(Note: I was provided an ARC in exchange for a fair review)
Title: The Buddy System
Author: Brian Keene
Now, I don’t normally review nonfiction here, but I have been known to make the occasional exception. This, the staggering new memoir from Horror Grandmaster Brian Keene, is definitely worth bending my rule. I mean, c’mon, the man pretty much single-handedly brought zombies back into the spotlight.
This book, though … this book … wow. Words almost fail me. I thought I’d learned a lot of genre history over the years, but Keene blows the doors wide open. He hauls long-hidden controversies into the light. He kicks butt and takes names. He also does it with such insightfulness, such poignancy and compassion … I was brought to tears. Literal tears. More than once.
The anecdotes he recounts are so vivid, it’s like being there. I never would have guessed the stuff about the bowling league. And the behind-the-scenes story of that pivotal weekend writer’s retreat from which stemmed both The Hollower and Clickers? The incognito Comic Con incident?
Not to mention the scandals and secrets! To think there really IS a blacklist, and the raw balls it took to publish it! Along with the timeline. Sure, some of the names are redacted, but if you’ve been in the field long enough, it’s easy to fill in the blanks. I also personally can’t wait to put his surefire insider path-to-success tips to use.
It isn’t all about the industry, of course. It isn’t all about Keene’s meteoric rise to renegade stardom. It’s a deeply, intensely personal autobiography. He bares his innermost here. His struggles, the darkest of the dark times. The Buddy System is a soul flayed open on the page, a triumph, a tribute, a work for the ages.
Move over, On Writing and A Writer’s Tale. Make room on the shelf for another must-read classic sure to become a cornerstone not only of the horror genre but the entire literary world.