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The Collector Influences, A Guest Post from Chris F. Holm

The Collector 101: A Syllabus

My Collector series – which recasts the battle between heaven and hell as Golden Era crime pulp – is in many ways a synthesis of my own nerdy obsessions, from PI novels and secret histories to religious conspiracies, with the occasional dash of tentacle-y existential horror thrown in for good measure. So I thought for this guest post, I’d talk about five books that together sketch out the recipe for this crazy word-soup of mine. They are, in no particular order…

RED HARVEST by Dashiell Hammett

This one’s a no-brainer, right? 

I mean, it’s pretty clear I stole ol’ Dash’s title for my first book in the series, DEAD HARVEST. 

Because RED HARVEST is, in my humble opinion, the greatest hard boiled novel ever written.
  It, like DEAD HARVEST, features a nameless operative embroiled in a frame-up, and forced to clean up a corrupt system against its will – but of course, Hammett’s Continental Op is a detective and not an undead collector of souls.

 Despite being published in 1929, this book is still tough and thrilling as they come. Though not as famous as Hammett’s THE THIN MAN or THE MALTESE FALCON, I’d place it at the top of any crime-fic reading list.

THE LONG GOODBYE by Raymond Chandler

Again with the title-theft. 
To my mind, Chandler and Hammett are the twin gods of hard boiled crime fiction. 
 Hammett, who for a time was a private investigator himself, was the real deal: the guy who told it like it was. Chandler, on the other hand, was the poet; the man could write a sentence like no other. 

And those familiar with my second Collector novel, THE WRONG GOODBYE, will no doubt recognize the themes of friendship and betrayal Chandler explores in this book, widely regarded to be his best.

THE DIVINE COMEDY by Dante Alighieri

I confess, I’m not a big reader of poetry, nor of classic literature, but Dante for me is a big exception. 

My series owes so much to Dante, from his nuanced and terrifying conception of hell to the beacon of hope that is his own lost love, Beatrice, who died some years before he began this work, and appears as a radiant symbol of comfort and absolution within its pages. 
Dante’s reputation needs no burnishing, particularly from the lowly likes of me, but I will say this: this is one great work I truly enjoy revisiting every chance I get.


Lovecraft was a complicated man, a paranoid shut-in whose views on matters of race and class I find beyond distasteful, but whose influence on modern horror and dark fantasy – and, indeed, my own writing – is incalculable. 

He had this incredible knack for tapping into our deepest fears – of the unknown, of the unknowable – in a way that seemed to suggest if we could glimpse the world as it truly was, even only for a second, we’d all go stark raving mad.

 And when I read back the creepiest parts of my own books, I can’t help but see his fingerprints all over them. (As for why I picked this particular collection out of the dozens that are available: this just happens to be the one I own.)

LAST CALL by Tim Powers

If I could pick one book on this list I wish I’d written, this would be the one. 
Reading at once like the best of fantasy and of crime fiction, it tells a tale of luck and fate and chaos theory, centered around one seriously messed-up family and a game of poker played with a Tarot deck for human souls. 

Powers’ kitchen-sink approach to secret history tosses in everything from the founding of Las Vegas to the legend of the Fisher King, and somehow still manages to stick the landing. 

LAST CALL is a magnificent novel by one of the greatest fantasists of all time.

So there you have it: five of my most influential reads. Maybe next time I stop by, we’ll talk movies…

  Hmmm. The dreaded bio.  What to say?  Well, first off, I think we can dispense with the whole third-person thing.  Much as I’d like to pull a Chris F. Holm was born in a cabin he fashioned with his own two hands sort of deal, I’m pretty sure no one’s buying.  So with that in mind, here goes:

I was born in Syracuse, New York, the grandson of a cop with a penchant for crime fiction.  It was the year of punk rock and Star Wars, two influences that to this day hold more sway over me than perhaps my wife would like.  But it was books that defined my childhood, from my grandfather’s Wambaugh and Sanders to the timeworn pulps picked up secondhand from the library.

I wrote my first story at the age of six.  It got me sent to the principal’s office.  I’d like to think that right then is when I decided to become a writer.

Since then, I’ve fared a little better. My stories have appeared in a slew of publications, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Beat to a Pulp, and Thuglit.  My novella “The Hitter” was selected to appear in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011, edited by Harlan Coben and Otto Penzler. I’ve been an Anthony Award nominee, a Derringer Award finalist, and a Spinetingler Award winner.  My Collector novels, DEAD HARVEST and THE WRONG GOODBYE, recast the battle between heaven and hell as Golden Era crime pulp.

I live on the coast of Maine with my lovely wife and a noisy, noisy cat.  When I’m not writing, you can find me on my porch, annoying the crap out of the neighbors with my guitar.

Meet Sam Thornton. He collects souls.

Sam’s job is to collect the souls of the damned, and ensure they are dispatched to the appropriate destination. But when he’s sent to collect the soul of a young woman he believes to be innocent of the horrific crime that’s doomed her to Hell, he says something no Collector has ever said before.


My review (9.5/10)

 Meet Sam Thornton, Collector of Souls.

Because of his efforts to avert the Apocalypse, Sam Thornton has been given a second chance – provided he can stick to the straight-and-narrow.

Which sounds all well and good, but when the soul Sam’s sent to collect goes missing, Sam finds himself off the straight-and-narrow pretty quick.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Missing | Soul Provider | Call Collect | Demon Child 

Chris, thank you very much for a fascinating guest post! 
I thought that Dead Harvest was absolutely amazing and I'd recommend this hard boiled urban fantasy series to anyone.
Go grab the books or put them on your Christmas wishlist, folks, - they are totally worth it! 


Blodeuedd said...

So you did not build a cabin with your own hands, so disappointing ;D

Chris said...

On second thought, you're right: my genius is both uninfluenced and unadulterated. (Think anyone'll buy that?)

And thanks, Karina, for having me by!

kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

It was a pleasure, Chris! Thanks for agreeing to do the post! :)

Ellie said...

I LOVE that the Sam Thornton covers are made to look like old classic SFF.

kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

Me too, Ellie! It's really distinctive that way!

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