A Brilliant New Talent: J.M. McDermott

Debut novels are supposed to be creatures of a kind of limited, quicksilver brilliance: honest and earnest and showing flashes of talent. J.M. McDermott has eschewed that approach, producing the stunning Last Dragon, a kind of collaged swords-and-sorcery tale that owes as much to Gene Wolfe and the magic realists as to Fritz Leiber or George R.R. Martin. In fact, it uses a technique similar to that of Steve Erickson in his highly-acclaimed Zeroville from last year: short, sharp chapters that allow the reader room to make the book their own even as there's still a great sense of the dangerous and the surreal. It's the kind of triumph that any writer in mid-career would be proud of. As Paul Witcover wrote in a recent Sci Fi Weekly review, "this extraordinary first novel traces the labyrinthine history of a dying ruler whose patchy memories of the past swerve from the vivid to the unreliable in a hypnotic tangle of stark realism and impressionistic fantasy that has the visionary power of a fever dream. The comparison goes only so far, however. McDermott is not writing magic realism but robust fantasy, investing the traditional subject matter of the genre—magic, dragons, golems and more—with high literary craftsmanship." You can read a sample chapter on the publisher's webpage for the novel.

Who is J.M. McDermott and where did he come from? These were just two of the questions I set out to answer when I interviewed the author earlier this month...


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