Since The Limits of Enchantment appeared in 2005, Graham Joyce has spent most of his time writing young adult novels. TWOC and Do the Creepy Thing (The Exchange in the U.S.) have been printed in the United States. Three Ways to Snog an Alien and this month’s The Devil’s Ladder still are available only in the U.K.
Finally, Joyce’s first adult novel in four years is being published by Night Shade Books in the U.S. this fall. A year ago Memoirs of a Master Forger came out under the pseudonym William Heaney in England. Heaney is the narrator of the story. Joyce was not secretive about the use of the nom de plume. He announced it on his web site. He was just curious to see how a new book would sell without the baggage of his previous work. The book sold amazingly well. However, in the U.S. the novel has a new title, and is being released under the author’s real name.
Unfortunately, How to Make Friends with Demons, the U.S. title, has a YA sound to it, so some of Joyce’s fans might pass it by. Don’t be fooled. This is definitely a book for us big kids. Don’t miss it.
Here is an introduction to How to Make Friends with Demons: When he was in college, William Heaney, destined to become a master forger of first editions, dabbled with old manuscripts of sorcery and witchcraft. His idea was to create a book of spells that looked old enough to be worth some money. Heaney became bored with the project and put it away.
A fellow student found the papers and, hoping to that a demon might help him become successful with at least one of five women he singled out, gave the spells a try. Amazingly the first of many demons appeared. And the women, all of whom were Heaney’s former or current lovers, began to die. To save the woman he loves, Heaney makes a deal with the devil that will change his life and give him the ability to see the demons around him.
By the time the narrative starts, William has classified 1,567 of these diabolical beings, all of whom have the appearances of shadowy figures, trying to take over human beings at their weakest moments.
Years have passed; Heaney’s marriage has fallen apart; he is estranged from his children; and he is afraid to make a commitment to another person. He has found a woman who can make him happy, but he sees the demon that possesses her and fears that it might be able to make the jump to him.
Then Heaney meets a psychotic Desert Storm veteran who sees the demons, too. The sergeant, old before his time, wires himself with explosives and threatens to blow himself up near Buckingham Palace. At the last moment the soldier gives William his own memoir, and the story helps Heaney begin come to terms with his past and his present. He discovers that the only way he can have a future is to make friends with the demons that haunt him.
Joyce, whose The Facts of Life won a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2003, is among the finest modern crafters of subtle dark fantasy. By subtle, I mean that though supernatural elements are present, they are not the focus of the fiction; the characters are. And, as he has proven in previous works like The Tooth Fairy and Smoking Poppy, Graham Joyce can make readers care about his characters as if they were close friends or members of the family.
How to Make Friends with Demons is definitely lighter reading than most of his earlier adult novels, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that any new book from Graham Joyce is special and worth the wait. I just hope we don’t have to wait quite so long for the next one.
Note: Joyce’s personal memoir of his soccer-playing experiences, Simple Goalkeeping Made Spectacular was published in England in August. From the descriptions on his website, the book should be really funny. I don’t think I can wait for a U.S. publication. I’m going to have to order it from across the pond.
Mark Graham reviewed books for the Rocky Mountain News from 1977 until the paper closed its doors in February 2009. His “Unreal Worlds” column on science fiction and fantasy appeared regularly in the paper since 1988. He has reviewed well over 1,000 genre books. If you see a Rocky Mountain News blurb on a book, it is likely from a review or interview he wrote. Graham also created and taught Unreal Literature, a high school science fiction class, for nearly 30 years in the Jefferson County Colorado public schools.