Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rebecca Writes About: The X-TREME NOVELIST

by Rebecca Forster


I love to read. Books, newspapers, magazines and food labels are all on my TBR list. Horror has been in the mix with popular authors like Stephen King and Dean Koontz, but I didn’t know what a great horror read was until I read a short story collection by Anoynmous-9 (aka Elaine Ash) presented under the umbrella title of Hard Bite & Other Short Stories. Here was horror at its finest: edgy, scary, fascinating, the stuff bad dreams are made of. While I celebrated the book, I also lamented that this author might never be embraced by the mainstream despite her talent. Why? Because Anyonymous-9 is what I call an X-treme novelist - a writer who does not poke at parameters, but boldly shreds them. Think Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and his brand of hysterical realism. Hunter S. Thompson and Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas. My favorite, Anthony Burgess’ Clockwork Orange. The X-treme novelist is often ignored, ridiculed, or, even worse, published only to languish in a no-man’s land of genreless books.

Yet when a reader discovers them - or they become bestsellers in spite of the system – there is a sense of uncovering a jewel. They keep us thinking and questioning and curious about what they will come up with next. If their work is done well, their sense of time and place, characterization and plot will challenge the reader in a way traditional novels never do; if crafted poorly, their work is merely sensationalism without direction.  The challenge for the X-treme novelist is to direct themselves without editorial help or an agent cheerleader because their vision is uniquely their own.

Some of my favorite, recently-read indie works by  those I consider X-treme novelists include:

Hard Bite & Other Stories* by Anonymous-9: A viscious, bloody, twisted tale that left me fascinated because of the author’s complete faith in the vision of her characters and their motivation. I applaud the sheer inventiveness of the world she created.

Johnny Oops by Arthur Levine: A fanciful tale of a teenager who believes himself to be a prophet. It is a sexual, angst filled romp that is told with an unapologetic abandon and marvelous style.

Detroit Daze by Conrad Johnson**: A hard, brutal, desperate tale of a teenager’s life in Detroit that seems to lead to the same nowhere the teenager believes is his destiny.  Johnson’s deft communication of humanity within this harsh world, his use of music lyrics, is like poetic graffiti.

The Santa Shop by Tim Greaton: An unsettling, emotionally wrenching story that has little to do with jingle bells and everything to do with despair, self recrimination, and redemption. It is so well written I was actually angry that the book was not what I assumed it would be and then grateful that it was not.

X-treme authors are not pioneers; they are explorers. They are not dreamers; they are trippers.  X-treme novelists are vital to the creative process. It is usually through their efforts that new genres are born and fashions are created. Sometimes we just forget those fashions began with writers willing to put themselves on the line with something new, fresh, and often delightedly unsettling.  If you are one, embrace what you do because there are readers like me who will appreciate it and writers (like me) who will be inspired by it.

*Also look for Hard Bite the Novel.

**Conrad Johnson is the pseudonym for John Byk. Check out his live contemporary author interviews on 2012 Writers Alive

19 comments:

  1. Thanks for this. Thought provoking for sure as it made me analyse the elements that could be considered inherent to an X-treme novel.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Woelf2.0 Thanks for taking time to check out my article. I'm so in awe of writers who can challenge a reader on many levels!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rebecca, my heart sings to read this (or is it my heartburn?). In any event, what a beautiful piece and THANK YOU SO MUCH for your kind words. Congratulations to all who made your short list. As you know, your legal thriller HOSTILE WITNESS and the fragile. human characters you created stayed with me for weeks my first reading.
    Thanks again for the heartburn!
    XO
    Anonymous-9

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Rebecca, thanks for including me in this great group of E-treme novelists.

    Regards,
    Arthur

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have read Hard Bite, and if the others match up, I have some good reads to look forward to!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nice collection of writers and a nice job of describing their work, especially Anon-9 -- a real breaker of new ground. One small error: You mean Hunter S. Thompson, though, not Hunter Thomas.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hey Arthur, get hip, daddy-o! It's X-treme. :-)
    Anonymous-9

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm a fan of A-9, so the others seem well worth checking out.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks, Rebecca but I'm just psychotic and bored and live in a place where the winters are long and hard. No magic wand here.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I hate the fact that we have to characterize or box label our literature which is why much of it stinks today. Anonymous-9's work is simply exemplary and outstanding. Her Hard Bite is a fresh voice both in style and imagination. It is not extreme it is exceptionally well done.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have to agree with Joseph about authors being put in a box. I have readers that think I should only write crime novels and won't buy my thrillers and it is unfortunate--for them. Elaine writes everything from crime to horror to satire and pulls it off without a hitch and anybody who dismisses her because she won't toe the genre line is missing out. I can promise that anybody who reads Hard Bite (in either form) is in for a treat. Her stories are what Donald Westlake would have called a snowball with a rock hidden inside, free of cliches and easy solutions, unlike so much of "fiction" today, and for that, Elaine, we thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ha ha Conrad Johnson, that IS your magic wand. Joseph and Brian thanks so much for the thumbs up.It's great reading both of you too.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Nice post. Good to see A-9 on the X-list.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Ms.9 you're a force that cannot be ignored.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Ah, Frank Bill checks in. Two years ago Frank was an unknown short story writer online, working the forklift by day and laboring over writing at night. Today he's a published author with a big-name agent, a lucrative 2-book deal with Farrar Strauss Giroux and gigs writing for Playboy and other major magazines. Who's the force, now Frank? (And thanks for the kind words.) Anonymous-9

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks for an interesting article and the recommendations. A-9 is a terrifically talented writer. I'm a big fan of her short stuff and I'm sure HB the novel will be a big hit.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Big fan of Ms. A-9! Good to her getting the props she deserves!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Great piece, Rebecca, and what a bloody, juicy list of books. On the upside, X-Treme novelists today could be the classics of tomorrow, if books still exist. :) Mary Shelley and Henry Miller were X-Treme in their time.

    ReplyDelete