Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Books Piece: Rabid Child by Pete Risley


Available from New Pulp Press http://www.newpulppress.com/titles/rabid_child/

From Pete Risley:

*Rabid Child* was written over a number of years, and repeatedly set aside
for long periods of time in favor of (somewhat) less unpleasant fiction
projects of mine. My unease over *Rabid Child* has been mostly because of
the nature of the main character, a young man named Desmond Cray. Desmond,
to put it mildly, is less than cuddly. You'll have to read the book to see
what I mean. I invented Desmond, but somehow he developed in a way that
disturbed me.

In fact, it's Desmond's unsavory qualities that make *Rabid Child* a good
fit for New Pulp Press. From the NPP website: *"Veering away from the
assumption that a protagonist must be a sympathetic character, our books are
centered around con-men, losers, and sociopaths." *

The final, published version of *Rabid Child* is written in third person,
and told entirely from Desmond's point of view. But at times, in the course
of writing the thing, I got so creeped out by Desmond that I kept trying to
find different ways to 'get some distance' on him. For instance, I found I
was inclined as I wrote to step away from his viewpoint to make what are
known as 'authorial comments' about him, a no-no in the eyes of many readers
(and editors) today. As an alternative to that, I considered having some
chapters of the story told from the viewpoints of secondary characters.
However, I judged after some efforts along this line that it wasn't going to
work. I was stuck with Desmond. And he does get 'sticky' in more senses than

As for crime-fiction influences, I read some Mickey Spillane novels when I
was a kid in the early '70's, around the same time I was reading, say,
Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut and whatever else caught my fancy. I
believe the first Spillane I read was actually *Day of the Guns*, not a Mike
Hammer novel, but a spy thriller featuring Tiger Mann. I enjoyed this
and the other '60's - early '70's Spillane stuff I read (including *The Body
Lovers, The Twisted Thing, Survival - Zero! *and* The Erection Set*) though
I had a notion that I shouldn't, and was inclined to tell girls in granny
glasses whom I wished to impress that I liked, umm, Brautigan and Vonnegut.

A bit later, I read Chandler, Hammett, James M. Cain, Horace McCoy, and
discovered that I not only preferred them to Spillane, I tended to get more
engaged with their work than with some other types of fiction I sampled,
like say, the novels of John Barth and John Updike.

Then in the early '80's, I read the critical study *Hardboiled America* by
Geoffrey O'Brien, and became very intrigued with the whole idea of
tough paperback original writers like Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Cornell
Woolrich, Charles Williams, and all those guys. I scarfed up an early '80's
reprint of Thompson's *The Killer Inside Me*, and soon was smitten with
that. When I learned that a company in the UK called Zomba Books was putting
out a line of reprints of works by some of these American writers, titled
'Black Box Thrillers.' I went to some trouble to acquire copies through the
mail from a bookstore in NYC (I live in Columbus, Ohio.) Shortly after,
Black Lizard started publishing reprints of swell titles as well, some
by writers I hadn't heard of before. After awhile, crime fiction of this
sort became my favorite stuff, and I decided I wanted to try and write some
of it myself.

All these years later, *Rabid Child* is the first-published result of my
enthusiasm and my efforts. It's definitely unfair to reach 'way back and
blame it all on Mickey Spillane, but one thing I've learned from crime
fiction is that dead guys make excellent scapegoats. So, if anyone puts me
on the spot and asks how I could write about a character so horrid as this
Desmond Cray, I'll just reply *"It was easy."*



Deb said...

Dude, that cover is creeping me out!

Also, isn't the "rabid child" a male? Seems odd, in light of the conversation with the author, that the choice would be a female on the cover--implying that she's the "rabid" one.

pete r said...

Hey Deb, thanks for asking. I wrote the novel, such as it is (actually, I like it, but frankly it's a little raw. It's my first novel.) I got the title from an old song by They Might Be Giants, off their first album. At the time, I was trying to think of a variant on 'wild child' for a title. The 'rabid child' could be any or all of three characters in the story. - pete r.