Written by: Wayne C. Rogers
What has stumped me over the last few years is why none of the major publishing houses have given Robert McCammon a fair shot since Speaks the Nightbird was first published a decade ago. I realize that Putnam published The Queen of Bedlam, but the hardcover was so cheaply made that it reminded me of book club edition. Also, they did little in the way of publicity on the novel. It got me to thinking that the publishing industry is much like the movie industry.
As the great William Goldman said, “Nobody knows nothing in the industry.”
What this boils down to is that none of the CEOs in the industry know for sure what movie will have a huge opening weekend, or will bring them in the big sacks of money if the film turns out to have legs.
It’s the same thing with publishing.
Of course, some authors are on the A-list and are a guarantee—Stephen King, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling (well, maybe), and a few others.
The next group of writers, however, falls into the B-list or mid-list area, meaning their hardcover novels sell from 20,000 to 60,000 copies. Maybe more, maybe less. Over the years, I’ve seen dozen of excellent of mid-list authors lose their contracts because they hadn’t had a New York Times Bestseller. And, I mean these were excellent authors on the cusp of reaching the A-list. They may not hit a home run out of the park with each outing, but they’re consistent in writing one-to-two novels a year with the publisher making a steady sum of money. But the publisher, like the movie industry and the casino industry in Las Vegas, want that home run with each outing. If they don’t make the hundreds of millions, or even billions in some cases, of dollars, then the whole thing is considered an utter failure in their eyes. It doesn’t matter if an author made them a nice profit of hundred thousand dollars. They want a bigger slice of the pie.
I call it simple greed.
No one can argue that Robert McCammon wasn’t a bestselling author during the eighties and early nineties. When he tried to take a break from writing horror fiction to other types of stories, the publishers dropped him like a hot potato.
Well, McCammon is back! He has been for over a decade.
Right now, he’s a mid-list author, working with small presses in an effort to get his work to the masses.
Here’s a harsh warning to the major publishers out there.
This author is going to have another major hit before long, and they’re going to miss out on it because of their folly and sheer greed. This author hasn’t even reached his peak yet. McCammon is a much better writer now than he was two decades ago, and one of his novels in the very near future is going to hit the jackpot with lights flashing and bells going off.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t with the “Matthew Corbett” series.
It seems like few people are aware of these great historical thrillers. All it will take is a movie (listen up HBO or Showtime) that’s based on them, or a plug from a name-brand writer, or for word-of-mouth to spread even further out into the vast world of fiction and the general reading public. I, for one, am doing my part to spread the word. But, mark my word, it is coming. I just want to be around to see it so I can laugh at the bigwigs who thought McCammon was out of the ball game.
Listen, I’m a sixty-one-year-old reader; yet, I still get excited whenever a new “Corbett” novel is announced for future publication. The fifth book in the series has already been completed and may see print by the end of the year or early next year. I’m like a little boy standing at the entrance to a circus.
Subterranean Press has published the last two novels (Mister Slaughter and The Providence Rider) in the series, and I have to say this publishing house has a done a magnificent job on the creation of each book. Everything from the type of paper, to the font, the binding, the interior illustrations, and the cover art has been done with a sense of true love and utter craftsmanship. These are beautiful books to behold and to own. In fact, this is the way Mr. McCammon’s novels should be published, not the way Putnam did it.
Now, let me discuss The Providence Rider, the 4th novel in the series.
The story takes place the winter after Mister Slaughter and Matthew Corbett still hasn’t recovered fully from his encounter with a villain whose heart was filled with blackness and murderous evil. Even Matthew’s partner in the Herald Agency, Hudson Greathouse, is still dealing with the physical injures he endured at the hands of Tyranthus Slaughter. Both men are taking it day by day, until an unexpected series of explosions happen within New York City and businesses are suddenly being destroyed left and right.
Professor Fell, who had a contract out for Matthew’s head, has decided he needs the aid of the problem-solver in rooting out a traitor within his own organization. The professor wants Matthew to come to his island and attend a conference under an assumed name and to use his skills in problem solving to weed out the man who has betrayed the criminal mastermind.
The only catch is that Matthew has refused the Professor’s invitation. When it comes to Professor Fell, trust is not a word the problem solver would ever use.
So, the Professor Fell has his men, under the command of Jason and Rebecca Mallory blow up certain businesses, putting Matthew’s name on the wall of the establishment across the street. It isn’t long before Matthew becomes a prime suspect in the massive destruction. Then, due to a number of extenuating circumstances, the young man eventually finds himself with no choice and humbly accepts the professor’s gracious invitation. Even worse for Matthew is the fact that Berry Grigsby (the problem solver’s true love) and Zed the slave are forced to accompany him on the trip to an island somewhere in the Caribbean Ocean.
When Matthew finally arrives at the island with the name of Nathan Spade, an employee who works for the professor but has never been seen by the other members of the group, he soon encounters several criminals of the vilest type. The professor informs him that one of the people is a traitor and must be found and killed. Professor Fell promises to pay Matthew handsomely for the task and to make sure that no harm comes to either Berry or Zed before they are returned to New York.
Before Matthew even begins his search for the traitor, he incurs the wrath of the Thacker brothers, who have their eyes fixed on him. They are a mean and vicious pair. It’s only with the help of Minx Cutter, an expert at forgery and knives, and Fancy, an Indian who knew Walker in Two Worlds, that Matthew has even the slightest chance of escaping the island and doing some necessary damage to Professor Fell’s inner organization.
Before the end of the novel is reached, Corbett will witness the beheading of a man at the dining room table, he’ll intentionally set up two other men to be tortured, he’ll watch a huge, frightening octopus eat a decapitated head for lunch, he’ll have the best sexual encounter of his life (but don’t tell Berry), and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg.
The Providence Rider by Robert McCammon is a truly excellent, historical thriller that paints a fascinating picture of New York City during the early 1700s and what life was like during that roughed era. The times were definitely hard and death was usually quick as a flashing blade in the mist of night.
That Robert McCammon is a master of his craft can be seen on every single page and in every sentence and with every written word. He knows how to use the gift of words to describe locations and characters that come to light in the reader’s mind like a spectacle of precise images. In fact, many of the scenes stay with you long after the novel has been read and put away. Some even reappear in your dreams during the darkness of night when it’s the most quiet and inviting time for nightmares.
His lead character, Matthew Corbett, gives us a young man (think of Tobey Maguire or Elijah Wood) who has certainly lost his innocence during this exciting four-book journey and seen the
reality of evil that exist within our hard, cold world. Even so, Corbett continues to use his special skills to insure that justice prevails and that those who would maliciously hurt others are killed or imprisoned. Still, he is not a person without his own flaws and weaknesses. Corbett knows what they are and has to constantly fight them in order to succeed at the tasks that are laid before him. In other words, he’s a human being who’s always striving to do the right thing in the most chaotic situation. Sometimes he succeeds and sometimes he fails.
Grab all four novels in this fantastic series and devour them like a starving man who hasn’t eaten in the last month. They will leave you wanting more, and that’s what the author intends on giving the reader during the next few years. His ultimate plan is a ten-book series. I just hope to be around long enough so I can review the last “Matthew Corbett” novel.
Order the novel right here.