#9 Andrew Klavan

Here is an author that has every chance to move up the list, since he is still alive, writing, and producing novels like ‘A Killer in the Wind’ and ‘Agnes Mallory’ as well as his past contributions to the true crime genre such as ‘The Scarred Man’ and his excellent thriller-type novels Dynamite Road, Shotgun Alley and Damnation Street . These novels fit very well into my criteria for good and great novels. The language flows, he doesn’t write down to the reader. The plots are powerful. I think good book plots should be like a feast of steak and garlic and olives, maybe some cumin: strong flavors and bright colors. Leave out the drab everydayness of most authors.

All the ingredients of a good novel (From Wiki Commons)

All the ingredients of a good novel (From Wiki Commons)

Now, Kipling, the other #9 in discussion and much praised by Medieval Otaku, is certainly an author of note. As you read that post, keep in mind that the author, praising Kipling so much, has not even touched a book by Klavan. Now I grant that the two story Barns and Noble is impressive, but the fact that they are missing Klavan is not.  There is a reason that big bookstore chains are going out of business… They only provide bad copies of old authors and massive numbers of copies of the standard pulp writers that they feel safe with. Klavan is a controversial author to most publishers and booksellers (and libraries) because he is unabashedly conservative and Christian (and almost entirely politically incorrect. Before I move on and briefly mention two books by Klavan that I thought were great, I do want to mention that of the two of us, Medieval Otaku and I, I am the only one who has read both Kipling and Klavan. Kipling is often a lot like oatmeal, healthy, strong and filling, but bland. Try to read any of his little known stories like ‘The Light that Failed’ and you will see why Kipling does not rank on my list. His only really common story that people know is The Jungle Book, and they know a mutilated Disney version… Klavan, on the other hand, generally serves powerfully flavored foods that are also healthy. Some of his books are certainly dessert, but none are gruel.

There are two novels that stand out in my mind, the first partly because it was the first book by Klavan I ever read (The Uncanny) and the second he mentioned as one of his favorites. Despite the fact that most authors are really crappy about picking their best works, Agnes Mallory definitely is one of his best. I won’t say the best, because I always hope for better. I want to move him up the list sometime.

The Uncanny: Other than being a wild and uncanny ride, it is difficult to write something engrossing and valuable at the same time, and yet, in this novel Klavan succeeds. (He does it in Agnes Mallory as well.) I will copy something I wrote for The Dusty Thanes about the Uncanny. One of the characters has a medieval document who’s author writes about damnation and salvation.

This character [the author from above] writes … very poignantly about damnation. In his writing, essentially his last words, he reveals his knowledge that he is damned, and also his knowledge that with repentance, Christ’s sacrifice and love would redeem him despite his horrible crimes (and believe me, they are vile) and he rejects salvation through pride and fear and loathing of God, and willfully chooses damnation. This scene shakes the reader, makes the reader tremble with the awfulness of damnation, and effortlessly shows the orthodox Christian understanding that humans damn themselves.

Agnes Mallory: The only story that dealt with madness anywhere nearly as well was Stephen Kings ‘N’. However, Agnes Mallory has a serious advantage. One of Andrew Klavan’s consistent themes is the importance of people’s past, and culture’s past, to their present and their futures.  King’s constant theme is the futility of human action, and the difference is clear.

The last point I would like to make for Klavan is that he is one of the few good Christian novelists currently working. Klavan is fighting the cultural fight that so desperately needs fought. A common mistake that Christians make is to excuse their lack of excellence in something by saying ‘well, its for God, so the heart is what matters.’ This is absolutely not the case with Klavan, perhaps because he was an author before he was a Christian: and that is a sad assessment of the state of Christian authorship.

In any case, I am greatly looking forward to ‘Nightmare City’ out soon…

8 thoughts on “#9 Andrew Klavan

  1. But, I would say that there are three most notable works of Kipling. The Jungle Books and The Man Who Would be King are famous enough to merit films based on them. Also, Captains Courageous ends up on high school summer reading lists. The state of education in this country has not yet sunk so low. 🙂 And I just started reading The Light that Failed. So far, I have no complaints, even though this is Kipling’s first novel.

    Kipling bland? I suppose if you mean the word as it is used by the elderly or as its Latin origin blandus, sweet and pleasing to the palate. 😛

    It is sad that certain bookstores bear enmity toward controversial writers to such an extent. I checked Fiction, Mystery, and Christian Fiction for Klavan or Peterson (I had a vague recollection that he went under that nom de plume) and turned up nothing. Since this was in Virginia, I suppose that a lack of guts might be the reason more than a dislike of the author’s views.

    Great review of Klavan! Even just beginning the work you lent me evinces a pleasing sense of style. I’ll need to read more to see how much I’ll care for him.

    • Nami says:

      Forget the bookstores: the libraries should have Klavan. The ones I frequent look to have between 20 and 30 titles of his or in which his work is featured. It seems generally they’re filed under Mystery/Suspense or YA fiction. Libraries are usually pretty good about having some hidden gems–I hope that doesn’t change anytime soon.

      And to squeeze in a little something about Kipling: the only book of his I have ever read is Just So Stories, which I loved.

      • I’ll keep that in mind. I still haven’t gotten a library for this area yet. (I just moved.) Hopefully, I’ll remedy that soon. When I was young, my favorite gems to find in libraries were always memoirs from WWII submariners. I even found one in which a veteran wrote marginalia! That made my week I tell you!

        I offer plenty of suggestions for Kipling in the article I wrote, which will be posted tomorrow morning. I hope that you enjoy it!

  2. Reblogged this on Medieval Otaku and commented:

    A little more advertising for my new blog. 🙂 My friend has written a good piece on Andrew Klavan in the series on our favorite authors. Apparently, Klavan is rather controversial, and you might like this perspective on an author you may not find in a B&N.

    On a side note, some of his remarks are friendly jibes against an article on my #9, Rudyard Kipling, which will be posted on Tuesday. I hope that you get the chance to read both!

  3. Nami says:

    I’ve seen Klavan’s books around libraries, but to be honest I just assumed he was like most other contemporary fiction (which I have a hard time getting into anyway). It’s nice to know he’s not! Is there any book of his you’d recommend to someone reading him for the first time?

    • thompdjames says:

      Well, for a first time, I truly enjoyed The Uncanny if supernatural suspense is something you usually like. If, however you like a sort of detective novel feel, his Weiss and Bishop trilogy is quite amazing. That starts with ‘Dynamite Road’ then goes to ‘Shotgun Alley’ and ends very well with ‘Damnation Street’. I hope you enjoy them.

  4. […] hearing this blog’s co-author mention that Kipling’s The Light That Failed kept Kipling off his list of top ten novelists, I decided to read the novel myself.  (Thompdjames still writes on the blogosphere, but he has […]

  5. […] ethos behind the action.  They avoid the extremes of preachiness and amorality–similar to Andrew Klavan’s work.  One wishes that more Christians would write like them.  (Speaking of Christian fiction, I hope […]

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