Even though Chris F. Holm has only released one book, he has been making quite a name for himself in the past few years. He caught the attention of his fellow writers from his print and online short work in magazines like Alfred Hitchcock and Beat To A Pulp. Whatever you read of his will show you a writer whith a unique voice and a respect for the genre and its possibilities.
Chris works inside the sub genre of “gonzo pulp” with the likes of Victor Gischler and Duane Swierczynski. He takes standards and attitude from genre work and gives it an over the top, comic book feel.
“Chris is one of those rare writers with the ability to grab you with his first sentence and completely immerse you in his world,” says Hilary Davidson, author of The Damage Done and The Next One To Fall. “He knows the old tropes — not just from crime fiction, but Dante and Milton — and he plays with them to brilliant effect. His writing is clear and lucid, making it a joy to read, and there’s also a rhythm to his sentences. I think he’s a master storyteller.”
It’s pulp on steroids with violent men who only speak when they have something tough to say and action that would make John Woo envious. What makes him stand out is how humanity collides with the out-sized genre elements.
The Hitter, a story he wrote for Needle magazine, is a thrilling example of his talent. The main character is a hit man who takes out other hit men. Holm weaves his military past, which led to his career change, into the tale. His latest job forces him to confront that past in a truly poignant moment in the midst of the hyper violence. He is even able to skillfully modulate that violence from comic book cool to brutally realistic as he focuses closer and closer on the combatants. It was no surprise that The Hitter was nominated for the Anthony Award for best short story and was picked by Otto Penzler and Harlan Coben for the 2011 edition of The Best American Mystery Stories.
Holms uses a similar structure in Dead Harvest, his supernatural novel that leans heavily into the hard boiled. The main character’s name is Sam, but he is mainly referred to as Collector since he gathers souls for Hell. When he suspects his latest collection is possessed and framed for killing her family, he refuses to do the job. He and the girl become fugitives trying to figure out who set them up and prevent a war between angels and demons on Earth with one that wants to take God’s place. We also see the collector’s past in passages scattered throughout the book.
“…the voice of Sam Thornton pulled me in instantly. He’s just like a hard-boiled detective, except that he’s dead, and he has to deal with devils and angels as well as the living,” Hilary praises. “In Dead Harvest, you have two compelling mysteries: there’s one set in present day, and one set in the past about how Sam lost his soul. They wrap around each other to create an unforgettable book. I can’t wait for his next book, The Wrong Goodbye, to come out in October.”
Chris F. Holm delivers everything you want from a hard boiled writer. His heroes are world weary professionals stuck in a corrupt world of their own action, if not their own making. The plotting is clean and intricate, and the world is heightened with breathtaking action. It’s the true emotion that he brings to the world that makes it real and makes him an author to get to know.