The masters of suspense and the macabre tipped off over the weekend, with some fierce battles in nearly all of the games (though no actual deaths, either natural or supernatural, were reported). Here is a summary of the first round games:
#2 Dean Koontz vs. #7 Jeffrey Deaver
A frequent resident at the top of the best-seller lists, Dean Koontz' books have sold millions of copies and he has a huge fan base. Less well known is his play-making ability with a basketball. His opponent has been less prolific, but Jeffrey Deaver has also visited the best-seller list and his book The Bone Collector was made into a successful feature film. He is also a strong presence in the lane, renowned for his tremendous shot blocking ability and his "up and under" post moves, ala Kevin McHale. The two traded baskets early, and the game was up for grabs from the get go, with neither man able to gain more than a single point lead on the other. Back and forth they went, Deaver swatting away what looked like gimme layups for Koontz and Koontz smoothly stealing the ball from Deaver just when it seemed that Deaver was ready to slam the rock home. It came down to the final minute, all tied 5-5 when Koontz grabbed a loose ball and drove toward the hoop. Somehow, Deaver kept pace with the smaller, faster Koontz and smacked the ball away at the last minute, drawing boos from the Koontz fanbase, who wanted a foul on the play. But the officials let the play go and Deaver took the ensuing possession and swished a short fade away jumper just before the buzzer for an upset special, 6-5.
#3 Anne Rice vs. #6 Robert Bloch
Though Rice is more contemporary, her writing is more "old-school" than Bloch's, whose writing is known for its terseness and psychological horror (Psycho being the epitome of this style) and whose basketball game features some mad ball handling skills and powerful jams. Rice, author of the Vampire chronicles, is known for her florid prose and rich settings and a more traditional basketball expertise, grounded in her ability to run an excellent pick n' roll and many backdoor cuts. As with the first game in this bracket, the match up was a tight game throughout, back and forth with Rice gaining the early edge, 4-1, only to see Bloch come racing back to pull even at 4-4. After trading baskets, Bloch had an open jumper, but it caught the back of the iron and Rice out raced him to the rebound, executed a beautiful behind the back dribble to gain some space, then drove the length of the court for a tear drop layin just ahead of the buzzer and a 6-5 victory.
#4 James Patterson vs. #5 Edgar Allan Poe
A contrast in styles, the 4 v. 5 match up was just as tight as the previous two games. James Patterson is the new guy on the block, a multi-million selling author of a string of psychological thrillers and action adventures. Poe is one of the fathers of the macabre and the horror genre, and he even has an NFL football team named after one of his characters. Both are also known for their fade away jumpshots and willingness to dish the rock to their teammates. A classic, strength on strength match up, that seesawed back and forth all game. Poe had a slim early lead, 3-1, but Patterson rallied to tie it at 3-3, then again at 4-4 and 5-5. But Patterson could never quite climb that hill-- he tied the game, but could not take the lead and in the end Poe was able to edge him out 6-5, setting up a second round match up with Stephen King.
#1 Stephen King vs. #8 Harlan Ellison
It would be my opinion that Stephen King is the better storyteller than Harlan Ellison, but that Ellison is the better writer. On this day, for this game, the storyteller won and won fairly easily. King jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead and Ellison was never able to threaten after that, scoring only twice in a 9-2 thrashing. The victory moved King into a second round game against Poe in a most intriguing battle.