact that it’s a soap opera with fangs, but it’s awfully fun.
BONEZ: Can you talk about your next project at all?
BUEHLMAN: I’m leaving for France tomorrow to research the next book, Between Two Fires. I can’t remember ever reading a medieval horror novel, so I’m writing one. It’s about a second rise of the fallen angels-the first thing they do is try to kill God’s favorite creature…with a great plague. The year is 1348. The protagonists are a disgraced knight, a visionary little girl and a weak-willed priest. It’s very much its own thing, but, if you like comparisons, think Paradise Lost meets The Stand meets The Name of the Rose, with a dash of Lovecraft (the things that come out of Hell are, well, hellish!). It should be out in hardback from Penguin’s Ace division next fall.
BONEZ: Thank you so much Chris for taking the time for this. And best of luck and have a safe trip to France.
About the Author: Bonez Magee, or The Invincible Bonez Magee to his friends, has maintained a Omega level geek status for over 30 years. Be it Comic books, Sci-Fi, Horror, the supernatural or video games, Bonez has either experienced it or has some useless knowledge about it. A self proclaimed purist of the nerd genre, Bonez battles a never ending war against the massive influx of poser fans into his lifestyle and believes that when the Nerdpocalypse happens he will have a seat in the Cthulu’s inner circle right next to the zombie version of Hunter S. Thompson and Zenu.
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