Bestselling author Rob Pobi is a pal of mine: we met at the Quebec Crime Writers Festival last year in Quebec City. It was one of those magical little festivals where the authors hung out together every night; Rob was part of the magic.
Rob’s debut novel, Bloodman, grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. I read it in a single sitting; same with his second, Mannheim Rex and the third, soon-to-be-published, River of the Dead. Although we met at a crime festival, I wouldn’t exactly describe any of these as crime novels any more than I would describe Stephen King’s Cujo as a book about a dog. These are big, imaginative horror stories, more akin to the work of Thomas Harris in the Hannibal Lecter series.
Bloodman slapped me upside the head: I didn’t see the final twist coming, and when I realized what Rob had accomplished, I actually gasped out loud. Mannheim Rex is a homage to Jaws. River of the Dead comes closest to a conventional mystery/police procedural, but tests the boundaries.
Now Rob is a very private person. He doesn’t like to do interviews and authors’ tours or any of the stuff that usually goes with his astonishing success– 290,000 copies of Bloodman sold in France at last count; Bloodman was an Oprah book club pick last summer. And so I was tremendously pleased when he agreed to come to Ottawa all the way from Quebec to be interviewed for my new Rogers TV show on Canadian authors.
It was an insightful interview, to say the least, and being around Rob is always a lot of fun. We did the taping in my living room. Here are a few pics of us in my back yard (that’s author Brad Smith on the left and Rob on the right, and me in the centre):
All of Rob’s books involve children. In Mannheim Rex, one of the main characters is a boy dying of cancer. In Bloodman, a toddler is skinned alive; in River of the Dead, school children are eviscerated by a serial killer. These are not books for the faint of heart.
I asked Rob why he decided to make the victims children, and his response was as thoughtful as the man himself. He thinks we’ve become enured to violence on television; we no longer pay much attention to many of the things that should horrify us. But children are supposed to be cherished. By creating parents who in many cases are not deserving of them, Rob sets out to disturb and make us think not just about violence but parenting, and the nature of families.
Rob Pobi has been described by one of his friends as a “hummingbird on crack.” I had a great interview with a man who practically crackles with intelligence and wit. The show will air in Ottawa on May 15th; not sure of the time yet. I’ll keep you posted.