Often I randomly pick up novels by authors I don't know and have never read. I've had pretty good luck with this method; by using it over the years I've discovered great writers like Patricia Briggs, Harlan Coben, Linda Howard, and Mark Kurlansky.
A few weeks ago I picked up this novel at random:
It caught my eye for two reasons: the great cover art, naturally, and the fact that Rob Thurman and I write for the same imprint but I'd never heard of him.* I read the first page, was intrigued, decided to give it a whirl, and brought it home.
I'd never heard of Rob Thurman because Nightlife is his first published novel. As debuts go, it's ambitious and impressive. Very few writers can do dark urban fantasy that is as funny as it is frightening, but Rob Thurman nailed it his first time at bat.
There's also something rather audacious that this author does with the protagonist midway through the book that I have never seen done as well or in quite the way he did it. Technically speaking, I thought it was superb (and no, I'm not spoiling things by telling you what.) They say we old creaky pros can't learn anything new? I'm betting Rob Thurman could teach me a few tricks. We need to watch this guy.
Despite the pervasive humor, Nightlife is not a fuzzy bunny book, so I don't recommend it for the faint of spleen. This novel is a very dark, action-oriented and violent urban fantasy, with an emphasis on dire straits, bleak comedy and what I'm going to call mythpunk for want of a better word. If you're into books by writers like Douglas Clegg, Stuart MacBride, Tamara Siler Jones, and the really dark stuff I've done (Red Branch and the other Ravelin stories), then Nightlife is something I think you'll enjoy a lot.
You all don't take my word for it: let's do a giveaway. In comments to this post, tell us the title of a book that has impressed you, and the reason it did by midnight EST on Wednesday, April 5, 2006. I'll pick five names from everyone who participates and post them here on the blog by noon EST on Thursday, April 6, 2006. The five winners will receive an unsigned copy of Nightlife by Rob Thurman. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here in the past.
*Added: The author may be female; I can't confirm his/her gender. (Thanks to Karen W. for catching this.)