With over half a million books in print, Christopher Pike—has made a name for himself as a master of the teen horror novel. Since his first novel, Slumber Party was published, Pike produced fiction at a remarkable rate, and novels such as Monster, The Hollow Skull, and The Grave have given thrills and chills to young readers, much to the dismay of conservative parents, who recoil from the graphic violence and references to teen sexuality that are sometimes found in Pike’s books. Praising him as “probably one of the most original and exciting authors of teenage fiction this decade,” Jonathan Weir noted in Books for Keeps that “His writing is flawless, his ideas breathtaking, and there’s a mystique about him that’s hard to pinpoint. He knows what his readers want and never fails to deliver.”
Born in 1961, and starting his writing career after leaving college, Pike did not set out to pen horror novels; 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 read some of his writing and saw enough potential to suggest that the young writer try his hand at a teen thriller. The result was the 1985 novel Slumber Party. He 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 and “Christopher Pike” was fast on the way to becoming a publishing phenomenon. While after 2000 Pike moved increasingly into adult novels and fantasy fiction such as the 2004 novel Alosha, his many teen novels continue to attract new fans.Teenagers play a big role in most Christopher Pike novels.
His early books are especially noted for the presence of young female narrators whose observations about people and events are key to the novel’s plotline. 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 the reader is a major goal of Pike’s; he spins plots that often involve such disparate elements as murder, ghosts, aliens, and the occult. Above all, he is savvy about what interests his teen readers, and includes references to current youth culture and concerns in his stories. “Christopher Pike doesn’t talk down to kids; he treats them as individuals,” noted Pat MacDonald in Publishers Weekly, adding: “He writes commercial stories that teens really want to read.” Even with an emphasis on murder and other ghastly deeds, Pike has been praised for inventing well-defined characters whose motivations, good and bad, are examined in detail.
While the bulk of his books have been geared for teen readers, Pike has also penned several adult novels, including The Cold One and The Blind Mirror. Called a “briskly paced new sci-fi/fantasy/horror endeavor” by a Kirkus Reviews critic, The Cold One focuses on a university graduate student specializing in near-death experiences who comes into contact with an ancient being that sucks the souls out of its victims. Although initially faced with what looks to be a brutal serial killer, Julie and reporter Peter find themselves battling the Cold One, who is able to disguise itself as a human. Incorporating elements of Eastern philosophy, the work is “visceral and intellectually stimulating at the same time,” Tim Sullivan noted in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Praising such efforts, Sullivan went on to reference a well-known New England writer of the early twentieth century by describing Pike as “a modern [H. P.] Lovecraft, a master of creeping dread relentless disturbing the reader.”
Ultimately, Christopher 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. While he appreciates the celebrity status his readers have given “Christopher Pike,” he also admits there is a down side to literary fame. “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.”