February 2009 Author of the Month
When you speak of suspense/thriller/horror, John Saul's name is at the top of the list. Writing for over 32 years
and so many bestsellers to list, John Saul is one of the great writers of our time. We are pleased to have him as the
author of the month.
Beauty may be only skin deep, but to the denizens of Beverly Hills and Bel Air, it
means the world. Fifteen-year-old Alison Shaw may not be beautiful, but she doesn't
really care: she'd much rather read a good book than primp in front of a mirror
anyway. But Alison's mother, Risa, knows that beauty can be a key to success, and
she wishes only the best for her daughter. Be careful what you wish for.
When Risa marries a widowed plastic surgeon and moves Alison from Santa
Monica to Bel Air, everything changes; everywhere mother and daughter look, their
new world is filled with beautiful people, many of whom have benefited from the
skills of Alison's new stepfather, the charismatic Conrad Dunn, who is certain he
can turn Alison into a vision of beauty. Risa is delighted by Conrad's assurances-and
drawn to his cool confidence and deep-set eyes. Reluctantly, Alison agrees to
undergo the first procedure, and her transformation begins. But soon Alison
discovers a picture of Conrad's first wife, who killed herself after being disfigured in
a car accident. To Alison's horror, she notices a resemblance between the image in
the photo and the work her stepfather is doing on her. Though Risa refuses to
acknowledge the strange similarity, Alison becomes increasingly frightened. Digging
further into her stepfather's murky past, Alison uncovers dark secrets-and even
darker motives-involving a string of grim murders that began even before she was
born. And when at last she catches sight of what she will soon be seeing in her own
mirror, she knows her worst fears are fast becoming her reality.
|Suffer the Children is
the book that started
it all. It came out in
1977 and will still scare
the hell out of you
|Exclusive Interview with
1. Have you considered writing another serial like the Blackstone Chronicles?
Not really. As it turns out, there’s a problem with the serial novel form: while for the author, it’s like writing
one long novel, for the publisher it’s like publishing six individual books, with all the planning, marketing,
advertising, and everything else concomitant with the publishing of a novel, only six times in six consecutive
months. Plus, there’s the problem of rack space; with full size books, it takes only three or four to fill a rack
pocket; with serial novels, it takes over a dozen. Thus, the pockets tend to look empty unless you’re standing
directly in front of them. Then there’s the problem of publishing a book before it’s actually finished, which
makes for all kinds of problems if you should make a mistake early, and already published it. You have to
invent a solution, rather than edit a manuscript.
2. If you could solve one mystery for yourself, what would it be? Example: Jack the Ripper,
Just last night a group of us were talking about where we’d go if we could go back in time, and after thinking
it over, I’d like to go back to about an hour before the ‘Big Bang’ and see what, if anything, was going on.
Was the beginning of our universe the end of another?
3. What era in history would you like to live for one year?
This is a complicated question, because every era has its advantages and disadvantages, and if you’re going to
visit for a year, you want to make sure you’re not going to spend it as a slave or some such thing. I, having
no other marketable skills than writing, would have to pick an era where I could support myself, so that pretty
much limits me to the post-Gutenberg era. Then, of course, there’s the question of poor plumbing, and
primitive lighting, and mucky roads and lousy transportation and… Maybe I’ll just stay where I am, okay?
4. What is your all-time favorite book (not yours) and why?
Depends on my mood; sometimes it’s ‘Anne of Green Gables’; sometimes I go for John O’Hara:
‘Appointment in Samara’ was, and remains, a terrific piece of work, and when you consider that he wrote it
over the space of a weekend, it gets even better.
5. Who would you like to sit down with (alive or dead) and talk with for one hour?
That would be Noel Coward, but I actually got to do that years ago, so I suppose I’ll have to pick somebody
else. But, again, it all depends on the circumstances: is the person forced to answer any questions I might
have honestly? Because if they are, I’d love to sit down with any of half a dozen religious figures, from
Abraham all the way through to Joseph Smith, and hear the actual truth about what they did and why they did
it. If they don’t have to tell the truth, then I think I’d want to go with a really great storyteller; Ben Franklin
would probably be great fun to listen to for an hour.
6. What golf course would you like to play that you haven’t yet?
Torrey Pines in La Jolla, which has to be one of the prettiest settings anywhere.
7. What is on your “Bucket List” that you haven’t done yet?
I still need to put a lot of things on paper, and it would be terrific to have one of my plays open on Broadway
before I die. Even better to have one have a multi-year run on Broadway, but I’ll settle for just an opening
8. Which one of your books did you have the most fun writing?
The Manhattan Hunt Club.
9. Do you have any superstitions when you write?
I used to have a magic ring, but my fingers got too thick, so I don’t wear it anymore. But the books keep on
selling, so I guess maybe it wasn’t magic after all.
10. What is on your Ipod right now?
Mostly classical, and musical theater, with some Edith Piaf and Eartha Kitt thrown in for good measure.
Not to say other titles haven’t fit a book well, but
never has a better title been penned. This book
was fascinating; the twists and turns the story took
kept me turning, page after page. Although seeing
this on the big screen would intrigue me—and
unquestionably countless others—I’m sure; this
always as good as their literary namesakes. Sarah
Crane is a strong, determined, brave young lady
who faces countless obstacles in overcoming the
raw deal she received in her life. With a much-
loved, deceased mother and a father who will
spend the rest of his life in prison, she embarks on
a journey of self-discovery that even she didn’t
know would happen given the way she was hurled
into the “system”, injured hip and leg first.
“Shutters”—the house—has a personality all its
own. The story is so well done; it actually becomes
one of the characters in the book. You are on pins
and needles waiting to see what it will do next, as if
it was a living, breathing human being. The things it
“does” and the “changes” that take place are
spellbinding and I was riveted.
Nick—the other kids’ favorite outcast until she
came along—is the best thing that happens to her.
I don’t want to give anything away, but their
relationship is not your average “two kids meet and
find common ground” pairing. They are truly tied
on a much deeper, more profound level. Read this
book, I actually got goosebumps—something that
never happens to me when I’m reading. John Saul
writes so well—no shock there—that the pictures
he paints with his words leap from the pages and
you will be captivated from the first word to the
Reviewed by: Author/Editor, Terri Ann Armstrong
for Suspense Magazine