Mario Acevedo on horror
Weasels Ripped My Flesh is not the latest name given to the taxpayer bailout of Wall Street. Rather, it’s a Bouchercon panel on which novelists Maria Lima, Kat Richardson, F. Paul Wilson, Heather Graham, and I will discuss mixing mystery and horror. (Being writers, we stole the weasel inspired title from Frank Zappa though we cover our butts by calling this rip-off an homage to his musical genius.)
So why mix mystery and horror? I feel they complement one another, as do a knife and a stabbing. What greater shock, what greater horror than coming home and finding your spouse murdered? Unless you did it. In which case you may stop and admire your handiwork. The wounds. The blood spatter. (It helps to think like a mystery novelist.)
Mystery is the who-done-it. Horror is the creepy tingling crawling up your arms. A good mystery novel makes you stop and think, how will the hero solve this puzzle? A good horror novel makes you stop and think, should I check the locks?
As novelists, we write fiction, which means we’re professional liars. As mystery novelists, we spend a lot of time thinking about killing people and how to get away with it (hence why we practice so much lying). Add horror to our stories and no wonder we’re known as creepy professional liars.
My hero is a vampire private detective, a bloodsucking killer and he’s the good guy. Which means the bad guys are really bad. As the good guy my hero can’t go around doing horrible things (except in the end when he goes all Dirty Harry and kills the villain in gruesome ways that make you say, YES, the bad guy deserved it.).
While I write supernatural mystery (medium on the supernatural, heavy on the mystery), I don’t try for the horror angle. It’s not like the old days when the simple mention of the animated undead was enough to make people wet their pants. Today, even young adult romance novels have the nice girls necking with the vampires. However, I’ve had readers tell me they’ve been thoroughly creeped out when they came across passages in my books where the vampires smothered their lasagna and enchiladas with blood.
Many mystery writers don’t use the supernatural in their stories. But these same writers can strike deep into your heart with horror based firmly in reality. Ha! you say, how scary can reality be? Have you peeked recently at the financial page? That’s enough to give even zombies a case of the heebie-jeebies.
This being my first time in Baltimore, I’ll do my best to swamp my low-carb diet with plenty of your famous crab cakes and beer. You in turn, are invited to our conference, Bouchercon 2008, Charmed to Death. I promise that weasels won’t rip your flesh.
Acevedo is the author of the Felix Gomez vampire detective novels published by Eos HarperCollins. His debut novel was The Nymphos of Rocky Flats. He lives and writes in Denver, Colo.