For those keeping score at home, Stephen Blackmoore’s new novel Suicide Kings (paperback, Kindle) is the seventh book in his ongoing series of urban fantasy stories about L.A.-based necromancer Eric Carter. But as he explains in the following email interview about it, Suicide Kings is also the beginning of a third trilogy of Eric Carter novels.
Photo Credit: © Kari Blackmoore
For people who didn’t read the first six books, who is Eric Carter, what does he do, and where does he work?
Eric Carter is a modern day necromancer in Los Angeles in a world where mages and monsters exist and do their best to stay off the radar of all the normals out there. To say he’s a cynic is a bit of an understatement. He sees ghosts and has an understanding of all the gruesome ways people die. He doesn’t work per se so much as does favors for people. And though he gets the job done, there’s a good bet it will end badly with a lot of corpses along the way.
And then for people who have read them, and thus have no need to heed my SPOILER WARNING, what is Suicide Kings about, and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the previous novel, Bottle Demon?
Suicide Kings is about Eric reluctantly helping out the heir apparent to one of the most powerful mage families in the world and getting caught up in their psychotic politics. They are nasty, cruel, and they all want the throne. These people make the Borgias look like Leave It To Beaver. When they all come together for a conclave, Eric finds himself in their crosshairs.
A couple books back Eric died. Gutted by a demon. Thing is, he had a deal with the Aztec goddess of the dead Mictecacihuatl to go to Mictlan and take over for her dead husband. Who Eric murdered. They have a complicated relationship.
In Bottle Demon, Eric was resurrected, which he’s not happy about, so he can take out an 8000-year-old djinn that nobody else has a chance of hurting much less destroying. Turns out coming back has him dealing with some existential questions of life, death, and identity.
Suicide Kings takes place a month after Bottle Demon, and he’s really struggling with things. He was essentially a god and now he’s meat. It’s screwing with his mind a bit.
When in the process of writing Bottle Demon did you come up with the idea for Suicide Kings, and what inspired that idea?
I had the idea for the book for a while but couldn’t figure out a good way to do it. Some things I had set up over the course of a few books led to it.
I’m also a huge fan of the movie The Lion In Winter. The family of Henry II come together for Christmas and it is a complete nightmare. They all hate each other so much. It’s beautiful. The dialog is fantastic. I wanted to see if I could capture that feeling. I don’t know that I did. I certainly didn’t write anything that even holds a candle to The Lion In Winter, but I had fun trying.
The other Eric Carter novels have all been noir urban fantasy stories. Is it safe to assume that Suicide Kings is as well?
It’s definitely noir urban fantasy like the other books. But it’s also an English manor murder mystery. Not quite a locked door mystery but close. I wanted to see if I could do something Agatha Christie-ish with brutal violence, buckets of blood, and creative swearing.
So are there any writers or specific stories that had a particularly big influence on Suicide Kings but not on the previous Eric Carter novels?
Not really. I have some books I return to for all of them. Probably the most influential is the neo-noir novel Kiss Me Judas by Will Christopher Baer. I love the voice.
How about non-literary influences; was Suicide Kings influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? You mentioned The Lion In Winter…
Maybe a little Downton Abbey. But just a little.
Now, in the interview we did about Ghost Money, we talked about how while these novels are all stand-alone but connected stories, the first three books formed a trilogy, while Ghost was the middle of a second trilogy that would conclude with Bottle Demon. Is Suicide Kings then the beginning of a new sub-trilogy?
Yes. That’s exactly what I’m doing. Bottle Demon wrapped up a lot of things from the earlier books. If I wanted to, I could have ended the series there and be happy with it. But then there were other stories I wanted to tell, and Eric is a fun character to write, even though his life and worldview is pretty bleak.
The next two in this are Hate Machine coming out September 13th, and then Cult Classic which I’m working on now.
Speaking of Hate Machine, without spoiling anything about Suicide Kings, what happens in Hate?
It turns out that some of the events in Hate Machine have been orchestrated by an old acquaintance of Eric’s in Las Vegas. Eric needs to get a spell to counter some things in Suicide Kings they caused and are the only one who can do it. Eric doesn’t like being manipulated and he really hates Las Vegas but he doesn’t have much choice.
For anyone who’s read my other books the fact that I burn down two casinos in Hate Machine will come as no surprise.
Now, reading seven novels in the same series, any series, back-to-back seems like it would be a bit much. But I’m sure there’s people who’ve considered reading your sub-trilogies back-to-back. Do you think this is a good idea, and thus that people should wait for Cult Classic before reading Suicide Kings and Hate Machine?
They’re relatively short books, so I think you could binge them without wanting to claw your eyeballs out. I don’t think any of them break 100K words, and I wrote them to be read quickly. I like popcorn entertainment, and that’s what I want the Eric Carter books to be: Bleak, dark, neo-noir, but in a fun way.
But would I recommend it? Enh. I think people should read them however they want. Binge them, read them out of order, whatever. I try to make it so that readers don’t have to go to the previous books to get an idea of what’s going on. If a reader finishes the book and still doesn’t understand what the hell happened I’ve done something wrong.
So, is there anything else you think people curious about Suicide Kings should know?
I love writing dialog, particularly banter. And I really enjoyed writing all the sniping that goes on in the book.
Finally, if someone enjoys Suicide Kings, what noir novel of someone else’s that isn’t fantasy would you recommend they read while waiting for Hate Machine to come out?
Nine Tenths. It’s the debut novel of Jeff Macfee and it comes out in May. It’s a superhero noir novel about a guy who repos superhero gear when they can’t make their payments. Imagine the guy who has to repossess the Batmobile or Green Lantern’s ring. It almost sounds silly and it is so not. Such a good book. And Macfee is going to be somebody to watch.