There are a few moments in a writer's life that stand out as landmarks. Holding that first published book in your hands is one of them. The first check is nice, too. Then as each successive book is published, getting it and turning it around, looking at the binding, examining the cover--these are all special, wonderful experiences. Something that you wrote, someone else cared enough about to edit and publish and now it's not just an idea but a thing, solid and real. The joy that accompanies each new book's publication is not quite the same as that first time, but it's still significant. That, and the feedback from readers, is why we keep doing this.
Tuesday I had another such moment, when the first novel of mine to be released in a signed, limited, hardcover collector's edition showed up in the mail. The DarkFuse edition of Season of the Wolf is a thing of beauty, with beautiful endpapers that complement the wraparound cover (featuring the same front cover art that's on the trade paperback edition).
That book was only sold to those who subscribe to DarkFuse's limited editions program, so it's not generally available (although if enough people enter the contest, it'll become one of the prizes).
But Season of the Wolf was only the beginning, and this time, everybody has a shot.
Back in 2005-2008, I wrote a very loosely linked trilogy of supernatural thrillers/horror novels. What these books had in common was setting and theme--the area of the US/Mexico border, in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, and some of the issues revolving around that particular landscape. The novels, River Runs Red, Missing White Girl, and Cold Black Hearts, were published in mass market paperback by Penguin's Jove imprint. Penguin is one of the world's biggest publishers, so I was glad to have made the deal and to get the books out there.
But being one of the world's biggest publishers means that to Penguin, the books were small potatoes. They didn't immediately land on the New York Times bestseller list, and the attention Penguin paid to them, post-publication, was essentially nil. More people haven't read them than have, despite generally favorable reviews and attention.
So when I got the rights back, I took them to DarkFuse and asked if they'd be interested. They were. I went over each book again, doing some updating, fixing things that were wrong, generally coming up with "author's preferred" texts. DarkFuse's Dave Thomas gave each one a thorough edit. Cover artist Frank Walls did a bang-up job, actually reading the books and creating striking covers that really capture the contents.
This summer, the books will be available again, in a fantastic limited edition set, packaged in an exclusive slipcase. Each book will contain brand-new material: in one case, a new introduction talking about the trilogy and border life, and in the other two cases, new short stories featuring the books' central characters. You can read about this set here. It sounds amazing. It sounds like another of those moments in a writer's life.
I am, as the Beatles sang, primarily a paperback writer. To have my books get this kind of treatment is indescribably fulfilling.
I know the set's pricey, and I appreciate every single reader who's willing to shell out hard-earned money for my work. Any books you can buy on the installment plan are on the high side. In River Runs Red, I recounted some aspects of a conversation I once had with the late great writer/naturalist/contrarian Edward Abbey, who--speaking about a book I'd had him sign for me--said of its price, "most of my friends can't afford it, and my enemies wouldn't want it."
The same applies here. But I'm hoping that my friends, my fans, my readers, will recognize that these are books they'll be able to have on their shelves for a lifetime, pass down to their children, enjoy forever. These aren't throwaway paperbacks (or worse, ebooks that have no physical presence and that you're only renting, not actually buying).
River Runs Red:
"Based on actual government programs, Jeffrey Mariotte's River Runs Red is a fascinating blend of espionage and the occult with several jaw-dropping plot twists and one of the best action sequences I've read in a long time."
--David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE and CREEPERS
"In River Runs Red, Jeff Mariotte seamlessly weaves our modern and ancient terrors into a breathless, fascinating novel of magic, murder, and friendship. Mariotte's one hell of a writer, and this is his best work yet!"
--Christopher Golden, author of THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN
"From creation to the apocalypse by way of El Paso: Jeffrey J. Mariotte lures you out onto the surface of a real world that cracks like thin ice, plunging you into the bizarre. More than anything, River Runs Red reminds me of smart, literate video games like "Fear Effect" and "Indigo Prophecy," where you start out investigating a murder and end up trying to save the universe."
--Andrew Klavan, author of EMPIRE OF LIES
"A brisk and twisting thriller that builds to an intense climax. Mariotte stirs a rich cast of characters into his wicked black kettle, dashes in some supernatural spice, and serves up a satisfying stew. Mariotte delivers once again."
--Scott Nicholson, author of THEY HUNGER
“With a cast of monsters and madmen, psychics and government spooks, ghosts and (yes) gods, River Runs Red is a thriller of apocalyptic proportions. Mariotte's latest reads like a clock-slamming game of fastblitz supernatural chess played out on a board stretching from the dungeons of Iraq to the deserts of the American Southwest. With an endgame fought on the dark rivers of the human soul, it’s a battle at once mythic and personal... and a surefire checkmate for readers everywhere.”
--Norman Partridge, author of DARK HARVEST
“Mariotte can flat out write. This is a smart, fast, terrific read. This river runs.”
--Don Winslow, author of SAVAGES and THE DAWN PATROL
"There used to be a time when you couldn’t escape from mass-market paperback horror and most of it was not worth your time. Mariotte keeps you entertained and gives your gray cells something to chew on while they're helping you manufacture monsters in your mind's big-screen, surround-sound theater. ... Nowadays, you can escape from horror fiction; but don’t let this horror fiction escape from you."
--Rick Kleffel, trashotron.com
"Mariotte has created an entertaining, fast-paced tale of supernatural danger that takes as many twists and turns as a river ride... and, like most great rides, it picks up breathtaking speed toward the end. Fans of the unconventional in supernatural thrillers will enjoy this book."
--Drew Bittner, sfrevu.com
Missing White Girl:
"Missing White Girl is frequently enthralling. Mariotte hits upon some fascinating topics, including those of immigration and the Border Patrol, Mexican and American patriotism, and the terrible things people will do when they feel maligned and desperate. He throws in just enough grit and gore to appease action junkies, but doesn't use it as an easy selling point to the Saw crowd. But his true masterpiece is Buck Shelton. In his hero, he's crafted one of the finest new sleuths in fiction: a very real man who finds solace in the challenges of his job when things get rough at home, who isn't so hardened that a dead family of four can still shake him to the core--and who isn't afraid to make solving a crime a little bit personal. It would be a pleasure to see Buck again."
--Julia Ramey, Tucson Weekly
"Offers a gripping supernatural thriller while weaving an insightful commentary about race and class on the U.S./Mexico border."
--Xavier Zaragosa, Daily Dispatch (Douglas, AZ)
Cold Black Hearts:
"You will keep reading, though. This is Mariotte's great talent: His writing hooks you, and you just have to see how things end. And Annie, much in the vein of the maverick lady investigators and interrogators that populate cable television, is sassy, interesting and smart—and not afraid to risk her reputation, her relationships or even her life to get to the bottom of something."
--Julia Ramey, Tucson Weekly
"You won’t find the excesses in this novel that you would see in most small press horror or even some of the newer mass market releases; it seems that Mariotte prefers to present his horror laden with atmosphere and emotion rather than the grotesque. That’s not to imply that there isn’t plenty of action and some vivid descriptions of carnage to be found in these pages, there is, but it doesn’t feel exploitive. It is the strength of Mariotte’s writing that initially keep the readers turning the pages and it’s the bond he manages to form between the reader and Annie that keeps us interested until the end. I would recommend Cold Black Hearts to all fans of horror and dark fiction."
--TT Zuma, HorrorWorld.org
That's some high praise. But so is having a publisher willing to take the shot and put out editions like these. I'm honored, and humbled.