Four Questions With… Chris F. Holm

If the name Chris F. Holm is attached to a book or a short story, I want to read it.

Photo by Jacques FilippiHis Collector trilogy (DEAD HARVEST, THE WRONG GOODBYE and THE BIG REAP) is an amazing twist on the age-old battle between heaven and hell: Holm recast it as a series of pulp novels packed with characters you care about, action you don’t want to end, and plots so intense it feels like the fate of the world hangs in the balance. (Because, you know, it does.)

If you didn’t notice from the titles of the Collector novels, each of which is a play on a classic crime novel, Holm’s not afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve. Reading his work, it’s also clear that he loves words and language.

In addition to the Collector books, Holm has penned many short stories. (In fact, at the time of this posting, he’s offering both of his solo short story collections for free. Seriously.)

Soon (but not soon enough for my tastes), Holm will branch out in another direction. THE KILLING KIND, his first non-Collector novel, will be published by Mulholland Books.

It’s not yet known exactly when THE KILLING KIND will be published, but hopefully we’ll be reading it by… well, let’s see what the author can tell us. Here are Four Questions With… Chris F. Holm.

We know THE KILLING KIND is a crime thriller, it’ll be published by Mulholland Books, it’s part of a two-book deal, and it has something to do with a hitman killing hitmen. What else can you say, and more importantly, when can we read it?

THE KILLING KIND was inspired by my short story “The Hitter,” which first appeared in Needle Magazine a few years back, and wound up reprinted in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011.

Most of my short stories come in at under 5,000 words. That one landed at 11,000, but when I finished it, I had this nagging feeling there was a lot of story left to tell. Rather than simply flesh it out, though, I wanted to rebuild it from the ground up. The result is a sprawling third-person novel that shares some DNA with the claustrophobic first-person short from whence it sprang, but differs in both tone and plot. Here’s the elevator pitch:

THE KILLING KIND is the story of Michael Hendricks. Once a covert operative for a false-flag unit of the US military, Hendricks was presumed dead after a mission in Afghanistan went sideways. Now he makes his living as a hitman entrepreneur of sorts who only hits other hitmen. For ten times the price on your head, he’ll make sure whoever’s coming to kill you winds up in the ground instead. Not a bad way for a guy with his skill-set to make a living – but an even better way to make himself a target.

As for when it’ll be available, I confess I’ve no idea. If I had to guess, I’d say next fall [2015], but it’d truly be a guess, and a blind one at that. The fact is, this book sold quick, and news of the deal followed shortly after, so the dust is still settling.

Dead HarvestBased on Sam Thornton in your Collector novels and what we know of Michael Hendricks in THE KILLING KIND, it seems safe to say you gravitate toward anti-heroes. Is that a conscious decision, or something that just flows naturally?

A bit of both, I guess. On the surface, issues of morality seem pretty black and white, but people are messy, contradictory creatures who — with few exceptions — exist somewhere in the vast gray middle. We’re defined by our choices. Our actions. Our mistakes. Our regrets. The lies we tell ourselves. And by and large, I think my characters reflect that.

That’s the flows-naturally answer. Here’s the conscious-decision part. Good guys are good. Bad guys are bad. Even if you set aside the fact that both are archetypes rather than fully fleshed characters, you’re still left with the issue that their fundamental nature makes them predictable, and limits the sorts of stories you can tell with them. I prefer to keep my readers guessing.

The Collector books are great fun. Any chance we’ll see more of Sam in the future?

The Big ReapThanks very much! I’m glad people have enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. As for whether there will ever be another…

I conceived of the Collector books as an open-ended series. My publisher, it seemed, had other plans. They marketed the third book, THE BIG REAP, as “The conclusion to the brilliant Collector series.” At present, I’m not contracted to write another.

While I’m pleased with where the arc ended — and, in fact, always intended the first three books to stand as a trilogy of sorts — I think there’s plenty of story left to tell. One day, maybe, I’ll get the chance to continue Sam’s tale, but today is not that day.

As a professional molecular biologist, you must have a deeply analytical mind. So, what’s the best tattoo you have?

Hmm. Good question. Fact is, in fifteen years of getting tattooed, I don’t regret a single one. But if I had to pick a favorite… I’d cheat and select two.

My half-sleeve of autumn leaves, done by Steve Chambers of Halcyon Tattoo, is probably my favorite in terms of artistry. And I have a swallow on my left forearm, done by Phuc Tran at Tsunami, that I quite like for its symbolism. Swallows are typically tattooed in pairs, and symbolize loyalty, fidelity, and safe return home. My swallow’s mate is on my wife Katrina’s shoulder.

One comment

  1. The Killing Kind sounds ace. I really look forward to that. I read a short story this week by Chris called ‘The Lizard’s Ardent Uniform’ in a collection of the same name. It’s a great piece that has a great atmosphere and sense of unease – well worth checking out.

    Thanks.

    Like

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