By Brom (HarperCollins; 2012)
As of 2015, this is the foremost narrative about Krampus, the anti-Santa. It was written and illustrated by Brom, who (as he makes clear in a nonfiction afterword) was seeking to restore the much maligned figure of Krampus to his pre-Christian origins as a symbol of fertility. Yes, Krampus is portrayed as a good guy in these pages, and his nemesis Santa Claus as a wily hypocrite. Yet this novel isn’t nearly as profound as it thinks it is, being very Hollywood-esque in its construction, which pivots on a frustrated singer learning to follow his dreams through his association with Krampus.
The singer in question is Jesse Walker, who in addition to his stalled ambitions has to contend with a psychotic mob boss and an asshole cop who has shacked up with Jesse’s wife. Jesse comes into contact with Krampus via a magic bag dropped by Santa Claus that can seemingly make things appear out of thin air. Jesse uses the bag to obtain a lot of neat toys, and also wads of cash. Yet the bag also puts Jesse in the sights of Santa, Krampus and the latter’s retinue of undead helpers.
Jesse himself becomes one of those helpers, and as such accompanies Krampus on his version of Christmas Eve, which involves a lot of messy home invasions. This, obviously, does nothing to restore Krampus’ good name. More strife follows, but there is of course a very Hollywood-friendly happy ending.
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that this book was written with a movie sale in mind, as it’s quite visually oriented. Bram’s descriptive power is strong enough to accommodate his cinematic visuals, though not always: a vital passage in which Jesse sings for Krampus is marred by the fact that the performance clearly has to be seen–and heard–to be fully appreciated.
Other issues brought up in these pages include meth addiction, child abuse and the depletion of the environment. There’s even a mini-history lesson about the origins of Krampus and Santa Claus, who is here traced back to the figure of Baldr from Norse mythology. Yet despite such things this novel is pretty shallow; it may make for a good movie some day, but right now it stands as a puddle-deep entertainment and very little else.