McFadden, Kevin Christopher 1961-
McFADDEN, Kevin Christopher 1961-
Born c. 1961, in Brooklyn, NY. Hobbies and other interests: Astronomy, meditating, long walks, running, reading, playing with nieces and nephews, and making sure his books are prominently displayed in local bookstores.
Writer. Worked as a house painter, factory worker, and computer programmer.
HORROR BOOKS; FOR YOUNG ADULTS; AS CHRISTOPHER PIKE
Slumber Party, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1985.
Weekend, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1986.
The Tachyon Web (science fiction), Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.
Thrills, Chills, and Nightmares (short stories), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987.
Precious Ingredient, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1988; reissued as Spellbound, Archway (New York, NY), 1988.
Last Act, Archway (New York, NY), 1988.
Scavenger Hunt, Archway (New York, NY), 1989.
Gimme a Kiss, Archway (New York, NY), 1989.
Witch, Archway (New York, NY), 1990, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2001.
Fall into Darkness, Archway (New York, NY), 1990.
See You Later, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.
Bury Me Deep, Archway (New York, NY), 1991, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2001.
Die Softly, Archway (New York, NY), 1991, reissued, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2002.
(Contributor) Tonya Pines, editor, Thirteen, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.
Whisper of Death, Archway (New York, NY), 1991.
Master of Murder, Archway (New York, NY), 1992.
Monster, Archway (New York, NY), 1992, reissued, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2001.
Road to Nowhere, Archway (New York, NY), 1993, reissued, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2002.
The Eternal Enemy, Archway (New York, NY), 1993.
The Immortal, Archway (New York, NY), 1993.
Chained Together, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1994.
The Midnight Club, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1994.
The Wicked Heart, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1994.
The Lost Mind, Archway (New York, NY), 1995.
The Visitor, Archway (New York, NY), 1995.
The Starlight Crystal, Archway (New York, NY), 1996.
Christopher Pike's Tales of Terror, Archway (New York, NY), 1996.
Alien Invasion, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Execution of Innocence, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.
The Star Group, Archway (New York, NY), 1997.
The Hollow Skull, Archway (New York, NY), 1997.
See You Later, Archway (New York, NY), 1998.
Christopher Pike's Tales of Terror #2, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1998.
(With Jerry Oltion) Where Sea Meets Sky: The Captain's Table, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Magic Fire, Archway (New York, NY), 1999.
The Grave, Archway (New York, NY), 1999.
"CHAIN LETTER" SERIES; AS CHRISTOPHER PIKE
Chain Letter, Avon (New York, NY), 1986.
The Ancient Evil, Archway (New York, NY), 1992.
"FINAL FRIENDS" SERIES; AS CHRISTOPHER PIKE
The Party, Archway (New York, NY), 1989.
The Dance, Archway (New York, NY), 1989.
The Graduation, Archway (New York, NY), 1989.
"REMEMBER ME" SERIES; AS CHRISTOPHER PIKE
Remember Me, Archway (New York, NY), 1989, reissued, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2002.
The Return, Archway (New York, NY), 1994.
The Last Story, Archway (New York, NY), 1995, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2002.
"LAST VAMPIRE" SERIES
The Last Vampire, Archway (New York, NY), 1994, republished as a collector's edition, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 1998.
Black Blood, Archway (New York, NY), 1994.
Red Dice, Archway (New York, NY), 1995.
Phantom, Archway (New York, NY), 1996.
Evil Thirst, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Creatures of Forever, Archway (New York, NY), 1996.
"SPOOKSVILLE" SERIES; AS CHRISTOPHER PIKE
The Secret Path, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1995.
The Howling Ghost, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1995.
The Haunted Cave, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1995.
The Witch's Revenge, Archway (New York, NY), 1995.
Aliens in the Sky, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Cold People, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
The Dark Corner, Hodder Headline (London, England), 1996.
The Little People, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
The Wishing Stone, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
The Wicked Cat, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
The Deadly Past, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
The Hidden Beast, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
The Creature in the Teacher, Minstrel (New York, NY), 1996.
The Evil House, Minstrel (New York, NY), 1997.
Invasion of the No-Ones, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Time Terror, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.
The Thing in the Closet, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Attack of the Killer Crabs, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Night of the Vampire, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.
The Dangerous Quest, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Return of the Dead, Minstrel Books (New York, NY), 1997, reissued as The Living Dead, Minstrel Books (New York, NY), 1998.
The Creepy Creature, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Phone Fear, Minstrel Books (New York, NY), 1998.
The Witch's Gift, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1999.
FOR ADULTS; AS CHRISTOPHER PIKE
Sati, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1990.
The Season of Passage, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1992.
The Listeners, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1994.
The Cold One, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1995.
The Blind Mirror, Tor Books (New York, NY), 2003.
COLLECTIONS; AS CHRISTOPHER PIKE
Final Friends Trilogy (contains The Party, The Dance and The Graduation), Knight Pub. Co. (Los Angeles, CA), 1993.
Christopher Pike Boxed Set (contains Immortal, Wicked Heart, The Last Vampire, and The Midnight Club), Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 1994.
Christopher Pike Boxed Set (omnibus; contains Gimmie a Kiss, Starlight Crystal, Bury Me Deep, and Phantom), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
Christopher Pike Boxed Set ("Spooksville" omnibus; contains The Witch's Revenge, The Dark Corner, The Little People, and The Wishing Stone), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.
The Last Vampire, Books 3 and 4 (contains Red Dice and Phantom), Hodder Children's Books (London, England), 1998.
The Last Vampire, Books 5 and 6 (contains Evil Thirst and Creatures of Forever), Hodder Children's Books (London, England), 1998, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
OTHER; AS CHRISTOPHER PIKE
Also author of Getting Even (1985), the second book in Scholastic's "Cheerleaders" series. Author of short stories.
McFadden's works have been translated into Czech, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, and Norwegian.
Fall into Darkness was adapted as a television movie by J. B. White in 1996. The film, which was released by NBC, starred Tatyana Ali as Sharon McKay and Charlotte Ross as Ann Price.
Young adult novelist Kevin Christopher McFadden, who writes under the pseudonym Christopher Pike, has made a name for himself as a master of mystery and suspense. With over half a million books in print, McFadden—who took his pseudonym from a character in the Star Trek television series—reaches his audience through stories that offer a grisly scare coupled with interesting teen protagonists and themes.
McFadden did not set out to write horror novels for young adults. He originally wanted to write adult mystery and science fiction, but had little luck getting his book proposals accepted. By chance, an editor at Avon Books saw some of McFadden's work and was impressed enough to suggest that he try his hand at writing a teen thriller. The result was the popular novel Slumber Party. Pike wrote two follow-ups to Slumber Party—Weekend and Chain Letter. By the time Chain Letter appeared, word-of-mouth had made all three books bestsellers. In the years since his first thrillers were published, McFadden has produced an impressive number of titles whose thrills and chills delight young readers, much to the dismay of conservative parents, who often recoil from the graphically violent themes in the books.
Teenagers play a big role in most of McFadden's novels. His early books were especially noted for the presence of young female narrators whose observations about people and events were important to each novel's plot. McFadden explained his use of female narrators to Kit Alderdice of Publishers Weekly: "I romanticize a lot about females because they seem more complex, and because in horror novels, it's easier for the girl to seem scared." Scaring his audience is a prime motivation for McFadden. He grabs his readers with plots that often involve such disparate elements as murder, ghosts, aliens, and the occult. A St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers contributor identified the common elements in McFadden's fiction: he begins with a group of teenage characters, whom he places in a "deserted setting." McFadden then creates several "unexplained happenings" for both characters and readers to ponder, during which some characters begin to disappear. He then adds "a supernatural element," leading to the climax, which usually reveals that the villain was amidst the characters since the novel's beginning. Writing in the same publication, contributor Patrick Jones pointed out that McFadden's plots are also "normally built around righting a past wrong or keeping a secret at all costs," calling them "complex and clever." Above all, McFadden is savvy about what interests teens, to the point of including current youth trends and concerns in his books. "Pike doesn't talk down to kids; he treats them as individuals," noted Pat MacDonald in Publishers Weekly. She added, "He writes commercial stories that teens really want to read."
Even though the emphasis in his novels is on murder and other ghastly deeds, McFadden also presents well-defined characters whose motivations, good and bad, are examined in detail. Most of his characters are high school students whose experiences mirror those of contemporary teens. McFadden's characters go to dances, throw parties, fall in and out of love, and sometimes have difficulty talking to their parents and teachers. However, Jones wrote that McFadden's characters "aren't all 'good kids,' they are rarely innocent, some are sexually active, and most of them have a mean streak." Perhaps this is the reason Jones considers McFadden gifted in this genre: "Pike better than most 'mainstream' young adult novelists captures the daily drama and roller coaster emotion of his teen characters ping ponging back and forth between emotions and conflicting desires." Jones went on to say: "While [Pike's] not writing morality plays, he is writing stories where kids find themselves trapped between intense feelings of love/lust and hate/vengeance." The difference between these young people and most teens lies in how some of the fictional characters choose to solve their more difficult problems. In Gimme a Kiss, Jane tries to recover her stolen diary through a complicated plan of revenge that ultimately involves her in a killing. Melanie wins the lead role in a school play only to find herself playing detective after real bullets are placed in a prop gun in Last Act. In the Final Friends trilogy, the merging of two high schools results in new friendships, rivalries, and the violent death of a shy girl.
McFadden differs from other writers of young adult suspense novels in that the violence in his books is graphically detailed. For some critics, such excessive brutality does more harm than good. Amy Gamerman of the Wall Street Journal described McFadden's mysteries as "gorier than most," noting that they are guaranteed to make "Nancy Drew's pageboy flip stand on end." In an article in Harper's on the current state of children's literature, Tom Engelhardt claimed that McFadden's books "might be described as novelizations of horror films that haven't yet been made. In these books of muted torture, adults exist only as distant figures of desertion… and junior high psychos reign supreme.…No mutilation is too terrible for the human face." In an interview for Authors and Artists for Young Adults, McFadden addressed criticism on the use of gore in his writings, stating that in the genre of thriller fiction, "it's only because the villains are so atrocious that the heroes can be so great."
McFadden has also been criticized for his treatment of certain themes, including teen sexuality and life after death. In his defense, McFadden offers books such as Remember Me, in which a young murder victim tries to prove her death was not a suicide with the help of another teen "ghost." McFadden told Gamerman, "Teenagers are very fascinated by the subject of life after death. I got very beautiful letters from kids who said they were going to kill themselves before they read that book." James Hirsch of the New York Times sees the popularity of young adult mysteries with more realistic, action-filled plots as reflecting a teen audience that has "revealed more sophisticated—some say coarse—reading tastes." Hirsch commented, "Topics that were once ignored in… mystery books, like adolescent suicide and mental illness, are now fair game. Graphic violence raises few eyebrows, and ghosts have become, well, ghosts." Michael O. Tunnell offered a similar opinion in Horn Book, noting that "as readers mature, they graduate to a more sophisticated mystery story.… Such books employ the 'rules' of mysteries more subtly. Readers must take a far more active part in unraveling plot and understanding characters."
Ultimately, McFadden writes mysteries because he enjoys the work. His attraction to the young adult genre is partially due to the fact that he finds teenage characters "extreme," more prone to exaggerated actions and reactions. At times, McFadden is surprised by the celebrity status his readers have given him. "A bunch of kids found out where I lived and I had to move," he told Gamerman. "It spread like a rumor where I was.… It got weird. I have very intense fans."
In an article published in St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers, David Mathew mused that "one of the secrets to [Pike's] success is that he does not water down his material for his younger audience." The contributor also observed that "Pike proposes a sort of alternative world (or a set of alternative worlds, his books having many different slants on modern-day teenaged life) in which children are the adults; as such they must be expected to understand the ways of the world," including sex and violence. "Pike explores the feelings, secrets and morals of young adults who are suddenly forced to do a lot of growing up very quickly." Mathew suggested that adults, as well as children, can enjoy McFadden's novels: "Children's books in general are more tightly plotted than their adult equivalents, their sense of pace often better, with their authors less likely to try to splash their opinions and philosophies willy-nilly on the page. Pike delivers tight, informed prose, and the messages are there only if we want to read them into the work."
During the 1990s, McFadden tried his hand at writing some books aimed specifically at adult readers. The first was Sati, a "sprightly contemporary parable" about the second coming of God, according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. In this story, a blonde, blue-eyed woman named Sati is picked up by a trucker while hitchhiking through the Arizona desert. He takes her back to his Los Angeles apartment, but instead of the sexual favors the trucker expects, Sati bestows upon him the news that she is the Supreme Deity. She does change the lives of those she comes into contact with, and then is suddenly slain by one who doubts her identity. Michael, the trucker, "fully learns by her example about love, compassion, acceptance, and the beauty of life," wrote Jane Jurgens in Booklist. "Pike has the ability to tell a good story with conviction and clarity." A Kirkus Reviews writer characterized Sati as "Beverly Cleary meets Shirley McLaine in this novel for the New Age—which is neatly written but much too sugar-coated and simplistic to attract anyone other than the spiritually adolescent."
McFadden's next adult offering "scores strongly," according to a Kirkus Reviews writer. The Season of Passage is a suspense/horror book with leanings toward science fiction. It concerns an unmanned space probe which discovers gigantic footprints on the surface of Mars and a medical officer's search for the creature who made them. A Kirkus Reviews writer called the book "top suspense," "both riveting and a back-prickler." In The Cold One, McFadden put together "a unique combination of horror, mystery, and Eastern metaphysics," to create "a fascinating journey through the 'dark side of mysticism,'" reported a reviewer for Rapport. The story begins with a series of grisly murders and follows a newspaper reporter who is pulled into the police investigation of the crimes. The trail leads to the Cold One, a humanoid being that creates zombie slaves by taking the breath from its victims. "It's impossible to describe the intricacies of the various subplots and the well-drawn minor characters that drive them," stated the Rapport writer, "but they all tie together nicely in the end, and remain entirely credible throughout the novel.… The Cold One makes for a well-spent, literary vacation from the many books that make you feel overcome with deja-vu." McFadden is "a terrific read," concluded MacDonald, adding, "There's not much out there that is.… Every book he does has its own identity."
In 1999, McFadden examines the warped mind of a pyromaniac in his young adult novel Magic Fire. Mark Charm is a high school senior who has little to feel good about except lighting fires. He usually targets abandoned houses and other locations devoid of life, but when he suffers a personal tragedy, his target area broadens to include a large portion of Southern California during its dry season. "The really interesting thing about this book is not so much the story… but the fact that Mark Charm is the central character—the hero," said reviewer Darryl Sloan on his Web site. "Everything is told from his perspective, and the reader is forced to sympathize with him." Many of McFadden's characters have been likeable until they are revealed as the villain, but in Magic Fire, McFadden lets his readers establish a fondness for the "bad guy" from the start by making him the main character as well. McFadden also surprises readers with the supernatural in Magic Fire 's seemingly concrete plot. In conclusion of his review, Sloan called the book "a welcome change from the usual nice-guy-beats-evil-guy stereotype."
The Blind Mirror is McFadden's 2003 novel for adults. Main character David Lennon is an artist recovering from a bad break-up with his beautiful ex-girlfriend Sienna Madden. While revisiting one of their old haunts, David discovers a woman's dead body washed up on a California beach. The FBI takes over the investigation, revealing that the woman was the victim of a ritualistic killing. When the woman is identified, David is crushed to learn that it is Sienna. However, he returns home to find her voice on his answering machine—the first of many messages Sienna will leave for him. The suspense builds as David searches for Sienna and tries to identify the dead woman. "Though somewhat filled with unnecessary variety of fear generators, The Blind Mirror is a fine horror tale that hooks the reader," stated reviewer Harriet Klausner on the Books 'n' Bytes Web site. "Fans will ponder several times over whether the story is a psychological suspense thriller starring a flipped out killer who murdered his girlfriend, a supernatural tale, or science going berserk." Klausner concluded her review with the statement, "Christopher Pike keeps the chills at a high level with this exhilarating story." In Booklist, David Pitt questioned David as an unreliable narrator, stating that readers are "never quite sure whether we should completely trust [David]" because the narrator is a murder suspect himself, but added that readers "sink into the novel, losing touch with our own world as we fall deeper into Pike's." While some have criticized McFadden's use of gore in his young adult novels, it is absent in this adult novel. Library Journal 's Jackie Cassada observed, "Pike delivers a moody, grim horror mystery for adults that relies more on atmosphere than gore for its emotional impact."
McFadden's suspense and horror novels are celebrated by young adults and children alike. As readers who first read his novels as young adults move on to his adult fiction, a second generation of adolescents continue to build their Pike collections, perfect for reading under the covers with a flashlight. McFadden's books deliver desired amounts of shock and suspense, but they also teach valuable lessons about truth, trust, deception, betrayal, and other important aspects of human nature. In Authors and Artists for Young Adults, McFadden reflected on the manifestation of his craft, coming to a simple conclusion: "I just love writing books," he said. "I don't think I could do anything else."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 13, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1995.
Children's Literature Review, Volume 11, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.
St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Booklist, July, 1986, p. 1606; October 15, 1988, review of Gimmie a Kiss, p. 400; October 1, 1990, p. 327; November 15, 1990, p. 601; December 15, 1990, p. 865; September 1, 1991, p. 46; December 15, 1994, p. 736; November 15, 1995, p. 548; October 1, 1996, p. 352; January 1, 1997, p. 862; May 1, 2003, David Pitt, review of The Blind Mirror, p. 1552.
Books for Keeps, November, 1989, p. 13; November, 1990, p. 12; November, 1994, Jonathan Weir, "Christopher Pike: Master of Murder," pp. 8-9.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1988, p. 50; January, 1995, p. 174.
Chatelaine, June, 1996, p. 24.
Emergency Librarian, January-February, 1989, Sue Tait and Christy Tyson, "Paperbacks for Young Adults," pp. 53-54.
Harper's, June, 1991, Tom Engelhardt, "Reading May Be Harmful to Your Kids," pp. 55-62.
Horn Book, March-April, 1990, Michael O. Tunnell, "Books in the Classroom: Mysteries," pp. 242-244.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1986, p. 392; September 1, 1990, pp. 1198-1199; November 15, 1991, pp. 1440-1441; November 1, 1994, review of The Cold One, pp. 1439-1440; April 1, 2003, review of The Blind Mirror, p. 502.
Library Journal, December 1994, p. 139; April 15, 2003, Jackie Cassada, review of The Blind Mirror, p. 130.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 30, 1995, Tim Sullivan, review of The Cold One, p. 8.
New York Times, October 9, 1988, James Hirsch, "Nancy Drew Gets Real."
Publishers Weekly, April 25, 1986, p. 83; April 29, 1988, Kit Alderdice, "Archway Launches Christopher Pike Novels in Multi-Book Contract," p. 49; June 24, 1988, p. 115; August 26, 1988, p. 91; April 28, 1989, p. 82; January 12, 1990, p. 62; June 29, 1990, p. 104; August 17, 1990, p. 53; November 23, 1990, pp. 66-67; January 6, 1992, pp. 52-53; February 15, 1993, p. 240; June 14, 1993, p. 72; January 24, 1994, p. 57; November 21, 1994, p. 69; March 24, 2003, review of The Blind Mirror, pp. 52-53.
Rapport, Volume 18, number 6, p. 22.
School Library Journal, December, 1986, p. 121; November, 1988, pp. 130-131; January, 1990, p. 121; August, 1990, p. 164; December, 1994, pp. 79-80; March, 1995, p. 225; July, 1995, p. 96; November, 1995, p. 120; September, 1996, p. 206; August, 1999, review of Magic Fire, p. 160.
Time, August 2, 1992, Paul Gray, "Carnage: An Open Book."
Voice of Youth Advocates, August-October, 1986, p. 150; August, 1988, JoEllen Broome, review of Spellbound, p. 135; April, 1989, Drue Wagner-Mees, review of Gimmie a Kiss, p. 31; February, 1990, Joyce Hamilton, review of Scavenger Hunt, p. 346; June, 1992, pp. 113-114; December, 1993, p. 312; June, 1994, p. 100; April, 1995, pp. 25-26; October, 1998, review of The Hollow Skull, p. 286; August, 1999, review of Magic Fire, p. 194.
Wall Street Journal, May 28, 1991, Amy Gamerman, "Gnarlatious Novels: Lurid Thrillers for the Teen Set," p. A16.
Wilson Library Bulletin, October, 1991, Cathi Dunn MacRae, review of Die Softly, p. 101.
Books 'n' Bytes,http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (November 21, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of The Blind Mirror.
Darryl Sloan Web Presence,http://www.darrylsloan.com/ (November 21, 2003), review of Magic Fire.
Simon and Schuster Web site,http://www.simonsays.com/ (November 21, 2003).*