Richard Kadrey on Sandman Slim and his fantastic urban fantasy series

Sandman Slim started out as two lines in two different notebooks. One was, “Hitman from Hell.” The other was, “Character: Sandman Slim. What does name mean?” That’s it. The whole series, four books so far, came from that.

James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, is a magician. Not a guy in Vegas who saws housewives in half and plays kid parties with a disappearing cabinet and an alcoholic rabbit. No, Stark can perform real magic but he refuses call himself a wizard. Harry Potter is a wizard. Stark is a magician. And he’s spent a little time in Hell. Not that he wanted to. Another magician tricked him there. And after eleven years of fighting in Hell’s arenas James Stark slowly transformed from a clever guy who can do some slick magic to Sandman Slim, a deadly guy who’s very good at killing people.

While that’s a lot of fantastic elements, I never really thought of Sandman Slim as urban fantasy. I intended it more as a noir crime novel in the mold of Jim Thompson and Elmore Leonard, with a supernatural background. Crime writer Richard Stark inspired Stark’s name. As a teenager, I’d read a few of his Parker novels. Stark’s cool, hard prose and characterization immediately made me wonder if you could get away with something similar in science fiction or fantasy. Twenty years later I finally got around to trying it with Sandman Slim.

Of course, I’ve been inspired by a lot of fantasy writers too. Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker are two contemporary examples, while Lovecraft comes on strong for the old school. Seventies British science fiction from New Worlds magazine was also a big influence, especially writers such as J.G. Ballard and Michael Moorcock.

There’s one other big and unlikely inspiration for the Sandman Slim series and that’s George W. Bush and the fundamentalist horde he bought with him to Washington. I wanted to understand the evangelicals so I started reading Christian history, none of which seemed to have very much to do with what Bush and his boys were selling. Still, I have to thank him. Reading church history led me to the heretical Christian books and those led me to studying the history of Hell and Lucifer. That’s also where Sandman Slim came from. Right from the Devil’s rumpus room. I’m pretty sure that’s not what George intended but the truth is he owns a little piece of Sandman Slim and he has to learn to live with that.

 Sandman Slim is already available in hardback. Kill the Dead is being published today and Aloha From Hell will be published in the first week of July. Buy them via the links below and anywhere books are sold:

Sandman Slim

Kill the Dead

Aloha Fom Hell

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