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An interview with Richard Kadrey

Interview by Fergus McCartan

Richard Kadrey is a freelance writer, accomplished author and photographer living in San Francisco, California. Alongside his hugely successful urban fantasy Sandman Slim series, Richard's other works include the cyberpunk Metrophage, YA novel Dead Set, paranormal fantasy Butcher Bird, as well as countless short stories including his own graphic novel Accelerate.

Killing Pretty is the seventh book in the Sandman Slim series and sees James Stark aka Sandman Slim set out on a new escapade offering his personalised brand of mayhem, havoc and salvation. Here’s the synopsis:

Sandman Slim investigates Death’s death in this hip, propulsive urban fantasy through a phantasmagoric LA rife with murder, mayhem, and magic.

James Stark has met his share of demons and angels, on earth and beyond. Now, he’s come face to face with the one entity few care to meet: Death.

Someone has tried to kill Death - ripping the heart right out of him - or rather the body he inhabits. Death needs Sandman Slim’s help: he believes anyone who can beat Lucifer and the old gods at their own game is the only one who can solve his murder.

Stark follows a sordid trail deep into LA’s subterranean world, from vampire-infested nightclubs to talent agencies specializing in mad ghosts, from Weimar Republic mystical societies to sleazy supernatural underground fight and sex clubs. Along the way he meets a mysterious girl—distinguished by a pair of graveyard eyes—as badass as Slim: she happens to be the only person who ever outwitted Death. But escaping her demise has had dire consequences for the rest of the world . . . and a few others.

For years, Slim has been fighting cosmic forces bent on destroying Heaven, Hell, and Earth. This time, the battle is right here on the gritty streets of the City of Angels, where a very clever, very ballsy killer lies in wait.

You can read a review of Killing Pretty here and a sample from the book here.

If you would like to know more about Richard, you can check out his site at http://richardkadrey.com/ and even if you don’t, do it anyway, you won't regret it.

Can you tell us a little about Richard Kadrey and how you like to write?

I outline my books as extensively as possible, but will abandon the outline several times during the writing when the book changes. I then do new outlines based on the new ideas. I begin many sessions writing by hand, but at some point will switch to the computer. The handwritten material I’ll transcribe using voice recognition software.

It's now seven books into the Sandman series, how did you find the process of writing the latest, Killing Pretty, in comparison to the others? 

The Getaway God ended a long six-book story arc, so Killing Pretty was the beginning of a new arc. It was a lot of fun to work on and I did way too much historical research on LA fascist movements and 20s-era German spiritualist groups. But in all, I had a good time writing it.

Did you find it hard to re-establish the characters in your mind between completion of The Getaway God, other projects and starting the Killing Pretty?

Not at all. After all this time, I know the characters pretty well and hope to continue to evolve them over the next few books.

Stark is slowly maturing as a character, starting to think more of the consequences of his actions and while I don't see him settling down in the suburbs, with a white picket fence, 2.4 kids and a dog name Mr Woofles, how far do you see this mature side going?

You’ll have to read the remaining books to see.

**Worth a try at least**

You have built a world for Stark in Killing Pretty where Death comes for all, even Gods. In your universe of life, death and rebirth, how did you approach the personality you created for Death’s character?

I suffered a bad concussion in a car accident when I was a teenager. For several days, I found the world a vague and puzzling place. I based a lot of Death’s reactions on what I experienced. Essentially, we were both lost dogs with the ability to articulate our condition.

Your social media hints at a man who enjoys his music. If you could create a playlist or pick one particular song to embody James Stark or the Sandman series, what would it be?

I’ve gone through a lot of songs trying to answer this question. Right now, I’d lean toward Came Back Haunted by Nine Inch Nails.

Richard kindly also answered questions for our How Stories Connect Us series.

Which book do you own that puts a smile on your face and makes you happy just by holding it in your hand?

Two that come to mind are Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy and American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

Which book or series do you read which makes you feel nostalgic, remembering the period in your life you first read it?

Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

Which book or series do you read that makes your blood pump and your palms sweaty?

The Collected Short Stories of JG Ballard.

Is there a particular author that leaves you thinking: One day I would like to be able to write just like that?

Yes, but I have no intention of saying who.

Which book or series do you think you could implant one of your own characters? Would you want them to thrive or want them to burn it all down?

Vidocq might get along with John Constantine in Hellblazer.

If you are unfamiliar with the Sandman Slim novels, read our review of book one in the series, Sandman Slim here.

I am very grateful to Richard for taking the time to speak with Fantasy Book Review. Pick up a copy of the Killing Pretty, it's fantastic.

Our Richard Kadrey reviews

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Life sucks and then you die. Or, if you’re James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles. Now Stark’s back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you’d expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future. Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.

"Sandman is dark, funny and well written. Kadrey isn’t afraid to slap the bad guys about in inventive and descriptive ways."

Read our review

Killing Pretty by Richard Kadrey

James Stark has met his share of demons and angels, on earth and beyond. Now, he's come face to face with the one entity few care to meet: Death. Someone has tried to kill Death - ripping the heart right out of him - or rather the body he's inhabiting. Death needs Sandman Slim's help: he believes anyone who can beat Lucifer and the old gods at their own game is the only one who can solve his murder. Stark follows a sordid trail deep into LA's subterranean world, from vampire-infested nightclubs to talent agencies specializing in mad ghosts, from Weimar Republic mystical societies to sleazy supernatural underground fight and sex clubs. Along the way he meets a mysterious girl - distinguished by a pair of graveyard eyes - as badass as Slim: she happens to be the only person who ever outwitted Death. But escaping her demise has had dire consequences for the rest of the world... and a few others. For years, Slim has been fighting cosmic forces bent on destroying Heaven, Hell, and Earth. This time, the battle is right here on the gritty streets of the City of Angels, where a very clever, very ballsy killer lies in wait.

"Throw in some old friends, a few new faces, a nice new twist towards the end (you are going to be very happy with this little introduction as it has so many possibilities) and we are given the rebirth of the Sandman series, which will keep long time readers happy and should entice some new fans to start the series from the beginning."

Read our review

The Getaway God by Richard Kadrey

Being a half-human, half-angel nephilim with a bad rep and a worse attitude - not to mention temporarily playing Lucifer - James Stark aka Sandman Slim has made a few enemies. None, though, are as fearsome as the vindictive Angra Om Ya - the old gods. But their imminent invasion is only one of Stark’s problems right now. LA is descending into chaos, and a new evil - the Wildfire Ripper - is stalking the city. No ordinary killer, The Ripper takes Stark deep into a conspiracy that stretches from Earth to Heaven and Hell. He’s also the only person alive who may know how to keep the world from going extinct. The trouble is, he’s also Stark’s worst enemy… the only man in existence Stark would enjoy killing twice.

"Overall, The Getaway God had some true Sandman Slim elements and concluded to a degree Stark's Sandman journey, but ultimately it didn’t feel like a cohesive and rounded novel." Fergus McCartan

Read our review