"The Color of Melancholy: An Examination of Andrew Pyper’s Novels as Intersected Through My Life" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Black Void Publishing

the color of melancholy steve stred poster large

Written by Steve Stred
2023, 150 pages, Non-Fiction
Released on 21st July 2021

Review:

The fact Annie Wilkes is Paul Sheldon’s ‘number one fan’ in the Stephen King masterpiece Misery has become a well-known anecdote in modern horror pop culture, but those of you who follow indie horror will undoubtedly know Steve Stred has an equally strong connection with fellow Canadian author Andrew Pyper. I am not for a moment suggesting Steve is going to inflict horrific physical pain on Andrew, the complete opposite in fact, because Steve gives his literary hero so much free publicity, Andrew should hire him as either a publicist or at least give him a small percentage of his royalties! Stred states one of the primary objectives of The Color of Melancholy: An Examination of Andrew Pyper’s Novels as Intersected Through My Life is to introduce new readers to the fiction of Andrew Pyper, and I am sure I am not the only horror fan to read Pyper (five novels so far) after being cajoled by Stred’s regular and enthusiastic postings. This author was certainly a great tip, with The Residence featuring in my Top Ten Novels of the Year (2020) as published by Horror DNA.

On several occasions Stred notes that even though Andrew Pyper’s books have been released by big-boy publishers, there is very little chat about him in the online horror community and this is a notion certainly agrees with. However, Stred more than makes up for it with his regular postings, recommendations and obsession with collecting all foreign editions, arcs, scripts and just about anything which might be Pyper related. The Color of Melancholy is a moving, very personal, and entertaining love letter to Stred’s favourite author, and the sheer unadulterated joy he feels when Pyper replies to a personal email shines through on every page. From my own life in books, by way of comparison, one of the few moments which could match this was when I realised there was a character called ‘Tony Jones’ in book three of Scott Sigler’s Galactic Football League series. Sigler named characters in this series after his original fans (known as Junkies) and when ‘Tony Jones’ reappeared in book five, I was genuinely overwhelmed to be remembered as an ‘OG’ Junkie going back to the early days of this great author’s career. To book lovers these moments are truly priceless.

On one level this book details Stred’s love of Pyper’s fiction and how it has intersected with his life at various points and helped him through tough times. However, there is a lot more to Stred than Pyper, and if you are a fan of his trashy, easy-to-read brand of horror (Mastodon, Churn the Soil, The Window in the Ground, Wagon Buddy and others), this engaging chatty conversational style is replicated perfectly in The Color of Melancholy. If you follow Stred on social media, some of the material will be familiar. For example, I recall the death of his beloved dog OJ and the great lengths (including financial) Steve and his wife Amanda went to save their pet and make his last days comfortable.

Stred is in his early forties, Pyper published his first novel in 1999, but Steve did not discover his fellow Canadian writer until less than ten years ago, and the strongest parts of The Color of Melancholy are when he is an active reader. The earlier parts about Steve’s life have pieces about Pyper integrated into the narrative, but they go slightly against the autobiographical flow and might have been better positioned elsewhere. Steve is very open about his mental health problems, depression, suicide attempts, being bullied and being the bully himself are all part of his story. A natural sportsman from soccer to weightlifting, I found his dreams and efforts to be selected for the Canadian Olympic bobsleigh team particularly fascinating, balanced against a lack of funding, search for jobs and stop-start early attempts to be a writer.

The Color of Melancholy begins with the birth of his son Auryn and the terrors of his near-death for him and his wife Amanda (who also almost lost her life), growing up in a tiny town and moving around British Columbia chasing sporting dreams, and eventually rediscovering a love of writing. Along the way, there is a fascinating detour into Steve getting involved in an online cult whilst researching his Father of Lies series, which begins with Ritual. Throughout the narrative, there is an interview between the two authors and if you have never read Pyper before, this book will tell you everything you need to know and where to start.

In five years Steve Stred has gone from being an unknown self-published author to a highly respected name on the indie-horror scene. Beyond his entertaining creature features, it must be said there are very few less self-serving folks in the genre than him. I’ve reviewed hundreds of novels, and for the most part, I only hear from many of them when they want help with something or are looking for a review. This is not the case with Steve and he is much more about helping others get a leg up in the book game. His recent ‘3 Questions’ author series is a good example of this, as is his addictive and catchy excitement of discovering a new author to explore (we also have quite similar tastes and compare reviews). We also had great fun co-authoring the article ‘Tony Jones and Steve Stred rake over old bones and discuss the stunning Six Stories series with author Matt Wesolowski’ in a 2022 feature on the Ginger Nuts of Horror site.

Stred sets a great example to any aspiring indie horror writer, or those lacking confidence in their own ability, as this book clearly says, “If I can do it, you can do it too”. And instead of slagging others off on social media, do what Steve does and provide support and encouragement instead. Overall, The Color of Melancholy reads slightly like a blog and it has clearly been cathartic for the author to bring it together and taking Andrew Pyper along for the ride was obviously a key part of the journey. I hope Andrew Pyper genuinely appreciates Steve Stred, as he really is a one-off.

Grades:

Overall: 4.5 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
Cover
Buy from Amazon UK.

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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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