November 22, 2012

Brian Keene's The Resurrection and the Life: Retro review with bonus interview

 As a warm up to an interview I'll be doing shortly with Bram Stoker award winning novelist, Brian Keene, here is a little something I wrote around 2006 or so.  I'd love to reference where I first published this, but for the life of me I just can't recall so if you happen to do a search that turns up it's original home, feel free to let me know.   At present, this book is now sold out by Biting Dog Press, but I figured I would re-post it here along with interviews with author, publisher and artist since it offers a nice glimpse into the process of making the book its self and how Brian came to write the story found inside.

Resurrecting the Goods

Deciding to purchase Brian Keene’s The Resurrection And The Life from Biting Dog Press should be no exception to the typical Buyer’s Beware rule. You’d be foolish to ignore the possibility this book can’t be judged by its incredible cover. Never mind that the story is by an award winning veteran author. No regrets, right? Well, as it turns out, Biting Dog’s newest offering isn’t a book that adheres to the buzz and accolades that surround it. Do not be mistaken fellow reader – ‘The Resurrection’ is a book that actually surpasses the beauty and the craftsmanship of its intricate design which happens to be very easy on the eyes. But is it as worthy of ownership as the well crafted wood block style suggests?

Biting Dog Press publications takes rightful pride in providing not merely books, but high caliber works of art that are built to be invested in and treasured as the fine collectibles they are. With the help of fellow Canadian, George Walker, Biting Dog added notorious zombie guy Brian Keene’s take on a significant religious event to their already wicked line of quality dark fiction.

This book is clearly the work of professional care. The author also lends a personal touch of his own by describing the fuel that sparked the inspiration to write an honest tale. There’s a very good chance The Resurrection And The Life will have you exploring your own beliefs and expanding upon your imagination if only to fit the slew of what ifs that this story is likely to yield from you. The book then wraps up with some intelligent insight from the editor, always a plus in my book.

Oh, and did I mention the story within is pretty damn good too? Fans of Brian Keene’s Labyrinth mythos will not want to miss out on this story of how Ob first came to be with us here on Earth. As Brian has told me in a past interview, The Labyrinth has many doors.  This door is one well worth its ticket price. One can't deny that Biting Dog Press is doing what it does best here, which is making world class books with darkly rich fiction that any fan or collector can be proud to own. 

So go on.  What are you waiting for? Go forth and drink from the fountain. It never empties. Drink, be filled and enjoy.  Ob awaits you, and the rising of the Siqqusim never looked better. 

In their own words…

With the publisher, DAVID DINSMORE:

Richard Hipson- So, what was your reaction when Brian told you he was going to essentially be rewriting an important part of the bible, Keene style?

David Dinsmore - Actually, Brian submitted another story first called Bunnies In August. George and I both liked the story but it just didn't conjure up the images that we needed for the presentation. After we gave it some thought, we asked for something to do with Ob from The Rising. Here I should mention that I usually never ask for anything in particular from an author; I think it stymies the creative juices and, more importantly, I think when asking for something specific you run the risk of overlooking something great that he or she might have tucked away either in the drawer or in their head.

That said, George and I agreed that the possibilities were endless with the whole mythos and character of Ob. Brian agreed to the Ob story and we started working on the general presentation and decided on the borders including the images of the mythos with hidden details. Once we got the story from Brian we changed our direction some to reflect the biblical aspect and decided to present it as being serious instead of whimsical. The idea of the medieval manuscript was born and that's the path we followed. I hated turning down the first story, but now I'm glad we did.

RH - You’ve mentioned to me that when you’re producing a new book the book and its presentation comes first with the story coming second. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there, those not necessarily into serious collecting, who must look at this approach and feel it’s not so far removed to suggesting that this is undermining of a good tale. What can you say to reassure them of the value you place in each and every project you implore?

DD - The story does take a back seat to the production, but it doesn't disappear. In order to produce the story as a work of art, we have to use the images and production values to embellish the tale. It's only in the process of this that the story takes second place. Even at that stage, we view the presentation as a whole, including the story. When you read the book you'll experience the tale, but at the same time your mind gets massaged with the texture of the paper, the feel and smell of the binding and, of course, the images of the woodcuts. All these things combine to heighten your experience over all when you read the book. This might be a bad comparison, but someone in an e-mail this week said it was like watching a good movie on a big screen with surround sound - it just made it all that much better. It takes over a year - normally - to produce a title, and we go over each little detail and pick and choose what we think will heighten the experience of the reader. It's much more than adding a few sketches and picking out a color for the binding.

The biggest problem of course is the price for the finished product. The average reader isn't willing to pay a hundred dollars, but luckily for us there is enough people out there that appreciate the quality of our work to keep us in business. Our list of buyers grows with each edition. Now we have a pre-sale list that buys almost half of each 250 copy run. That’s sight unseen. We must be doing something right.

RH - What other plans, if any, do you have for The Resurrection and The Life as far as additional editions and approaches to the format or anything else that may be included with a subsequent release?

DD - We only have the rights for this one edition, but we did talk with Brian about an ultra-ultra edition. Not sure if this will happen, but if it does, the ultra-ultra will include the actual woodcut block with an engraving from the book and the last print struck from that block with the book bound in some extravagant leather and boxed. Other than that, we've been in negotiations with Neil Gaiman, Jack Ketchum and Keene to let us release a commercial version of all our past books in something affordable, maybe trade paper, to include all the text and images that we used for our handmades - a collection of sorts.

With the artist, GEORGE WALKER:

Richard Hipson- How did you first become involved in this project, and what does it mean to you and your craft to have been a part of it?

George Walker - We had read Brian Keene’s Zombie books, The Rising and City of the Dead, and were inspired when Keene agreed to write a story for us. The first story Keene submitted didn’t really spin our heads. It wasn’t even about zombies! We wanted to know more about the Zombie leader, Ob, and asked Keene if he could provide us with a bit of the background on how Ob came into being. Keene was at a loss and said he’d have to think about it and we waited and waited. He really didn’t want to write another zombie story. But, as luck would have it, he had an epiphany and the myth of Ob became a reality.
I’ve always been interested in the history of the book, it has led me to study the printing practices, typography, illustration and creative concepts found in incunabula (books printed before 1501) to contemporary fine press publications and Artists’ books. As a book artist I am concerned with the quality of materials and the mechanics of the printed page. Books are one of our greatest cultural treasures. As the great Canadian Northrope Frye said, “The most technologically efficient machine that man has ever invented is the book.”

RH - So, being a fellow Canadian you obviously have an eye for good taste. That said, what did it take for you to pull off the woodblock style so effectively that you were able to help tell a part of Brian’s story with each piece of artwork displayed throughout the book? And was this a style that was new to you or one that you had to stretch to embrace and pull off so well?

GW - Thanks Richard! I’m glad you liked the work. All the blocks are original works inspired by early printed books (incunabula). The images were carved on endgrain maple wood using engraving tools. I wanted detail in the works but I also wanted to have a rough naive quality. Although wood engraving wasn’t invented until the 18th century, the difference between woodcut and wood engraving is largely with the tools used. I wanted a 16th century feel to the book; I didn’t want the refinement of the woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer but more of the layman’s woodcuts that you might find in restricted books of the time. Possessing a book with as many blasphemies as this book has would result in execution in earlier times. I’m sure there are parts of the world where you would still be executed if you had Keene’s The Resurrection and the Life in your hands.

RH - Did you find yourself having to conduct any research to help support your understanding for the period that this style represents? And I’m assuming, of course, that Keene wasn’t your Abbot during the production of your artwork.

GW – Yes, I did do research into 15th and 16th century religious books and illustration. Most of the technical research was already done before I agreed to work on the project. In 2004 I signed a book deal with Firefly Books to write a book about woodcut and wood engraving. The book is now complete and your readers can purchase it on Amazon or their favorite bookstore. It’s titled, “The Woodcut Artist’s Handbook; Techniques and Tools for Relief Printmaking.”

With the author, BRIAN KEENE:

Richard Hipson - One of the things that I found most profound about this story is that it
essentially gives us an account of Ob’s first induction into our living world. Considering this was hardly Ob’s first appearance within your body of work, where you just as intrigued as I was by the question of how Ob first came to be, or had this story been brewing in your mind to a certain degree until a preacher and your muse helped you to put it down on paper?

Brian Keene - Well, actually, it’s not his first incursion. The reader doesn’t know that yet, of course, but I do. (laughs). It’s all part of an elaborate back-story I’ve created. I mapped my mythos out before delving too far into it. But this particular story - no, it was new to me as well.

RH - What was your initial reaction when David asked you to create a story from a specific character rather than anything else that may have been sneaking around in your head, and how uncommon a request is this from an editor in your experience?

BK - Well, he passed on what I originally sent him, which was a story about a man haunted by the death of his child. When I asked him what he wanted instead, Dave asked for Ob. At first I groaned and muttered and grumbled about doing “another god damn zombie story,” but then the idea hit me and I relaxed and smiled and giggled about doing “another kick ass zombie story.”

RH - Did it affect the way you wrote in a way that you might not have anticipated?

BK - Not really, other than trying to capture the ‘flavor’ of the King James Bible.

RH - Now that we have understanding of the origins of Ob, how will this affect the way future references to the Siqqusim will be carried out as it pertains to your Labyrinth Mythos as a whole?

BK - Like everyone else, you’ll have to wait and see. But trust me, it’s not long coming now...

For more on current affairs with Brian Keene, visit his site and enter the LABYRINTH

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with multi-award winning horror novelist, Brian Keene.  Follow me on Twitter @DarkBitesBlog to check out the upcoming interview live as it happens.  Got a question of your own for Brian?  Leave it down below for a chance to have it passed on to the man.