I recently had a twitter exchange with J.F. Lewis about his books. He'd tweeted that he was at the point in the book he's currently writing where things start to roll. I happened to be at the point where Burned started to roll, so I tweeted him (as a fan and a follower and ... is it just me or does twitter sometimes seem like you're stalking people you're fans of?!?). Anyway, he tweeted me back and asked a serious question about where, for me, the action in his books started to roll. It took me about 7 tweets to reply and I'm not sure I explained myself well in those tweets, so I thought I'd talk about it here. I promise to not go all spoilery on you in case you haven't read his books. (I highly recommend you go out and get them, tho. They're not only incredibly entertaining, but they're unique within the urban fantasy genre.)
So, in deference to J.F. Lewis (should he ever come across this blog), I'll tell you why I love his books.
His main character, Eric, is an unapologetic asshole. But he's one of those assholes that no matter how much you want to be pissed at him or dislike him, it's impossible. He warns you he's an asshole and guarantees you will not like the things he does, and yet you can't help loving him anyway. Because despite his being one of those guys that just can't help but do stupid things, underneath it all he's a good guy. You know the type I mean, right? I dated one in college. He was a big, buff, wealthy, good looking guy who I knew from the start was going to piss me off regularly until I dumped him. (I helped him fake-cheat on his previous girlfriend so she would dump him.) Eric reminds me of him in so many ways.
Then there's the cast of characters that support the story: Tabitha, Rachel, Talbot, Fang, Marilyn and especially Greta. Each of them is essential to driving the story forward. Each of them is unique, cleverly created, and brilliantly integrated. And the "sub-characters" - the police, the thralls, the werewolves - as a whole and individually are well laid out, too. J.F. Lewis has created a complete world. That's incredibly hard to do.
His books are beautifully paced. They're laid out like out a complex puzzle. They all start off with Eric, who is dealing with memory loss, trying to win back his lost love, trying to deal with his current sex interest, trying to handle his business, trying to handle Greta (who may I say is both the scariest and funniest vampire on my bookshelves). With each character, the story takes shape and picks up energy, and then he brings in Greta.
Greta is nuts. Insane. Crazy. And a catalyst. When she enters the story, all bets are off. Whatever Eric thinks is going to happen with his half-assed plans (because with his memory loss, lets face it, his plans are in trouble from the start), well....things just aren't going to work out quite the way he thinks. He can plan it, but each character affects how his plans are going to work out - and Greta, well she can send them spinning out of control.
It's at that point - for me at least - when the books start to roll. It's different for each book, though - by that I mean it doesn't occur on page 50 or whatever. The momentum builds fairly quickly, and then wham! The book is off and running.
The action is insane - and I often have to pause because I find myself wanting to go back and re-read chapters. Not because he's lost me, but because they're so enjoyable. In fact, reading his books probably takes me longer than any other book because I do re-read them while reading them. Yes. J.F. Lewis makes me want to savor each chapter in minute detail. I can honestly say, he's the only author whose books make me want to do that. (I do re-read portions of books that I love, but only after I've finished reading the book.)
His books make me laugh, cringe, laugh, panic, laugh more, and freak out occasionally. I want to grab Eric and shake him, and then give him a hug. I want to hang out with Greta and run screaming from her at the same time (although either way, I'd be DEAD). I want to smack Marilyn upside the head. I want to tell Tabitha to grow up and stake Rachel even tho she's not a vampire. I want to cuddle up to Talbot and learn more about him (he fascinates me). I want to live in that bowling alley of craziness.
If you haven't read the Void City books, I recommend them. Because J.F. Lewis writes his books in the same way Eric lives his life - unapologetically.