Christopher Pike

Christopher Pike is a writer of thrillers and horror novels. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, in November 1954. Pike dropped out of college and spent some time working as a computer programmer and writing science fiction. He was not successful as a science fiction writer and he began to write teen thrillers. In 1985 he published Slumber Party, a book about a group of teenage girls who are stalked by a murderer on a ski weekend. Slumber Party became a bestseller as well as Pike's next two books, Weekend and Chain Letter.

According to Biography Today, "although his plots were occasionally far-fetched, Pike was so good at building and maintaining suspense that his readers didn't care. And unlike many other writers for young adults, Pike didn't talk down to his teenage audience. His books presented well-defined characters who, like teens everywhere, went to dances, threw parties, fell in love, and had trouble communicating with parents. But they often chose extreme or unusual ways to deal with their problems. In his early books, Pike often relied on young female narrators whose observations about people and events were essential to the novel's plot. He was fascinated by females in general, because they seemed more complex, and it was easier for them to show their fear. But young adults of both sexes started to buy his books. Pike's thrillers eventually led to a boom in the horror market for teenagers, replacing sports and adventure stories for boys as well as the romances that had traditionally attracted young female readers."

He enjoys running, astronomy, transcendental meditation, reading and surfing.

Christopher Pike loves writing, especially for young adult readers. "It gives me a chance to go back to high school," he says. "When I was a teenager, I was shy and seldom had any fun. But the kids in my books, they have such wild times, they're lucky to make it to the last page."

"Too often," Pike observes, "authors seem to feel that teenagers are only worried about getting a date for the prom and wearing the latest fashion. These things are important to teenagers, sure, but so are a lot of other things." Pike believes that young adult authors should not talk down to their readers and therefore, he writes more openly about sexuality, death, dysfunctional families and teen drug addiction and alcohol abuse.

Often hailed as "the Stephen King of YA horror," Christopher Pike was one of the earliest contributors to the genre. He published his first story in 1985 and has had as many as five books on the YA bestseller lists simultaneously. Currently, there are 15 million copies of his Archway Paperbacks books in print.

A former computer programmer and science fiction writer, Pike took his pseudonym (Star Trek fans take note!) from the first captain of the Starship U.S.S. Enterprise. He considers science fiction authors like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein his major influences, as well as mystery writer Agatha Christie and horror maestro Stephen King.

Christopher Pike's stories are more complicated and densely plotted than most YA fare. His characters are more fleshed out than the typical stereotypes that usually inhabit horror literature, making the morality issues of his stories increasingly complex. "Scary books are good," a wise yogi tells bestselling horror writer Shari Cooper in Christopher Pike's Remember Me 3: The Last Story. "Contrast in life is good. If everything was the same every day, it would be no fun. You cannot have great heroes without evil villains."

Pike writes about evil in all its forms. Sometimes, his stories depict the simple, garden variety evil, such as the spiteful cruelty that motivates the drug-addicted teens in Die Softly to kill off each other. More often, however, it is evil on a cosmic scale-eternal, enduring, monumental and nearly unstoppable. Take for example, the evil power that animates Madame Olga Scheimer, the mistress of Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler in Pike's The Wicked Heart, and survives beyond World War II to inhabit Scheimer's grandson, turning him into a serial killer. The evil of the "Caretaker" in the Chain Letter series compels innocent young people to do terrible acts or risk death. Finally, the evil of the Black Wanderers of the Remember Me series are creatures whose contempt for the human race is surpassed only by their hatred of the good Wanderers who wish to help humanity. In physical form, these evil forces appear as a gaseous cloud, a black slug or a lizard. Where they came from and where they go after they are defeated, Pike is never too specific. But he is certain of one thing: that only through love and self-sacrifice can good triumph.

Pike often invites us to identify and even sympathize with lonely, alienated, even morally ambivalent characters. Take, for example, the tough, independent vampire Sita (aka Alisa) in The Last Vampire series or the confused and emotionally tortured serial killer, Dusty Shame in The Wicked Heart. "The mind of a killer is an empty thing," writes Pike in describing the confused and tormented psyche of Dusty Shame in The Wicked Heart in the novel's first chapter. "The strings of a puppet are filled with mischief. Imagine a mind, then, when a string is pulled, somebody will die-an innocent asleep in her bed. Imagine and then quickly forget, lest the impulse pluck deep and make you realize that we are all puppets in a show without rules."

He's not afraid to depict murder realistically and graphically. Characters in his books often meet violent, gory, painful ends. They are bludgeoned with hammers (The Wicked Heart),decapitated and set on fire (Chain Letter 2: The Ancient Evil), eaten by sharks and nearly buried alive (Remember Me 3: The Last Story). These stories are not for the faint-hearted.On the other hand, Pike isn't afraid to tackle big, important issues. Sprinkling his stories with religious metaphors and New Age spirituality, the author explores concepts like reincarnation (the Remember Me series), the burden of immortality (The Starlight Crystal and The Immortal), and the temptation to change the future (The Eternal Enemy,See You Later). Questions of death and reincarnation inform the Remember Me series, which feature a young girl named Shari Cooper who comes back from the dead as a "Wanderer"-a soul given permission to take the place of another soul in a mature body. In Remember Me 3: The Last Story, Shari becomes a bestselling author of YA horror herself and readers will be interested in following Shari as she meets her fans, copes with Hollywood producers who want to film her novels and struggles with the writing process itself.

Christopher Pike has made a name for himself as a master of mystery and suspense. With over half a million books in print, Pike reaches his audience through stories that offer a grisly scare coupled with interesting teen protagonists and themes. Pike 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 Pike'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 best-sellers. In the years since his first thrillers were published, Pike has produced an impressive number of titles whose thrills and chills delight young readers (much to the dismay of conservative parents, who recoil from the graphically violent themes in the books).

Teenagers play a big role in most of Pike'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. Pike 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 Pike. He grabs his readers with plots that often involve such disparate elements as murder, ghosts, aliens, and the occult. Above all, Pike 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," notes Pat MacDonald in Publishers Weekly. She adds: "He writes commercial stories that teens really want to read."

Even though the emphasis in his novels is on murder and other ghastly deeds, Pike 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. Pike's characters go to dances, throw parties, fall in and out of love, and sometimes have difficulty talking to their parents and teachers. 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.

Pike 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 describes Pike'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 claims that Pike'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."

Pike has also been criticized for his treatment of certain themes, including teen sexuality and life after death. In his defense, Pike 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." Pike 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 comments: "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 concurs 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, Pike 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, Pike is surprised bythe 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." Despite his misgivings about being the object of such attention, Pike continues to turn out new thrillers. Pike is "a terrific read," concludes MacDonald, who adds that "there's not much out there that is. Every book he does has its own identity."

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1.Discuss the moral ambiguities of supernatural creatures like Sita and Shari Cooper and human monsters like Dusty Shame. Is it all right to feel sorry for them? How do they justify their actions? In real life is it common for people who commit crimes to rationalize and thereby justify what they've done? What are the moral ambiguities in "smaller" acts of deceit, such as: copying homework, cheating on a test or lying to parents?

2.Christopher Pike's stories reflect parts of his own psyche, such as Marvin, the bestselling teenage writer in Master of Murder, and Shari Cooper, the horror novelist in Remember Me 3: The Last Story. What can you hypothesize about the author's values, beliefs and fears from his many other titles? Do any patterns emerge or is each novel different in perspective?

Christopher Pike is the author of Last Act, Spellbound, Gimme a Kiss, Bury Me Deep, Remember Me, Remember Me 2: The Return, Remember Me 3: The Last Story, Scavenger Hunt, Chain Letter, Final Friends: The Party, Final Friends 2: The Dance, Final Friends 3: The Graduation, Die Softly, See You Later, Witch, Whisper Of Death, Master of Murder, Monster, Fall Into Darkness, Road to Nowhere, The Eternal Enemy, The Immortal, The Wicked Heart, The Midnight Club, The Last Vampire, The Last Vampire 2: Black Blood, The Last Vampire 3: Red Dice, The Last Vampire 4: Phantom, The Last Vampire 5: Evil Thirst, The Last Vampire 6: Creatures of Forever, The Lost Mind, The Visitor, Execution Of Innocence, Tales Of Terror #1, Tales Of Terror #2, Chain Letter 2: The Ancient Evil,The Star Group, The Hollow Skull, Slumber Party, Weekend, Sati, The Cold One, The Listeners, The Season Of Passage,, "Collect Call" from the book Thirteen, Magic Fire, The Grave, and the Spooksville series.

You can write to Christopher Pike at the following address: Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10020.


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