In this sense, Riley Hill’s mention of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird as her all-time favorite novel is no coincidence, since this single—and singular—book of Lee’s is, perhaps, one of the most masterful portrayals in contemporary American literature of the evil that lurks behind life as usual in a small picture-postcard Southern town. Says Hill: “To Kill a Mockingbird was the first book I read that truly juxtaposed innocence against evil in a way my eleven-year-old mind could absorb. This is my favorite book of all time, and I see it as both dark and light literature. It cracks the fragile shell of innocence and exposes the darkness within, but still somehow manages to emerge the reader into understanding and light. If horror can’t reveal light, it has failed in its true purpose.”
In common with certain other thriller writers, Riley Hill has a way of taking even the sunniest landscapes and imbuing them with a darkness that overshadows reality—or perhaps, the illusion of reality, since, in her mind (and often in fact), even despite fair weather, there are very dark things going on. In an interview, I asked her what other writers had most influenced her in this sense, and who she considered to be great authors in the thriller genre?