One of my literary heroes is F. Paul Wilson, author of the Repairman Jack series and many, many more works of storytelling genius.
I had the privilege of meeting FPW briefly during Bouchercon when it was held in Albany, NY a few years back. There I was, milling around, when who should walk past me but the great man himself. I was not about to miss the opportunity to babble about my fanboy-ism and to ask when we could expect the next Repairman Jack (RJ) book.
FPW grumpily but good-naturedly mentioned that he’d given all the RJ he was capable of giving and that it was time for him to move on. I suggested that perhaps P. Frank Winslow (a hack writer who’s a character in some of the later RJ books) might lend a hand, and that got a smile from Mr. Wilson. So, I left Bouchercon feeling like I’d had my brush with greatness, but also a bit bummed that the RJ series had come to an end. And then, lo and behold, we got three new books about Jack’s “Early Years”: Cold City, Fear City, and Dark City. Each one felt like a gift you get from a friend after the two of you have sworn that you are not exchanging Christmas gifts this year (or after your friend has told you at a convention not to hold your breath waiting for the next book in a series).
So, when I heard about a brand-new series from the Great One, I pre-ordered the first book, Panacea. It has all the trademarks of an FPW book, including secret societies, secret histories, twists and turns, and all that other good stuff. This time around, we have dual protagonists, Laura Fanning (a Long Island medical examiner who is part Mayan) and Rick Hayden, one tough cookie who is mighty handy with a Zip tie. I raced through Panacea, and though one never knows quite what to expect from book to book, it seems like this new series will be somewhat like the RJ series, with each book having a unique plot that’s tied up by the end, along with an ongoing arc of dark spookiness. Of course, I’m looking forward to the next one already.
In many ways I think fiction is like music – you like what you like, and there’s not always a rational explanation behind it. But I know exactly what I enjoy so much about FPW’s books. He is simply a superb storyteller, and he makes it all seem so effortless and easy. For all I know, he may sit over his keyboard and weep with frustration, self-doubt, and dark nights of the soul, but you’d never know it from reading any of his books. So, Mr./Dr. Wilson (a fellow New Jerseyan – woo hoo!), I salute you.