Last night my daughter (after a brave flu vaccine squirt up the nose) and I tramped down to Quail Ridge Books for another great author visit. This time we heard two local authors, Stephen Messer the author of The Death of Yorik Mortwell and Kathleen Churchyard. I was interested in hearing from Messer about his novel. I was guessing my daughter would be more interested in the other author, I was right.
Back to Stephen Messer and his first-rate, creepy book The Death of Yorik Mortwell. It is mid to late October here in NC, so most are thinking about scary things and what better way to start off a scary book then with a line like…
“Twelve-year-old Yorik Mortwell lay on the hard, cold ground, dead.”
And this book is creepy, but also funny and is a wonderful addition to any middle grade to YA reader’s library who may, like me, not really enjoy the full-blown horror/slasher novel.
Yorik begins the slim novel with an untimely demise (he is forced to climb a tree and then his horrible master throws rocks at him until he is hit in the head and falls to his death) but then becomes a ghost who finds himself stuck in a ghost world and in the middle of two powerful groups working against each other.
The really cool thing about Mr. Messer’s talk was his story about his inspiration for this novel. He really loves the work of Edward Gorey and found a really disturbing alphabet set done by him that helped get the ball rolling. Check out the entry for Y and I think you will see how the novel began.
Messer also talked a little about how he was inspired to give Yorik the traditional guy skills that many of us have lost in the digital age. The book begins with a drawing of how to tie a bowline knot. Messer told us he never was very good at those boy scout skills like tying knots, trapping birds and skinning animals. He wanted to give Yorik all those cool skills we all wish we could do. (disclaimer…I am a vegetarian so I really don’t want to learn how to skill a squirrel, but I would love to be able to tie cool knots) He did a lot of research using old boy scout books.
The book is also illustrated by Gris Grimly, which adds a whole other realm of sick and creepy to the novel. I knew of Grimly from his work with Neil Gaiman on the Dangerous Alphabet. The pictures are tremendous and so is the story of how Messer found out that Grimly was going to illustrate Yorik from Grimly’s twitter feed.
So if you are interested in a cool, macabre and totally excellent guys read book you need to check out The Death of Yorik Mortwell by Stephen Messer.