Brian P. Easton grew up on the south end of Illinois — with its corn and coal. He writes about werewolves. I grew on the north end of that state — with its corn and cows. I write about ghosts. And, of course, Abe Lincoln was a vampire-hunter. We’re pretty much ready for any supernatural contingencies in the Prairie State.
Brian has written a trilogy of novels about a character named Sylvester L. James: Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter, Heart of Scars, and The Lineage. A prequel is nearing completion. I asked Brian to answer my four usual questions to introduce us to his werewolf hunter.
#1-Using three similes—and as many sentences as you like—describe your occult detective character(s).
First thing to say is that I don’t consider Sylvester Logan James, of my Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter series, to be an Occult Detective per se. He has been known to conduct his own brand of hair-on-the-wall investigations involving the occult, but mostly he shoots first and asks questions later. To him, the supernatural is a stone in his shoe.
Now, on with the similes…
Sylvester is, as Mean as Rotgut Whisky: Which sometimes gets him mistaken for a lunatic, but SLJ is one of the sanest sociopaths you’ll ever meet. You don’t last long against Hell’s own apex predator by being sweet, which is not to say he doesn’t have brutal moments of great compassion for folks even less fortunate than he.
Sylvester is, Relentless as a Curse: If SLJ had a motto it would be: “Hatred Unto Death.” His lust for vengeance is obscene; intractable since he was a boy. The Feud by which he lives is his passion, his politics and his religion, and there are no shades of gray. He can be both crowbar and scalpel, and you never know when he’ll switch it up. So, even though he may come on like a chainsaw, that doesn’t mean it’s not part of his long game.
Sylvester is, Hard as Coffin Nails: If a human being consists of a Mind, Body and Soul, SLJ has pushed these three facets to their respective brinks; namely, Madness, Death and Hell.
… SLJ has seen and done things that would cause most people to put a gun in their mouth. His resilience means his tolerance for mental suffering could spook a whole psych ward.
… His capacity to withstand physical pain is a point of pride which harks back to the Northern Cheyenne tradition in which he was trained. He’s a bop-‘til-you drop kind of guy.
… As if risking his soul as an occupational hazard isn’t enough, his acts of violence have left it so compromised as to be admired by the Beast itself.
#2-While reading about a fictional world where a vampire travels to, say, a city that is recognizably Victorian London or small-town Maine, a reader might look up suddenly and wonder what was that noise? However, while reading about a fictional world where a vampire enters a tavern that’s frequented by zombies, werewolves, and ghosts, a reader escapes to far-flung fantasy-land and probably ignores that noise altogether. How close is your fictional world to the world of reader?
Rue Morgue magazine once said that Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter “offers up a slightly alternate reality that treads frighteningly close to our own.” I believe that’s one of the things that sets this trilogy apart from other werewolf novels. When it comes to events and places I prefer to skimp on artistic license and suspend disbelief by grounding my characters in the world where we all live.
#3-I see occult detective fiction as a cross-genre of mystery and supernatural fiction. Do you agree with this, and if so, do you lean more into one genre than the other? If you don’t agree, what’s your problem?
My experience with the Occult Detective sub-genre is limited, but I tend to view it as a detective story, ghost story hybrid. So I guess you can put me down for a “yes.”
Monster Hunters are more my line, but as far as I can tell the biggest difference between them and Occult Detectives are their table manners; that and a big-ass arsenal.
#4-What are your plans?
I am currently writing the prequel to the Autobiography series, tentatively entitled Winterfox, which will chronicle the life and times of Sylvester’s mentor. It begins at the turn of the 20th century and will cover the better part of a hundred years, so I expect it will be an especially voluminous work when it’s done.
Also, this year Permuted Press will re-release the Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter trilogy as an omnibus, which should be available on bookstore shelves (and by that I mean Barnes & Noble) nationwide this September 20th, which incidentally is Sylvester’s birthday. It’s available now for pre-order at the Simon & Schuster website.
Thanks for letting Sylvester put his elbows on your table.
And my thanks to Brian P. Easton. Click here to find his website for the Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter series.