Gollancz is pleased to bring you a special guest post from Darren Shan to celebrate the publication of his brand new adult novel Lady of the Shades. Lady of the Shades is out now from our sister imprint, Orion.
I love noir. I first came to it through the classic old black and white films, and then moved on to the books on which many of those movies were based. Give me an emotionally wounded leading man, a sexy and dangerous femme fatale, and a plot that twists like a snake at an acid party, and I’m in heaven.
But I also love horror and fantasy. My relationship with the fantastical actually developed before my affair with noir. I loved ghost stories and ancient myths when I was a child, discovered King, Tolkien and Clive Barker in my early teens, and never looked back.
It’s rare for the two genres to intersect. I always get an extra little thrill when they do, as I see it as a coming together of two of my great passions. I buzzed when Angel Heart gave me Double Indemnity spliced with Satan. I always nod admiringly when John Connolly weaves elements of the supernatural into his ultra-dark detective stories. But such unions don’t come along very often.
Since so few other writers were combining noir with dark fantasy, I decided to tackle the twin behemoths myself. Lady of the Shades is my attempt to draw the typically separate universes together and make them function as a seamless, natural whole, to pen a classical noir tale that also works on more ethereal levels.
It starts, as so many bitter mystery tales do, with a lonely man finding love in the arms of a beautiful woman who is more than she seems, whose love life is a tangled, deadly web. If he is to win her heart forever, he must be prepared to fight for her, and maybe even kill.
So far, so noir!
But there is also more to the man than meets the eye. He is a haunted figure. The very first time we meet him, he tells us:
I wake abruptly from a troubled sleep to find the dead pressing in tightly around me. Half a dozen phantoms, teeth bared, snarling mutely, scratching at my face with their insubstantial fingernails. I stifle a scream and bury my face in a pillow, waiting for the last vestiges of the nightmare to pass.
He’s not sure if the ghosts are real or figments of his guilty subconscious. For the last several years of his life, he has been on a quest to find out. As he falls in love, he starts to think that he can maybe leave the ghosts behind, that the lady of his dreams might rescue him from his dark and dreadful past.
But he’s about to discover what so many troubled heroes before him have found out to their cost. In the world of noir, a charming, seductive lady is only rarely a lady from the world of dreams. More often than not, she is a lady of peril, a lady of darkness, a lady of nightmares.
A Lady of the Shades.