Daniels on the DEAD

Booklife has posted part two of their terrific, indepth interview with James Daniels, author of DEAD MAN #2: RING OF KNIVES. And if you want to know why we signed him up, and why we're so excited to have him writing on our series, all you have to do is read this excerpt:

What was it about Lee and Bill’s “dark mythology” that got you excited?  What direction did you take in?

 James L. Daniels: I love the fact that the central character in the series is a loner who travels endlessly in search of the answer to a mystery, which will heal both himself and others.  To me, this type of tale hearkens back to the Grail legend, which I incorporated into Ring of Knives.  I think that Matt is the modern-day equivalent of the medieval knight errant, and also of the gunslinger-in-a-white-hat, who is his American descendant. This set-up is an incredibly flexible template for storytelling, and it allows the author to take it in any direction possible.  I’ve seen brief summaries of the stories to come, and they range from gritty urban shoot-em-ups to gothic Lovecraftian lore.  It’s wonderful stuff.  My own brand of pulp is derived pretty directly from Edgar Rice Burroughs; he’s the one (along with “The Uncanny X-Men”) who first snagged my attention as a twelve-year old, and those old-style heroics never cease to move me.  So I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from John-Carter-type stories and fashioned my own tale, which I dressed up in the trappings of Clive Barker, fed raw meat, and unleashed.

What is up with Mr. Dark, anyway?

James L. Daniels: That’s a good question, and every author in the series is going to come up with their own interpretation.  Lee and Bill have been enormously generous letting the writers contribute to the development of the Dark Man’s nature. And it’s interesting, because – like Matt’s character – the Dark Man is an archetype that’s incredibly versatile.  A blogger recently implied that Lee and Bill may have borrowed the evil-clown idea from Todd McFarlane’sSpawn series.  But this is nonsense.  The  unpredictable trickster is one of the oldest characters in fiction.   McFarlane’s Violator was begat by Stephen King’s Pennywise who was begat by Jerry Robinson’s The Joker, who was begat by Edgar Allen Poe’s Hop-Toad, who was begat by Mr. Punch, who was begat by Shakespeare’s Fool, who was begat by Harlequino (and perhaps Sir Thomas Malory’s Merlin), who was begat by Loki, who was begat by Raven (Europe), Coyote (America), and Spider (Africa).  They are all manifestations of the same principle.  What is that principle?  Every writer of the Dead Man will come to his or her own conclusions.

For myself, however, that principle is Entropy, and the madness and despair that arise from our recognition that all our efforts will ultimately end in death.  The major challenge of life is to withstand – and maybe even overcome – that terrible prospect.  In the Welsh Grail legend “Peredur”, the hero is frequently tormented by a black hag who reminds him at every turn that all his acts of valor are causing more harm than good.  That hag, portrayed eight hundred years ago, is the direct ancestor of Mr. Dark.  And you don’t have to be a medieval knight errant to know who she is.  I’ve seen her.  And I bet you have, too.  How we deal with her terrible message is the biggest challenge that we face in life.  And one of the ways we learn to deal with it is by reading about others who confront it head-on.  Matt Cahill is a hero because he does just that.  That’s why it’s a thrill to read about him.  That’s why, when we read about him beating the devil, we set down the book hopeful and happy, believing – for a time – that we can, too.

Check out the rest of the interview for some revealing insights into his creative process.


RING OF KNIVES is the second book in the DEAD MAN series, which readers and book critics alike are already hailing as "an epic tale" that compares to the best of Stephen King and Dean Koontz…

Matthew Cahill is an ordinary man leading a simple life until a shocking accident changes everything. Now he can see a nightmarish netherworld that nobody else does. Now for him each day is a journey into a dark world he knows nothing about, a quest for the answers to who he is and what he has become…and a fight to save us, and his soul, from the clutches of pure evil.


Matt believes a madman may hold the secret to defeating Mr. Dark, the horrific jester with the rotting touch. But to reach him, Matt must infiltrate a lunatic asylum, where he is soon caught up in a spiral of bloodshed and madness. His only chance of escaping with his life and sanity intact is to face the unspeakable terror that awaits him deep in the asylum's fog-shrouded woods…within the Ring of Knives.


* an excerpt from DEAD MAN #3: HELL IN HEAVEN by Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin

* an excerpt from GHOST BRIDE, the new novel by James Daniels.

This is James Daniels' first published novel! 

I first encountered James' writing several years ago through his brother Michael Daniels, who was a screenwriting student of mine at UCLA (and who has gone on to great success as a producer of ONE TREE HILL and VAMPIRE DIARIES). Michael asked me as a favor if I would look at his brother's book and offer him some advice.

I was immediately struck by James' obvious talent and vivid prose. The problems with the book had more to do with focus and structure than with the writing itself. But I was so impressed with the writing, with his fully-realized and compelling characters, sharp dialog, and strong voice, that I recommended him to my literary agent, who worked with James for some time in an effort to get the book published. Although the book didn't see print, which is a damn shame, I remembered it with fondness and always kept my eye out for opportunities for him.

When Bill Rabkin & I came up with THE DEAD MAN as a book series, we knew we wanted the roster of writers to be a mix of seasoned pros and exciting new voices…and James was the first name that came to mind. It's an enormous thrill for us to be the first to bring James into print and to introduce him to a wide audience. I have no doubt he's going to have a long and successful career as a novelist…he is too good not to.  

You can help…by snagging a copy of his first book today.

The Bobble-Head Elvis

LEEGOLDBERGWILLIAMRABKIN_TheDeadMan_RingOfKnives_FINAL (1) Booklife has a great interview with James Daniels, author of DEAD MAN #2: RING OF KNIVES. Here's an excerpt:

What do you think of being on the roster with guys like Bill Crider and James Reasoner?

James L. Daniels:  It’s pretty intimidating.  Virtually all of the other authors writing books for this series are Pulp Fiction Gods… some of them have written hundreds of novels, many of them have published in a dozen separate genres, some have created best sellers… And then there’s unpublished me.  If Lee’s lineup of authors is like a row of statues of Greek deities in a museum, I’m the bobble-head Elvis that someone set down between Zeus and Athena.  No joke.

So The Dead Man project is awesome, because…?

James L. Daniels:  It’s a dynamite project because the set-up they’ve created is brilliantly flexible, so every book can have a different feel, a different emphasis, a different angle; can explore a different aspect of their dark mythology, and still be true to the spirit of the original.  The stories are structured to be fast, fun, and action packed, with a generous helping of chills along the way.  It’s a wonderful project, and I’m really, really grateful to be a part of it.


UK Agents Declaring War over E-Rights

The Bookseller reports that UK agents are refusing to accept the line from publishers that 25% is a fair rate for e-royalties. They insist that print and e-deals be seperate.  Agent Sonia Land got so frustrated that she and her client Catherine Cookson are e-publishing her backlist themselves.

Land has warned book publishers they will lose control over authors’ digital backlists unless they improve their royalty offer.

Land this week announced her decision to publish 100 of Catherine Cookson’s novels as e-books through her company Peach Publishing, bypassing Cookson’s physical publishers Transworld. Other agents warned against the move, one calling it "tantamount to a declaration of war".

In a column in this week’s Bookseller, Land called on publishers to up their rates from 25% to 50% of net proceeds from e-books to secure digital rights.

Land said the publisher forced her hand by not showing an interest in Cookson’s digital rights. She said: "I’ve been thinking about this for a year and a half. They never approached me with a deal, but I think they knew I wanted a better offer."

Speaking about publishers in general, Land said: "The thing that really annoys me is that they won’t even negotiate a decent rate . . . They say ‘25% is perfectly reasonable’. They need to stop pretending it’s so expensive. I’ve just done it. I can do my sums."



The Talk on Talk

Lee Child, James Scott Bell, Jon Land, Joseph Flynn, Jim Duncan Heywood Gould and I are talking on the ITW Site this week about how to craft dialog that reflects character. It's an interesting discussion. Here's a tidbit:

Heywood Gould

You are what you say.

Dialogue is character. If you know who your characters are, where they come from and what they want, then you know what they will say in a given situation. Characters are not one dimensional. They don’t speak the same way to everyone in their lives. A cop will not speak the same way to his wife and kids as he does to his colleagues or to suspects.

Dialogue is strategy. Do your characters decide to coax. coerce, seduce, charm to get what they want. Dialogue will expresses their strategy.

Dialogue is style. People use dialogue to project an image of themselves. Do they want to be considered smart, funny, professional, truthful. They will use dialogue to show that they belong to a certain group—political party, profession, gang…

The best lines are often the ones drawn from real life. I like to eavesdrop. People say things a writer could never make up. A conversation can crystallize a character. I like to draw people out. The best advice I ever got was from my City Editor at the NY Post:
“Shut up and listen.”

[…]Lee Child: 

I once won an award from the Fort Worth evening newspaper (I think it was) for “natural dialog” … which mine isn’t … and nor is anyone else’s. Dialog in books is very far from natural. Many above have extolled eavesdropping, which I love too, and it’s very instructive to notice how incoherent, stumbling, gappy and repetitive real-life conversation is. If we were “natural”, a book would be 1,000 pages long.

So the trick is to make something grossly unnatural sound natural. And it’s very hard to do that. The “X” factor is subtle and elusive. I think we all agree that dialog is where poor books fail. Poor dialog sounds amateur. Good dialog can suggest stress, accent, and pace, just with a few black marks on white paper.