Because of the way Rich Duncan and I divided the intros to these posts completely randomly and with little thought, I’m delighted that one of mine turned to be this author. Richard Thomas is a guy whose work I’ve been covering literally since the beginning, and he’s been a dedicated supporter, helping me to gain access to books that I didn’t then have the “street cred” to have earned yet. But Richard apparently had some faith in me and lent me a hand that helped me to get the ball rolling. There are two things in this overview of his story “Ring of Fire” that should make you sit up and take notice. One of them is making a reader like a bad person, and the other is magical realism. As to the first, he’s a fucking master of it. His protagonist in Disintegration was a very bad man who commits some heinous and horrific acts throughout the book, yet all the same, I loved the hell out of him. I think that was because of Richard’s authorial voice and his alacrity with backstory, but I don’t know. Read it and see for yourself. And when I think of magical realism and the movement we call neo-noir, his is a name that pops instantly, unbidden, into my mind. The man has a marvelous eye for curating such material and a fucking exemplary ability to write it. So yes. If you aren’t yet excited about Richard’s inclusion in a book about the Seven Deadly Sins, get that way. When Mr. Thomas is in the mix, it’s always a good indicator that you’re in for one hell of an unexpected venture of discovery.
Richard Thomas Tackles the Sin of Lust in “Ring of Fire”
A lot of what I’m writing these days is trying to elevate the prose I write, take the horror stories I tell in new, exciting directions. You can see what’s happening on television, as well as in film, the way that directors and writers are no longer relying on old tropes, classic formulas to scare us. We are way beyond the jump scares, right? When I think about films like Hereditary and The Witch and Suspiria for example, I look at the way that these stories manipulate us, the psychological horror—the tension, and release.
I tell my students that the three hardest things to do are make us laugh, turn us on, and scare us. It’s all so subjective. What makes one person laugh, another will find stupid. What gets us excited, physically—well there’s a whole range of physical, emotional, and mental images and techniques that get us going, a world of kinks out there. It’s the same with horror—the unknown, the foreshadowing, the terror, and then the release, the confirmation.
Without spoiling my story, I knew that I had my work cut out by trying to get you to like a guy that in the end, is not a good man. But that was essential—it had to be this type of person, in order for there to be a catalyst for change. I worked with similar themes in my second novel Disintegration—can there be room in this world for a man that has lost it all and turned into a hired assassin, as well as my third novel, Breaker (nominated for a Thriller Award) which asks us how a serial killer is made—nature or nurture or both, and can that fate be changed?
These days you don’t have to look far to see how lust and anger can lead to some horrific outcomes. We see it in the entitlement of men, those that feel women owe them something, in the rape and violence that erupts when they are rejected. It’s terrifying.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve shifted away from violence and death in my work, toward something more optimistic. I tried to replace death with love, at the center of my stories. That has helped me write more magical realism, and unknowingly, tap into the whole “hopepunk” movement, before it even got started. I have eight stories coming out this year, including work in Cemetery Dance, and while I do still tap into some classic horror tropes and revelations, for the most part, I’m pushing in some new directions. I think this story is a perfect example of the kind of work that I’m trying to do right now. I want you to feel a wide range of emotions, more than just horror, but also, for the journey to be worth it, the sights that are seen, the trauma and tragedy worth wading through, ending someplace that is beyond the darkness, leading back up into the light.
Buy The Seven Deadliest from Amazon.
Follow along with the series:
- Episode 1 – “Fools Gold, My Dance With Avarice” by John C. Foster
- Episode 2 – “Righteous Anger” by Bracken MacLeod
- Episode 3 – “The Original Deadly Sin” by Kasey Lansdale
- Episode 4 – “When Good Deeds Turn Deadly” by Brian Kirk
- Episode 5 – “The Hazards of a Restless Spirit” by Rena Mason