Robert Jackson Bennett’s exquisite debut novel Mr Shivers is tipped to be the horror debut of 2010, and is already causing a media furore. Ahead of its international release this week, SciFiNow caught up with the author and his publisher, Orbit, to find out more.
“Genre-bending (and seriously sinister) are probably the best words to describe Robert Jackson Bennett’s debut novel,” say the Orbit UK team. And simply by reading the book’s synopsis it’s hard not to believe these claims. Set during the Great Depression, in a lawless West ruled by railway men and filled with legions of the desperate poor, the story follows Marcus Connelly, a man whose search for his daughter’s killer leads him deep into the dark heart of the Dust Bowl. As the plot progresses and the tone of the narrative grows increasingly sinister, it becomes apparent that the man Connolly is hunting (the eponymous Mr Shivers) is more than human. From there on in the author subtly bends the conventions of the horror and fantasy genres, making for a truly exquisite, highly original read.
It is Bennett’s seemingly effortless prose style, and unwillingness to shy away from the sometimes-gruesome realities of the novel’s historical setting, that makes Mr Shivers stand out from the crowd. In the US he is already being compared to the diverse and multitalented likes of Stephen King, John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy, and in the UK the debut author has been branded a talent to watch.
“When I first started writing Mr Shivers, I eventually realised that what I was trying to write was a mythology. Myths are fundamentally part of our deep collective subconscious. They’re figures and stories that are instantly recognisable, buried so deep they’re practically ingrained in us. I wanted to use mythology of the Great Depression and Southern folklore, things we all could identify without thinking… dirt roads and bogwater ditches, ramshackle homes sitting abandoned in empty fields, and desperate drifters trekking across harsh countries. The echo of blues and gospel music haunting the hobo camps… and always the promise of greener pastures out there, hiding somewhere behind a stretch of the horizon.”
Adding to this, Bennett delved into the other inspirations for this novel: “I wanted to take that and mix it with an even older mythology – something much more primal, much more savage. Maybe when these wanderers struck out for the West they stumbled across something in the far ranges. An old story that’d been going on since before time was time. Maybe they’d found a place where the very bones of the earth rose up and pierced the rock and the dust. And maybe there was something living in those bones, something that’d been making its home there and had just been returning after a long while abroad. It was about then that I realised Mr Shivers had been wandering for a while, but it was about time someone set him to paper.”
Mr Shivers is available to buy in hardback and eBook formats nationwide from 21 January, priced £12.99. To read SciFiNow’s review of Mr Shivers, grab a copy of issue 36.
To watch a trailer for Mr Shivers, hit the link. For more information on the book and Robert Jackson Bennett, including a sneak peak first chapter extract, reviews and exclusive author content check out https://www.orbitbooks.net and https://shufflingandmuttering.blogspot.com