It’s no secret I’ve written a lot of stuff over the years…from comics to graphic novels to a whole lot of regular ol’ novels.
I suppose when you get right down to it, CRYPTOZOICA is my favorite book…and apparently it’s the favorite of a lot of other people, regardless of all those books I wrote in the OUTLANDERS and Deathlands series. It’s certainly been the best-reviewed of all my work.
In fact, CRYPTOZOICA was consistently ranked in the Top 20 of all ebooks on Amazon for the last couple of summers.
Since Jurassic World opens this weekend, the first outing in the film franchise in nearly 15 years, it’s an appropriate time to revisit my own version of “The Monster That Refused to Die.”
CRYPTOZOICA is my ode and homage to all the giant monster and Lost World books and movies I loved growing up, with my own unique spin on the whole thing.
Like the great Edgar Rice Burroughs reprints from the 1960s with the stunning Frazetta covers and interior illustrations, CRYPTOZOICA features stunning art by Jeff Slemons, in the grand tradition.
It’s funny now–funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha–how CRYPTOZOICA was almost one of the first hardcovers put out by a start-up publisher called Variance…then almost became a casualty of the mainstream publishing’s industry-wide meltdown in 2009.
I could go into more detail about being misled and outright lied to by the so-called editor of Variance when he cancelled our agreement basically on the eve of going to contracts…but suffice it to say, Variance is long gone, not fondly remembered and the so-called editor was, not long ago, cruising the internet and begging for work.
But–as the saying goes–I digress.
When my agent first shopped CRYPTOZOICA around, a couple of reasons given by editors for its rejection was its similarity to Jurassic Park.
Even if that assessment was true–which it wasn’t– I couldn’t see how a perceived similarity was a detriment…but this was a little before The Crash… and before the avalanche of Twilight and Hunger Games knock-offs became not just a publishing practice but a policy.
After the Variance debacle, I determined that rather than struggle through the smoking rubble of the publishing industry, I would choose a path I had heretofore sworn I would never walk…to self publish.
Like a lot of professional writers, I viewed self-publishing as vanity publishing…a last resort option for people too untalented to have their work accepted by the so-called “gatekeepers” of traditional publishing.
By 2010, this was no longer the case. Quite a number of my fellow mid-list novelists had seen their own careers seriously damaged by The Crash…and rather than take jobs flipping burgers, some of them decided to take matters into their own hands and self-publish.
When I made that decision with CRYPTOZOICA, I also decided to publish the book the way I wanted it to be–which meant it would be the kind of book I would love to have–with beautiful interior illustrations a great wraparound cover and lots of little grace notes.
I saw CRYPTOZOICA as a hardboiled kind of thriller, not the current military/techno/thriller type. I wanted it to be a little more primal, a little less point A to point B and a little more hands-on so I returned to an earlier school of thriller writing—Richard Prather, Donald Hamilton, John D. MacDonald and even Milton Caniff.
I wrote CRYPTOZOICA as if I were writing it for the old Gold Medal paperback original line—tough and hard-hitting characters…a story about greed and violence, of riches and sudden death and even of redemption. But cool…very jazz-cool. If the book had a soundtrack, it would be by Miles Davis.
When it came to the two main male characters, Tombstone Jack Kavanaugh and Augustus Crowe, my mind kept returning to a blurb from a sadly under-appreciated hardboiled detective film written by the late Robert Culp, called Hickey and Boggs. The blurb was: “They’re not cool, slick heroes…they’re worn, tough men. And that’s why they’re so dangerous.”
One of the problems with today’s so-called thrillers is that the heroes are often flatline in the personality department—almost generic, regardless of their ethnicity. They’re about as colorful as cold dishwater.
Some writers graft problems onto their protagonists which in my opinion makes them come off as a trifle ridiculous—“I may be a Ninja and an astronaut but I’m tortured by the fact my father is a gay rodeo clown.”
Those kind of superficial problems derive from watching too many After School Specials and they don’t define characters …they’re mere wrinkles. Long-time fans of my Outlanders series will recognize the basic template of the CRYPTOZOICA characters—
“Tombstone” Jack Kavanaugh, his partner Augustus Crowe, Bai Suzhen AKA Madame White Snake, Dr. Honore’ Roxton, Aubrey Belleau and of course the little gun-totin’ Maori “wild child” by the name of Mouzi, who seems to be everyone’s favorite.
It’s certainly a proven template…Outlanders has been consecutively published for over 18 years, a life-span shared by very few mass-market paperback original series.
CRYPTOZOICA is a lengthy book with a loose epic sweep. I’ve been working on a sequel for the last couple of years, but it’s not been easy topping myself.
So, rather than go into it more detail, check out these links:
My particular favorite is the rockin’, fast-paced book trailer, created by the beautiful and talented Melissa Martin-Ellis which features most of the awesome Jeff Slemons art that appears in the CRYPTOZOICA trade paperback edition.
Most book trailers that I have seen are rather sedate affairs with text floating around uninteresting backgrounds. Not this one, boy!
If you haven’t yet read CRYPTOZOICA, this is the perfect summer to do it, if I say so myself.
And I do!