Prelude: Chelsea Cain Interview, crime’s sickest author?

Put your ear to the ground and listen to what people are saying about New York Times bestselling author Chelsea Cain, it’ll invariably go like this, “Oh my God, she’s the one who wrote that torture scene.”

That torture scene.

HarrogateIt’s a refrain I heard time and again as I made my way up to the Old Peculiar Crime Writer’s Festival held in Harrogate last July, barely a month after I returned to the United Kingdom from the International Cape Town Bookfair in South Africa. By the time we were seated for dinner in the Jupiter Room of the luxurious Rudding Park Hotel, by invitation of the publishers we share, I was craning my neck to see her at the other end of the table. It’s bullshit, I know, but the first thought that went through my head was, what kind of woman writes “that torture scene?” And what the hell does anyone write in this day of torture porn, which makes such a strong impression?Rudding Park

In other words, how sick and twisted must a person be?

If I expected the female version of Marilyn Manson, I was sorely disappointed. Chelsea Cain – tall, blonde hair, flashing eyes, not an ounce of goth make-up on her porcelain face – had her end of the dinner table in bloody stitches, entertaining them as easily as she offended their sensibilities. She tells a story aloud exactly the way she might write it in a book: macabre punch lines that give Bill Hicks a run for his money, swearing when swearing is fucking necessary, and all of it backed up with the vivaciousness of a movie star. And when they say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, they obviously never met Chelsea Cain. Never before was a person’s character so well complimented by a glass of burgundy. Chelsea Cain 2

Ok. So I exaggerate. Hyperbole is how I earn my money.

Me being me, and about ten of us piled into the back of a black cab much much later all of us filled to the gills with red wine, I pop the one question that’s been bugging me all along. And the moment I say it, I realise how god-awful juvenile it sounds.

I say, “So what’s so gory about your books?”

The car goes quiet. No one says a word. They probably don’t know what to say, because it probably sounds like a challenge, one crime writer to another, like it’s a damn duel over the grotesque or something. Then Chelsea picks it all up in that strong Portland accent of hers. “Oh come on, Richard! Are you fucking serious? Get outta here.”

I never was a man for social propriety and timing, which probably comes from all the years spent playing Dungeons & Dragons in my youth. The conversation veers a sharp left as our polite British chaperones scramble to find something else to talk about. There’s a collective sigh of relief when we play along: no blood on the cab seats tonight.

Yet, I felt dissatisfied. I hadn’t got my answer and now, on top of that, people had misunderstood my intentions. So me being me again, I couldn’t let the issue lie. For almost a year I pondered over it, during which time I picked up a copy of Heartsick and Sweetheart. I thought it best that the next time I pop the question, I best be informed.

And, by God, what a torture scene.

If you haven’t already, read my review of Sweetheart.

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3 Responses to “Prelude: Chelsea Cain Interview, crime’s sickest author?”

  1. First time i’ce heard cain’s works. I love it , so down to earth. i like the characters and her vocabulary command is awesomw.
    thanks XCheksea.
    a new fan

  2. I’d like to read that yucky morbid section. can i find it on the net?

  3. richardkunzmann Says:

    Don’t know — publishers are pretty damn picky about what’s allowed to go online.

    Plus the thing with Chelsea’s writing is that the snippets of horror are interspersed throughout the book. If you want to give a really good psych thriller a go, try Natsuo Kirinio’s “Out” a try. Brilliant cover too

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