Cody Mcfadyen was born in Texas in 1968. He designed websites before selling his first novel, Shadow Man, in 2005. He has since had a second book – The Face of Death – published. Both were international best sellers. He lives in Southern California with his two black labs, often referred to as ‘The Black Forces of Destruction.’ He drinks coffee (copiously), plays guitar (badly), and reads (voraciously). He abhors adverbs in writing, except when used in short bios like this one. Read More

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Innocent Bone - Der Menschenmacher

My fifth book has been released in Germany - The Innocent Bone (as I know it) or "Der Menschenmacher."

I wanted to take the time to say a few things about the book, and to answer some common questions I've been getting.

First, the questions:

A. YES - the next book will be a Smoky Barrett book. Promise! :)

B. NO - there is not an English translation, yet. The German publication is the first in the world, and it may be some months before the English translation occurs.

I'm returning to Germany at the end of March, for a tour, with a mix of enthusiasm and trepidation. I realize that Smoky is much beloved by those who read her. As a fan of a number of 'continuing characters' myself, I appreciate the reluctance some may feel to 'step outside the series.' I hope you'll give it a try.

This is a book I had to write, and it has involved both hours and anguish. I expect it to be highly controversial amongst my existing readers, and see some proof of this in the opening reviews on ('Five stars! One star! Two stars! Four stars!') I expect some to despise it, and others to love it, and would be surprised to find much middle-ground. I'm not saying this to be avant-garde, I simply feel that it's that kind of a book. Again, two emails received seem to support this. Both were very kind, but certainly different in their views of the book. One loved it best of my books so far; the other said politely "Please return to Smoky Barrett."

For those that will love it, I hope it takes you places both terrible and redemptive. For those that will hate it, but love the Smoky series, I can only accept your judgment humbly, and ask for your patience. This was a novel driven by forces unknown to me; not literally, but sometimes it felt that way. It took me on a terrible journey, and I present it to you, my German readers, as a journey worth taking.

Smoky will return in book six. I'm in the midst of it already, and I know fans of the series will not be disappointed. Time away from her has been good for both my creativity and my clarity, so far as Smoky Barrett is concerned.

Whether you like or hate Der Menschenmacher, my primary hope - as with all of my books - is that it will shake you up; that it will make you feel something visceral and true.

It's a dark voyage. Whether or not you like the journey, I believe you'll know you have traveled, and that perhaps you'll step off onto the dock just a little bit dazed; perhaps a little bit troubled. I certainly hope so, strange as that sounds.

Before returning to my lapse in posting... let me say to EVERYONE who has emailed me with such kind and encouraging words about my novels - thank you, truly. I am terrible with replies, but I do ensure that I read them all. And I am very, very much looking forward to my return to Germany this March.

Long drives, lovely crowds and dark beer... what else could I possibly ask for?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Finished In Germany and Back Home

What a crazy last few days that was... :)

The event at Dusseldorf was packed, and as elsewhere in Germany, the event attendees were supportive, enthusiastic and gracious. I was starting to flag a little by then (I never really got over my jet lag before leaving) but came awake quite suddenly when it was time to start. I hated the idea of all these people coming just to watch me fight my own exhaustion. I think it went okay, and even if it didn't, those attending never let on, so thank you. I had a long line of book signers, and couldn't seem to stop smiling. After, the four of us went out for a drink and I stayed up talking perhaps a little too late, given that we were driving to Munich the next morning (six hour drive) and would be having a late night event (10 O'clock).

The drive to Munich was filled with both conversation and silence. I struggled to sleep, but was mostly interested in watching the scenery go by. I love the black forest, and those towering, skinny evergreens. We drove through wine country and watched the sun finally burst through the morning gloom to light up the fields on either side of the highway as far as the eye could see.

We got into Munich with enough time to actually get out and see some of the city. We went to the city center and visited the amazing, open air market. Then - something magical happened. I drank Augustiner beer, the dark version. It was probably the best beer I've ever had in my life! There were a group of men sitting next to us, older guys who (you could tell) enjoyed their beer on a daily basis. My guide struck up a conversation with one of them and introduced me. The man proceeded to tell a story of being a young boy at the end of World War II, sporting blonde hair and lederhosen. He explained how tough those times were. No milk, little food, no extras at all. But then his mother started ironing clothes for some of the GIs, and one of them, without prompting, brought his mother regular packages of powdered milk, along with chocolate for the boy. I watched this old man get emotional for a moment. "A lot of people were angry at the Americans then. A lot of young people today don't know everything that happened. But I do. The American helped us because we needed help." (This is a paraphrase - his German was being translated by my guide, whose English was a little spotty. But that was the gist of it.) Before we left, I plopped a 20 Euro bill on the table and said: "The next round is on Colorado." Wow, were they happy. Those guys really like their beer.

I tottered off to dinner, hopeful that the Augustiner would level off a bit. It had hit me pretty hard, and I was starting to be pretty thankful that the event was at 10:00, and not earlier.

The event itself was great. It was also humbling. It was in the forensics department (sorry, I don't know the exact name), in the room where lectures are given. We had an authentic autopsy table (I definately checked that out) and 420 people sitting and waiting for me. That was the humbling part. Look, it's not an affectation, okay? Having a crowd of people interested in my writing is something I don't take for granted. I hope I never will. It was pretty lively. We had a good Q and A with the audience (I told them if they didn't ask any questions, someone would be randomly chosen for the autopsy table...) The book-signing after took forever, which is NOT a complaint! :) I got to meet Verena's parents (you'll see her comments somewhere on this blog), as well as a fellow author. Once everyone was gone, the exhaustion hit, so it was straight to bed after... or so I thought! No, more beer and conversation was involved, so it was in bed at 2:00 and up at 7:00. No regrets - sleep is for the weak.

The next morning we drove to Leipzig, and this was probably my favorite drive of the whole trip. The countryside as you head in that direction really changes a lot. There's an older feel to things (true or not) and though I was tired, I tried to take it all in. Upon arrival in Leipzig, I checked in, showered, and then we headed to the book fair. I did a TV interview and signed for various random readers/fans that walked by or searched me out. I got to relax and talk with a number of the Luebbe staff. Like all the staff in all the publishing houses I've met thus far, the thing that struck me the most was this truth: they really love books.

The event in Leipzig was in this 'trippy' area of town. I think it was in the old GDR area (if I'm wrong, my apologies.) A lot of bars and a very young, hip feeling. I felt a little out of place, to be honest (I'm no longer young and hip, let's face it), but the crowd was as friendly as anywhere else. I shouldn't have been surprised - these are fellow readers, after all. People not necessarily there (at that event) to see me, but people who were there because they love to read. It was the perfect cap to the perfect trip.

By the end of all that, I was practically hallucinating. I suppose it was the fact that the pressure was now, truly, off. I let myself relax and found myself falling down a dark, deep hole of exhaustion. But wait! This was Germany! So more dinner and much drinking was yet to be done. So I drank dark beer late into the evening, both at the restaurant and later at the hotel, until I was absolutely certain I had to either go to bed or start dancing around with a lampshade on my head. As I'd managed to keep my dignity so far, I hugged those who needed to be hugged and said my goodbyes and good nights.

I woke the next morning surprisingly refreshed. There was a minor travel adventure: the plane to Leipzig arrived 20 minutes later than planned, which meant it arrived in Frankfurt at the time I was supposed to be boarding the plane to Denver. By the time I made it through the passport line, it was long past the boarding time, and I was certain I was going to miss the flight. So I ran. I wasn't alone, thankfully. A mother and three kids were also jogging alongside me, and it seemed we ran the length of the Frankfurt airport. We arrived covered in sweat and breathing heavily, but we got on the plane. I promptly collapsed in my seat and woke up hours later with a head full of cotton and a strong need for water.

Now I'm home, and rested again. We had a mini-blizzard last night, so the snow is piled outside and blinding in the sun. I'm remembering all the people I met on this trip,and how well they treated me.

Everyone who came to see me: thank you so much. Thank you for your patience with my nervousness, thank you for your thought provoking questions, and most of all - thanks for reading. I hope to have many excuses in the years to come to travel to your beautiful country. Maybe with a little more time to sleep and a little less beer (on second thought, scratch that last), but whatever the circumstances, I'll be glad to come.

And if anyone feels left out, or if I forgot to mention some aspect of the trip adequately (I'm afraid Hamburg and Unna got a post I wrote mid-trip, when I was still pretty tired, for example), please rest assured: I enjoyed every stop along the way, and have a long memory for people and their kindnesses.

Time to hunker down and tuck in so I can finish the next book. It's not quite as far along as it should be, because like many writers, I procrastinate and call it "contemplation." Sometimes I even contemplate with my eyes closed. Sometimes (rare times) my contemplation is accompanied by a sound very close to snoring...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Germany So Far

Writing from Germany - it's been pretty whirlwind so far, and wonderful. I didn't sleep on the plane, so was fairly wobbly when I arrived in Frankfurt. That was unfortunate, because a Munich newspaper specifically wanted a picture of me at the airport... so they got it, complete with red-rimmed eyes and crazy-hair. :)

The first event I did was in Hamburg, and it was great. All the people there were readers (and I saw an "old friend" as well). Nina Petrie, the actress who played Jutta Hansen in "Run Lola Run", did an amazing reading, and there were a lot of great questions from the audience. Ulrike Sarkany was the host and did an excellent job.

The next morning we drove to Dortmund, and that evening I did the event at Unna. It was really something. There were approximately 200 people there, and my heart was pounding in my chest as we took the stage. When I did my reading, I'm pretty sure my face was beet red due to the stage fright. Sigh. What can I say? To borrow from McCoy, "I'm a writer, not an actor, damn it!" :) Actress Sabine Postel did a moving reading (I couldn't understand the words, but I could feel the rhythm, and the audience was rapt.) Angela Spizig, the Deputy Mayor for Culture in Koln, was the host. I met her on my last trip to Germany and she's really a great host. She has a true love of literature and art in all forms, and I was appreciative that she was willing to travel to Unna to do it. The signing after was humbling. So many people. I'm still of the mind that I don't deserve to have all those strangers come up and want my signature on something. Quite surreal (though I'm not complaining!) I have to say, I was thankful to have someone there spelling out those German names for me. :)

Now I'm back in Koln (sorry, no umlaut on this keyboard), typing this at the Savoy hotel. I have a radio interview in about twenty minutes, and then an event this evening in Dusseldorf. After that, it's off to Munich on Friday, which is supposed to be another big one (sold out, can't get my wits wrapped around that), so I'll start taking deep, calming breaths this evening.

I finish in Leipzig at the book fair, which I'm very much looking forward to.

P.S: as I typed the words above, a knock came at my hotel door. It was a member of the hotel staff, with a plate of grapes, strawberries, and tangerines. "This is a gift from the hotel to you, sir," she said. See? Germany's awesome! :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book Tour In Germany

I am doing my first book tour in Germany next week from the 16th-20th. I'm really looking forward to meeting my German readers and to seeing a string of cities for the first time - even if it is a little bit whirlwind.

The details will be going up on my Appearances and Events page, but I wanted to get it down here, as well. Here are the dates and places:

Tuesday March 16th:
Hamburg, Thalia Bookstore
Große Bleichen 19
20354 Hamburg

Wednesday March 17th:
Unna, Crime Writer Festival
Zentrum für int. Lichtkunst e.V.
Lindenplatz 1
59423 Unna

Thursday March 18th:
Duesseldorf, Mayersche Bookstore
önigsallee 18
40212 Düsseldorf

Friday March 19th:
Munich, Crime Writer Festival
Department for Forensic Medicine
Nussbaumstraße 26
80336 München

Saturday March 20th:
Leipzig Book Fair
Die naTo
Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 46
04275 Leipzig

I hope to meet lots of you on this tour, so please don't be shy. I'm flying across the ocean to meet you, not to be aloof!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You Suck, and That's Sad

Well... I'm actually referring to myself there. :) I've been the anti-blogger, I know, but I'm back again!

Below is an article I wrote for another blog, about writing the bad guys and specifically how I came up with the evilness for 'Abandoned.' Hope you like.

I build my books around the bad guy. I have from the first. I remember making a conscious decision to build my bad guys a little bit outside the box – the box being the firm reality we all know and agree to be.


Because it’s a lot more fun to write about serial killers that way.

Think about it. Hannibal Lecter is a lot more interesting than Son of Sam. Hannibal is brilliant, complex, unclassifiable. He kills with finesse and precision. Son of Sam was an unhinged lunatic, blowing people away at random. As a character, Hannibal is much more interesting to write about (and read). Because true serial killers aren’t super villains. They’re disturbed, sordid individuals, driven by hungers and needs that usually destroy them from the inside out. A lot of the time, they’re socially inept, and not very smart. Their depravity is most often senseless. Writing about what they do would be like writing about a great white shark: it eats because it is hungry and it has such big sharp teeth… you can’t sustain an entire novel on pure savagery. So I like for my bad guys to have a reason for what they do, some guiding purpose. Otherwise, all I’m doing is asking you to pull up a chair and watch the feast – and while something in our reptile brains might enjoy seeing a little bit of the feast, we shy away from the full truth of it.

So when I started thinking about Abandoned, the fourth book in my series, I started by thinking about my killer. I wanted to do something different, but what? The killers in the books earlier in the series had all been pretty ‘hungry’; in other words, they were appetite driven. ‘So what,’ I thought, ‘about a killer with no appetite at all?’

I actually rejected it at first, but the idea kept swimming back to the forefront. There was something terrifying about the idea of someone operating with such cold clarity. It was haunting me – which is always a good sign! I thought about it a lot and finally realized what (for me at least) makes such a killer so chilling: that kind of coldness relegates us to nothing, nothing at all.

The killer who is purposefully cruel, the killer who drools with excitement, still needs our humanity, at whatever level. There is a validation of our value as sentient, emotional beings, even if that only means they need our fear and our horror. It’s a terrible kind of ‘mattering’, but still, we matter.

In the world of the killer I envisaged, we don’t matter at all. There’s no intentional cruelty, no enjoyment of our suffering, no acknowledgement of the value of our existence. He assigns his victims numbers, because it’s a more economical use of oxygen than saying their names.

I saw him, he terrified me, and then I wrote him. He lies within the pages of Abandoned. It’s my hope he’ll terrify you as well.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Once Upon A Time

On the rare occasion that I get writer’s block, one of the things I use to get the words rolling again is “Once upon a time.”

“Once upon a time,” I’ll think. I’ll look around the room and spot, perhaps, my DVD player. “Once upon a time a guy sat down to watch a DVD.”

What DVD?

“Okay, it was Cannibal Holocaust. Jim wasn’t really into gore movies, but he’d lost a bet with a friend about whether or not he could devour an entire watermelon in one sitting, so there he was.”

Then what?

“Well, he decided he needed some liquid courage to watch the hideously violent film (he really didn’t like gory films). When he went to the refrigerator, the beer was gone.”

Why? Who drank it? Him?

“No, the beer was one of six twelve packs polished off at the poker party the evening before. The poker party, by the way, was something Jim and his friends had put together a year before. Instead of playing for money, they put a ‘Fear Factor’ spin on it. Hence the watermelon, hence Cannibal Holocaust. Hence no beer. Jim decided he’d have to go buy some, so he went to the store.”

In what? A car, a truck a van?

“Beat up ten-speed bicycle. He lost the car a few months earlier in a similar poker game. (Yes, Jim has a gambling problem.) So he takes off on his ten speed, to buy some beer. It’s the middle of the night, but the 7-11 isn’t far. However, just as he’s about to turn off his street, he hears a blood curdling scream and a naked woman bursts out of the house on the corner and races across the lawn. A man runs after her, wielding a hatchet…”

And so on. It’s a silly exercise, but it almost never fails. The key is to try and go left when you’d normally go right. Lots of sudden ninety-degree angles and improbability. I swear, it’s like WD 40 for the mind.

Of course, we never get to find out what happened to Jim. Did he save the girl? Did he shrug and cycle on? If we want to get complex about it, maybe this is what happens:

“Jim leaps off his bike and gives chase to the man with the hatchet, but gets there too late to save the girl. The hatchet gets buried in her skull twice before Jim manages to tackle the bad guy. A brutal fight ensues, a violent, desperate, knock-down drag-out . Jim is at the losing end, being strangled to death, when his grasping hand finds the handle of the hatchet. He grips it hard, yanks it out of the poor girl’s head, and chops at the bad guy, again and again, lost in his own hysteria, fury, and desperation. When the police arrive, they find him there, hatchet in hand, wild-eyed, standing above two dead bodies.

The cops, of course, end up assuming he was the original assailant, and he is arrested. No evidence to the contrary is found, and Jim goes to death row – all because he went out to buy some beer. He never does get to watch Cannibal Holocaust. He never gambles again.”

Try it sometime. Give yourself a license to imagine the ridiculous or the strange or whatever, without censor, and see if helps.

A final one, in honor of it being Halloween:

Once upon a time, two kids came to my door for Halloween Candy. They came alone, and they were never seen again. The very next day, the dirt in the crawl space of my basement was freshly turned, so freshly turned.

Are these two things related?

I don’t know. I truly don’t. I can’t remember.

But my fingernails are dirty, so dirty, and I am… I am…

So happy.

Happy Halloween and happy reading.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Write What You Know

(I've been guest blogging at a site hosted by my publisher, and the below is one of those recent postings.)

One of the problems I’ve run into in writing twisted books about serial killers is that people seem to assume all writers heed the advice to - generally spoken in a Morgan-Freeman-being-God kind of voice - WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.

Seriously, I once had neighbors that kept me at arm’s length after they heard what I write about. I guess they thought I must know something about being a serial killer, or at least enjoy the concept in a fantasy sense. One Halloween they got up the gumption to talk to me, and asked me what costume I was planning to wear.

“Oh, I’m already in costume,” I replied.

They frowned, puzzled. “What do you mean?” The husband asked.

“Well, I’m going as a serial killer. They’re monsters that wear people costumes, get it? ” Then I let my left eye twitch, followed by some hearty, back-slapping laughter that ended as suddenly as it had begun.

I know, I know. It was mean. But their attitude had been pissing me off for a year, so I gave into my pettier impulses. We had no further interaction.

The point is, ‘Write what you know’, while sound advice, can’t always be applied. Sometimes, you have to ‘write what you think you know’ or ‘write what you can surmise.’ When it comes to something as twisted and alien as a serial killer, the best I can do is to try and understand them by comparing their experience to something more human. For example: I’ve had experience with drug addicts. I’ve watched that craving, the kind that opens up a hole in people that they’ll use anything to fill. They’ll pack anything in that hole, from their self respect to their family’s love, and often do. So I took that experience, which I can at least relate to on some level, and applied it to understanding a serial killer. I imagined having that same kind of craving and need to kill other human beings, and I did my best to relate it.

But did I know it? Of course not. And I hope I never do.

This also pops up in writing the character of Smoky Barrett. I’m a guy, she’s a woman, I write her in the first person. What’s more, she’s a woman who’s experienced rape, and half of her face was disfigured by her attacker. Well, I’ve gotten an email or two from female readers accusing me of writing such a character so I could ‘experience her rape vicariously’. I would probably have found this devastating, had I not gotten a letter early on from a woman who did, in fact, experience being raped and disfigured in her home. It’s one of only two actual snail-mail letters I’ve received from readers (email rules the day), and in it she thanked me for my portrayal of the main character. She said it made her feel good to read about someone else overcoming that and getting on with their life, too.

I can’t know what she went through, and would never claim that understanding. I tried, instead, to tap into what I have experienced and observed on the subject of human suffering, and did my best to convey that. I’m pleased where it worked, and offer my most sincere middle finger to those ladies who wrote me those emails, few though they were.

Not all writing is about what you know. In fact, for me, a lot of writing is about the opportunity to try and understand those things you find a mystery.

In the end, I think that’s a big part of what keeps me writing. Hopefully, it’s part of what keeps you reading, too.