Sunday, June 14, 2009

Joel A. Sutherland

Joel A. Sutherland is a mild-mannered reference librarian by day and a speculative fiction writer and editor by night. He is currently keeping himself busy by completing his Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and by raising his Goldendoodle puppy, Murphy, with wife Colleen.

His novel Frozen Blood was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I’ve just finished reading three of the five First Novel nominees for the 2009 Bram Stoker Award. I was thrilled beyond words when I discovered my own novel, Frozen Blood, had been nominated, and I immediately ordered the other four books. It’s an exciting time in the horror fiction field, with plenty of new and innovative voices breaking into the scene, and the other nominated novels are as riveting as they are different.

First, I read Michael McCarty and Mark McLaughlin’s Monster Behind the Wheel, a freewheeling road trip to Hell and back. It’s about a young man, Jeremy Carmichael, and his seemingly possessed car that is slowly taking over his life. Jeremy has been plagued by accidents and ill fortune his entire life, and things quickly get a whole lot worse. I’m always a little skeptical about collaborative novels, as they can often be clunky and uneven if the authors’ styles don’t mix well, but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The tone never wavers from its darkly comic pitch, and aside from a few too many dreamlike sequences that slowed the story down, I found it to be a quick, entertaining read.

Next, I read Lisa Mannetti’s The Gentling Box, a much quieter, slower-moving novel than the first, which was a welcome change of pace. It takes place in 19th Century Central Europe, and follows a gypsy trader trying to protect his friends and family from a sorcereress’ vengeful curses. It’s incredibly researched, descriptive and vivid. My only complaint was that I sometimes found the characters’ decisions to be slightly unbelievable, but otherwise was enthralled by Mannetti’s writing.

Finally, I read Christopher Conlon’s Midnight on Mourn Street, which was perhaps even slower-moving than The Gentling Box, and yet I couldn’t read fast enough to find out how it all ended. There are no possessed cars in this book, no evil curses, no post-apocalyptic landscapes (as in David Oppegaard’s The Suicide Collectors -- more on that in a moment) and no deadly hailstorms (as in Frozen Blood). The horror in this novel comes from within the guilt-ridden characters: a man with a terrible secret and a young woman with a desire for revenge. It’s a compelling novel, and one that will be hard to forget.

Unfortunately, The Suicide Collectors didn’t arrive in time before I head to the awards banquet in California this weekend, but I plan on picking up a copy from David himself at the event and reading it once life settles back to normal.

I’m honoured to have my own name included on a list alongside these four other first time novelists, and I’ll be looking forward to their next novels.
Read an excerpt from Frozen Blood, and learn more about the author and his work at Joel A. Sutherland's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue