Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Darker Than You Think -- After 30 years, a master continues to inspire

I love learning authors' backstory and what inspired them to write, so when the prolific thriller and romantic suspense author Rebecca York explained to Kiss of Death Chapter members that Author Jack Williamson inspired her to pen words to paper, I couldn't resist. I immediately ordered the talked-about novel DARKER THAN YOU THINK. It's been a tremendous learning experience, not just about the story itself, but about the author.

Darker Than You Think is the story of WILL BARBEE, a heavy drinking newspaper reporter assigned to cover the story of an archaeological teams' mysterious dig in the Gobi Desert. When Dr. Mondrick Lamarck and his team of scientists deplane, Will and a rival reporter APRIL BELL are there among other members of the press to meet the archaeologists at the airport. The team carries with them a mysterious trunk, but instead of being excited about what's in it, they're afraid -- intensely so. When Dr. Mondrick, the leader of the expedition, tries to explain what they found in the desert, which includes a secret enemy awaiting the coming of the "Child of the Night," he falls dead at reporters' feet, the apparent victim of a heart attack.

As for April Bell, a fellow reporter Will should see as his opposition, he finds he is intensely attracted to her, even though he senses she might have had something to do with Dr. Mondrick's death. As maddening dreams invade his waking life, and old friends start to die one after the other, Will stumbles onto a semihuman breed of shapeshifters who are waging an ancient war in the name of the Child of the Night.

For anyone who loves paranormal, Jack Williamson deftly combines elements of witchcraft, vampires and shapeshifters. His research, which includes history, archeology and probability and statistics was so realistic, I found myself wishing I'd built up my silver collection.

John Stewart Williamsom (April 29, 1908 - Nov 10, 2006) died at the age of 98. He was referred to as the "Dean of Science Fiction." The author of numerous science fiction and horror books, he was also a professor emeritus at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. In the 1950s he was presented by with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Horror Writers Association.

Author Rebecca York wasn't the only author inspired by Jack Williamson. Williams' work has influenced bestselling work of writers like Stephen King and Anne Rice for decades. To think I might never have read him without Ms. York's recommendation. Thank you!

To Laura Hayden of Author! Author! thanks for scrambling to find this book for me. The original copyright was 1940 by Street & Smith Publications, renewed copyright in 1948 by Jack Williamson and the Introduction and copyright of my version says 1999 by Douglas E. Winter. It also has fantastic illustrations, copyright 1984 by David G. Klein. I wanted readers to see the cover. The one I found on line is okay, but I'm partial to the one Laura got for me (sorry, taken from my digital camera.) And I can't tell you how cool the illustrations are (but they too are copyrighted). Further my copy is not for sale.

Darker Than You Think is an outstanding book and outstanding teaching reference for anyone writing paranormal or studying craft in general.


Liz Lipperman said...

Wow! Who would have guessed they had shape-shifters way back then. Isn't it amazing how one person's writing could have influenced so many other writers. Maybe one day someone will be blogging about one of our stories like this!!!

Thanks for sharing Donnell.

Edie Ramer said...

I'm going to see if I can get this book from any of my local libraries. It sounds like it has everything. And good writing too.

Autumn Jordon said...

I'm with Liz. Learning shape-shifters were popular decades ago was very interesting.

And Edie had a great idea. Our library keeps books forever.

Thanks for the post.

Donnell said...

Liz, wouldn't that be cool.

Edie, highly recommend. Williamson truly had the combined gift of education, description and storytelling at his disposal. I will tell you I think I know where Stephen King coined the phrase, "if you see an adverb, kill it." I found myself mentally editing them out as I read. Great investment in reading time in my opinion.

Donnell said...

AJ, I wish I were a librarian right now and could see the numbers ;) Please let me know if you agree with me once you've read him.

VR Barkowski said...

Thanks for the great review, Donnell. I'd never heard of Jack Williamson, but was intrigued enough by your review to track down a copy at a Alibris. I'll let you know what I think!

Donnell said...

Viva, you'll have to let me know how you like it. I don't think it's a fluke the man could have been granted so many honors in Science Fiction and Horror for just one book, do you?

Wendel Sloan said...

I work at Eastern New Mexico University and knew jack Williamson well. Not only is our liberal arts building named after him, but we have a science fiction library within our university library named after him. It has all of his works, as well as science fiction works (including many original manuscripts) from numerous other writers. We also have an annual science fiction lectureship named after Jack Williamson.

Donnell said...

Mr. Sloan: I'm so excited you wrote. I saw that in my reading about Mr. Williamson. I grew up in Farmington and attended NMSU. I would have given anything to meet him. He sounds like a fantastic person as well as one who has a stellar imagination. Thanks for sharing. As you can see, he still has an audience. All best. Donnell