Andrew Pyper

All posts tagged Andrew Pyper

Book Review: Family Ties and Gothic Horror in The Only Child

Published June 19, 2017 by rmpixie

The Only Child by Andrew Pyper (Simon & Schuster, 2017)

 

Canadian horror author Andrew Pyper has his finger on the pulse of the family. His previous works cover a father looking for his child in the best-selling The Demonologist to a twin haunted by his sister in The Damned, and now, another family dynamic in The Only Child. With his dark approach to family and psychology, he brings us to world where literature, personal demons and reality collide.

Lily Dominick is a forensic psychiatrist who is brilliant at what she does because it’s all she does. Throwing herself into her work with the criminally insane, she is driven and stoic-the result of a tragic family and personal history. Her usual day at the forensic psychiatric center is changed when she is alerted to a patient who has committed a violent crime and awaits her assessment. This patient, known only as client 46874-A, reveals to her that not only did he know her dead mother, but he is also her father. This is alarming to Lily since her mother fell to a violent death, the details of which escaped her for years as well as no memory of her absent father. When this strange patient escapes and starts to pick off people in Lily’s life, she embarks on a global journey where she finds out more about this mysterious man we come to know as Michael and his outrageous claims to be the inspiration for classic horror writers and their creations. Compelled by this menace she tries to stay ahead of his terrifying abilities while seeking the truth about his connection to her, and stop his mad killing spree.

Pyper has created an interesting mythology with the character of Michael. He is a combination of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula, with a demonic element that overrides the romantic aspect of these tortured monsters. It’s certainly a different approach to appreciating the classics. He reminded me of the HBO series Penny Dreadful, but with a modern twist, especially with the steam punk inspired accoutrements that Michael uses to drain his prey of blood. He’s a character you at times sympathize with as he recounts battles with his evil nature, but his ultimate arrogance becomes his worst burden. Snippets of his journals are fascinating and I had hopes that his back story would play more center stage, but that was left to our main character, Lily.

Lily’s is independent and strong which I enjoyed about her, but she was also my least favourite of Pyper’s characters. Her judgement was questionable and her sexual impulses were at times unwarranted and hollow in most situations, especially as she envisaged having sex with almost all the men she met, including Michael. This was a little surprising as Pyper’s female characters have been more well-rounded in the past. I’m not sure if it was his intention to show Michael’s supernatural power over her, or some sort of sexual dysfunction, or to show her sexual freedom as a modern woman, but I can’t imagine sexual encounters would be on the mind of a woman running for her life. He did however, succeed with her emotional turmoil, her memories of her mother’s death and her coping mechanism of being a workaholic. Between Michael and Lily, you may find yourself hoping the monster prevails instead of his prey since sadly, he is far more interesting.

While it may not find a firm footing, The Only Child is still within the literary realm that Pyper enjoys exploring. With a gothic/modern espionage feel that may not be a familiar place for his readers, it’s still worth checking out for an interesting villain brought to life from the pages of Shelley, Stoker and Stevenson. Here’s hoping there’s a compelling prequel in store.

Friday the 13th and the Darkside Tour II: Highway of Horror!

Published March 15, 2015 by rmpixie

For my Friday the 13th festivities, I went to The Darkside Tour II: Highway of Horror V.I.P. Elle Canada Man Event to celebrated the latest works of two Canadian horror authors.  It was an intimate affair where a small audience got to listen to a couple of guys talk about writing.  You might pass them on the street, perhaps pushing strollers or carrying a six-pack of beer; two regular guys who happen to write the most disturbing things.  Those regular guys are best-selling, award-winning authors Nick Cutter (a pseudonym for Craig Davidson) and Andrew Pyper, and they spent the evening talking about their latest books, inspirations, and horror.  Hosted by Elle Canada’s Features Editor Aliyah Shamser, it proved to be a fun, insightful night.

wpid-20150315_134841.jpg

My autographed copies!

 

Nick Cutter’s first book, The Troop, made me physically cringe as I read it.  The story about a boy scout camping trip that goes horribly wrong after a man dies at their cabin was equally heart-wrenching and gruesome, in fact, I don’t think I’ve read such graphically described scenes in a long time.  Cutter was modest but spoke with a heart-felt eloquence about horror to open the event, telling us that to him, “fears are like fingerprints”; unique to each person and that it is “profoundly un-grippable”, living invisibly behind the written word.  He lauded the likes of Stephen King and Shirley Jackson as sources of inspiration, particularly King’s Salem’s Lot for creating an incredible sense of dread.  Cutter described himself as a sort of mechanic, taking apart fears and building his own engine, but at the same time, not re-inventing the wheel because there are some things, like isolation, that will always scare us.  Another key element for him is to make sure the reader ultimately cares about the characters in order to fully realize the horror in the story.  His new novel, The Deep, broached the subject of loss-loss of memory and of loved ones- as characters battle a strange plague, and is essentially about the main character dealing with the loss of his son amidst the horror.

For Pyper, horror is deeply personal, and like an attraction, inexplicable and organic.  He got my attention after I read and reviewed the Demonologist where a man races to save his daughter from a demon.  I couldn’t put it down, because as Cutter mentioned before, I cared about those characters.  I followed by reading The Killing Circle, a creeping, slow-build of a story about a would-be writer who ends up in a writing workshop leading to obsession, mystery and murder, so I was thrilled to hear of his next book, The Damned.  In this latest horror read, a twin whose near-death experience resulted in hauntings by his dead sister for years, has to face her vengeful spirit when he finally finds love.  Pyper’s inspiration came from books about the afterlife and near death experiences, but his interests lay in the “boiler room” instead of the “penthouse”, namely, Hell.  He thought about what his underworld would look like, and wanted it to be based in realism, so he placed his characters in Detroit which to him, had many similarities to Dante’s Inferno.  He also created a unique, character-driven way to illustrate Heaven and Hell.  Add his fascination for the relationship between twins, and he found he had pieced together a patchwork of sorts that became the novel.

Nick Cutter (left) and Andrew Pyper discussing horror.

Nick Cutter (left) and Andrew Pyper discussing horror.

During the question and answer segment, they shared their thoughts about being called a horror writer, and whether they have had a lifelong love of horror.  For Cutter, his parents were just happy he was reading, so he started reading mostly “inappropriate” things for kids, like Stephen King, but horror was his first love.  He embraced being called a horror writer because he felt the genre has always been marginalized, and he would never run from that title because horror is a fundamental part of his life (Hear, hear! I resisted a “Whoot!” and a fist-pump when he said this).  Pyper read a variety of fiction, but he was surprised by the amount of emotion involved with horror and how investing in the stories brought thrills.  Pyper never really thought of the title “horror writer”, he just wrote.  He too would embrace the title but really didn’t care about what category he fit into.  I love this because Pyper, who earned an M.A. in English Literature and a Law degree, defied the status quo by ending up doing what he loved, and obviously what he was meant to do.

They also talked about how fear changes with age.  Fear for one’s own well-being changes with the addition of children, and for both writers it became a fear of their kids and loved ones coming to any harm. When asked why horror seemed to become more shameful as we age, Pyper aptly described how he felt culture generated a social hierarchy in regards to what people read, and ultimately a fear of enjoying yourself; and Cutter added that there should be no shame for what you enjoy, that they as writers, and their audience, should never apologize for what they do.

I got a chance to ask Cutter about a particular scene in The Troop, where characters kill a turtle because they are starving.  It is probably one of the most disturbing passages I have ever read, so much so that I had to hug my cat after reading it.  My impression of Cutter after I read that scene was of pure admiration, so I asked him how he mustered up the courage to write it.  He told me that he had actually gotten a lot of flack for it and was accused online of hating animals.  As a horror writer, he wanted to explore what would break him, and as an animal lover and owner of 2 cats, this was it.  He had to imagine what it would be like for two hungry kids on the brink.  I applaud him for going to the darkest places and writing such memorable, gut-wrenching scenes.

Pyper was grateful for the support of his readers and meeting him was super exciting for me and a check off of my bucket list.  For him this book launch seemed bittersweet as he mentioned in a tweet earlier that day and at the event, The Damned was the first book his parents weren’t there to see as they had passed before it was published.  For those of us who have had to bury our parents, some before their time, it is a thought that will strike you during moments of accomplishment, and makes the things you do and strive for so much more important.

Both writers were engaging, down-to-earth, and so funny they had the audience in stitches with descriptions of the tour, their unique fans, the writing process and their surprise at success.  They were lovely to meet and grateful for all their fans, colleagues, family and friends who came out, and I highly suggest you add them to your reading list.  Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for my reviews on their latest books.

If you missed this event don’t fret!  Check out the links below to see their next appearances and events, as well their bios!

http://darksidetour.ca/

The next event at the Toronto Public Library will be on April 2, 2015 and it’s free!!

http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?Entt=RDMEVT184403&R=EVT184403

 

http://www.craigdavidson.net/

http://www.andrewpyper.com/

http://www.simonandschuster.ca/

 

Book Review: The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

Published March 26, 2013 by rmpixie

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper
Simon & Schuster, March 2013

 

When I was in university, I despised every minute of it.  I could count the professors with a touch of humanity on one hand.  Most of them walked around campus like pompous zombies; tenure wrapped around their jowls like a comforting scarf.  I remember studying John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and I was somewhat interested, but the drone of the zombie profs made me want to scratch my eyes out.  Thankfully, Mr. Pyper has renewed my interest in that centuries old poem with his new novel The Demonologist.  It gets new life as the core to this story, acting as a guide to a horrific journey for one man and his daughter.

David Ullman is a professor of English, with a specialty in mythology, religion and Milton’s Paradise Lost.  He is also an expert on demons, but is a self-proclaimed “atheist biblical scholar”.  He seems lost in life and lacks faith in most things.  His marriage is ending, he has a sympathetic best friend Elaine who worries about his mental state, and he is tethered only by his daughter, Tess.  She is the one person that understands his distant, blocked state, and their bond is unquestionable.  One afternoon, he is approached by a mysterious woman who offers him a consulting job.  No real details, just an all expenses paid trip to Venice, a large advance and an address where he is to observe a “phenomenon”.  Ullman decides at the last-minute to take the offer and heads off with Tess to the ancient city, attempting to distract the both of them from an almost certain divorce.  There, he is witness to a harrowing experience of demonic possession, and the unfortunate loss of his daughter to a bizarre, seemingly suicidal end.  He is haunted by the knowledge that he must find his daughter whom he believes to be still alive, and to do so must piece together a puzzle with the help of Milton’s epic poem and a wily, arrogant demon.   And so begins Ullman’s journey where he is forced to deal with personal, literal, and literate demons.

This was the first book in a long time that I read cover to cover in one sitting. It was also the first book I’ve read by this author.  For me, it combined all the elements of a good story:  a road trip (albeit it from Hell), soul-searching (literally), and chasing the devil. Pyper writes with a sophistication that is veiled in simplicity. He created images that were immediate, intense and eerie. I thought the use of Paradise Lost as a moral and literal road map was genius, and it also helped me understand the poem and make it relevant again.  The reviews of this book claimed that the story would scare you silly, but I found that melancholy resonated more for me than fear.  I got David’s displacement from the real world; how he buried family tragedy for decades and the only way he was able to deal with it was through a literal fight or flight deal.  I also loved the relationship between David and his best friend Elaine.  They were a constant comfort to each other, and they revealed a love that would go light years beyond the physical.  David’s character had a likeability and an endearing tenacity once he was backed into the proverbial corner that gave the age-old good versus evil an interesting spin.  It was more like flatline versus evil, and once the devil lit a fire under him, so to speak, we finally got a pulse.  Tough way to realize you’re alive, but hey, whatever it takes!

Andrew Pyper also gets a nod from me because he is a Canuck.  More accurately, he lives in my home town Toronto.  And there are reports that The Demonologist will be adapted for the big screen in the future.  I am curious how the movie will translate, but I don’t think it will be difficult, since I found the book to be quite vivid.  Pyper brings us a great, creepy story that infuses life into the horror novel genre, and hopefully the movie theatres soon.  Read it!

http://www.andrewpyper.com/

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