Friday, July 31, 2009

Forgotten Books: THEY THIRST -- Robert McCammon

Okay, this is a first for me: a book that the author wants people to forget. Robert McCammon now forbids the reprinting of his first four novels, of which They Thirst is the fourth. He says the books don't represent his best work, that he was just a kid when he wrote them, and that he was "learning to write in public." He's certainly entitled to his opinion.

My opinion is somewhat different. I like it a lot. Vampires are everywhere now. You can't go into a bookstore without bumping into a vampire book every time you turn around. But back in 1981 when They Thirst was published, it was hard to find a good vampire book. It was hard to find any vampire books at all, for that matter.

Joe Lansdale recommended McCammon's books to me, and if I recall correctly, he likes this one quite a bit. It has everything: a serial killer known as "The Roach"; a 700-year-old vampire who's the King of the Undead and who's decided to go to war with humanity, starting with the conquest of Los Angeles; a Hell's Angel who's going to command the vampire army; a teenager who loves horror movies; and so on.

There are no nice vampires here. They're the spawn of Satan (did I mention that he's in the book, too?), and they're pure evil. The book, however, is pure fun. McCammon doesn't want it reprinted, as I mentioned, and I suppose he'd prefer that you not read it. So I won't even mention how cheap copies used copies are on the 'net.

16 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Maybe he's looking for something other than a good story in his writing. Too bad he doesn't value it.

Ed Gorman said...

For me one of the great mysteries of my generation--why that most excellent writer and very decent guy Robert McCammon thinks so little of his most popular books. Mine, They Thirst, The Wolf's Hour (among others) and a few dozen fine short stories that just about anybody would be proud to claim...,ya think Dr. Phil knows the answer?

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

I read THEY THIRST and MYSTERY WALK when I was still in high school, and THE WOLF'S HOUR when I was 18 or 19. I enjoyed them all. It seemed at the time that McCammon was viewed (unfairly, I think) as a second-rate Stephen King. One of my friends dismissed THEY THIRST as a "'Salem's Lot rip-off." There were superficial similarities, but THEY THIRST played out on a much grander scale.
I have fond memories of the book, though I haven't read it in about 25 years.

Y'know, I miss the good ol' days when vampires were the bad guys...

Bill Crider said...

I'll let you call Dr. Phil, Ed.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Bill,

Here we have an author whose readership likes his books more than he does.

I'm guessing readers know best.

Terrie

jj solari said...

this is a first. this guy sounds like a party.

Anonymous said...

The book has always sold well for me. I really like the ending. Does this mean I should raise my prices on this one like on Ellison's Doomsman? You think he'll start to rip up copies of his early work?
Bryan Barrett

Ali Karim said...

Bill you are man of taste

Great peice

Ali

jj solari said...

the more i think about this the more bizarre it gets. what i would call a well adjusted writer would not care that he improved with time and would be happy to be able to prove this by having his early writings available to read. maybe the early stuff is actually better than the later stuff and this is what's pissing him off. HAHAHAHAHA!

Anonymous said...

First of all, Bill, great cover!

You sold me.

jj, interesting take. I know that since he's made it as a big-name spy fiction writer Alan Furst has disowned his early books too.

Jeff

Nithska said...

I liked They Thirst, Swan Song, Blue World... I read everything McCammon wrote back then when I was a teen.

There was a lot of talk back then of the 'death of horror'. Small 'zines like 2AM folded, and the big mags like Cemetery Dance got caught up in the splatter punk thing. I can see why some authors turned away from horror as a genre category. But honestly, the readership remained for classic horror and fantastic fiction, even if horror-the-publishing-category had morphed into a gorefest.

Brandon Bell

D. B. Gaston said...

There are some copies of They Thirst on Ebay and Amazon Marketplace, but they are not cheap. About $40 seems to be the average price. Some copies on Ebay are going for about $200!

Maybe I should hit the nearby used bookstore and see if they have this or any other early McCammon. If Joe R. Lansdale likes a book, that seems like a recommendation you can trust.

James Reasoner said...

THE WOLF'S HOUR and "Night Calls the Green Falcon" (I think that's the right title) are great. I still haven't read THEY THIRST, even though it's been, what, 25 years or more since you recommended it to me the first time. I went through that spell where I just wouldn't read long books. But I'm getting back to the point where I will. I think I have a copy of THEY THIRST. I'll look for it.

Krista said...

I just purchased a copy for myself off Amazon. The price was ridiculously cheap, so I assume the seller was unaware of McCammon's wish for this to go out-of-print. Lucky me!

Bill Crider said...

Hope you like it!

Carole Timmons said...

I just got a copy off amazon for 7.99 plus s&h now I want Mine read it twice yrs ago and loved it the only book he ever wrote I didn't like was Stinger I want Blue World too haven't read it since it was first published.Ikeep Swan Song to pass to friends I always insist I get it back,no dog eating allowed!