Thomas Hewlett: L.A. Noir
With a Vampire Twist
By Donna Letterese
Author Thomas Hewlett knew what he wanted to do from the age of fifteen. Growing up in Los Angeles, he was drawn to Science-Fiction and Mystery works. When he found books whose endings he didn't like, he re-wrote them himself. In doing so, he realized his calling. "It sparked something inside me," Hewlett muses. "When I didn't get that same feeling from anything else, I knew that all I wanted to do was write."
Hewlett loves classic writers in the mystery and horror genres, His work is in the vein of Raymond Chandler, Anne Rice, and Steven King. He also cites Michael Connelly as a particularly important influence. "Connelly's detective character, Harry Bosch, helped me shape my own main character," Hewlett explains. "I've always been drawn to the lone detective with a wry voice, who's a good guy living in the gray zone. Although my character Jack Strayhorn is not only a P.I. - he's a hundred-year-old vampire."
Hewlett describes his "Twelve Stakes" series as "supernatural mystery," blending elements of noir, mystery, horror, and urban fantasy. Yet, at its core, this fantastical series is truly about the human experience. Hewlett's own struggles with addiction, and his ultimate recovery, are at the heart of everything he writes. "When I was using, I felt broken, with something powerful inside me I couldn't understand or control," Hewlett reflects. "I knew an old jazz musician who called heroin 'tragic magic,' since it's like a dark magic that takes over you. You think it's elevating your creative abilities - yet, addicts never understand that you aren't a musician or a writer until you get out of your addiction."
"My recovery has involved writing, not only as a way to cope, but as a way to understand my characters," Hewlett adds. Much like he felt as an addict, the supernatural characters in his stories have tremendous power. Unfortunately, that power is dangerous, and difficult to manage. They too wrestle with finding that inner strength to pull away from their demons. Interestingly, Hewlett's vampire characters are also members of Alcoholics Anonymous. The idea for this combination came shortly after Hewlett had hit his own personal rock bottom and then completed rehab.
Khanh Ho, a fellow writer friend of Hewlett's, had visited during Hewlett's stay in a psychiatric hospital and subsequent rehab. Ho was funny and positive, even when not much humor was to be found. After Hewlett's release, the two men met for dinner. Hewlett knew he wanted to write again, and was wondering how to creatively utilize what he had gone through. Ho suggested writing about "Vampires in AA," and it clicked. "In my stories, Alcoholics Anonymous was started by vampires," Hewlett elaborates. "Unbeknownst to humans, their AA is simply a cover."
Hewlett was inspired by the parallels between real life and fantasy. Vampires using AA as a front humanized them. If uncontrollably drinking blood caused them to lose control and black out - much the way alcohol and drug binges do with humans - they would need a support group to survive.
Hewlett's debut novel, "One Death at a Time," is the first book in his thirteen book "Twelve Stakes" saga. Set in a supernatural, noir version of Los Angeles, it centers on aforementioned P.I. Jack Strayhorn. To atone for his sins in life, he works to solve murders - while also being a vampire/blood addict. While attending the secret vampire version of AA to treat his addiction, he realizes the murders he's investigating all have a supernatural bent.
Throughout the series, Strayhorn discovers that he and his kind are not alone: werewolves, fairies, and witches also hide in the city's shadows. While the vampires struggle with blood addiction, the werewolves are drug smugglers in a motorcycle gang, the fairies are the drug chemists (creating meth-inspired "pixie-dust"), and the witches are in hiding.
The story explores who these various creatures are, and how they survive. The heroes of the story forge ahead. Some get killed, and others may kill. Either way, they persevere, turning their journey into a positive one. Hewlett notes that the redemptive arcs his characters go on have been inspired by his recovery process.
Hewlett's number one goal is to expand the "Twelve Stakes" universe across multiple platforms. As a writer, the first step towards this is to churn out all thirteen books. Yet, by expanding the universe, Hewlett also wants the chance to expand upon characters' backstories. This would include publishing graphic novels, as well as creating HBO and Netflix televised versions of the books. Once that is complete, he has two more series he wants to pitch.
Overall, Hewlett wants his readers to realize that as a storyteller, he will provide them with classic noir mysteries, classic supernatural characters, and modern struggles. Even more importantly, he wants his work to have a higher purpose. "Addiction is an epidemic that I want to talk about," he emphasizes. "People come for my vampire stories - but they stay for the reflection on their own addictions."
To find out more about the author Thomas Hewlett, as well as the "One Death at a Time" novel within the "Twelve Stakes" series, please go to: www.TwelveStakes.com.
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