Holy Moly

Those magi? Not so wise in the latest from Seth Grahame-Smith

The aha moment for Seth Grahame-Smith came when he was greenlighting documentaries for TV. “I was sitting on the wrong side of the desk—all these writers were pitching me,” he says, realizing he should be doing the pitching. After a few novelty books (How to Survive a Horror Movie, The Big Book of Porn), he wrote the best-selling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a literary mash-up that incorporated the Jane Austen classic into a story about the undead. “That book gave me legitimacy,” says Grahame-Smith. “It’s been, ‘What do you want to do next?’ ” Next was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, now a Tim Burton film due out in June, and this month’s Unholy Night, a novel based on the Three Wise Men. In the latter he indulges a fascination with the Magi, a tribe of magicians and soothsayers. In the book Balthazar, Melchior, and Gaspar are convicts who have escaped execution. Balthazar emerges as the novel’s unlikely hero, finding a version of faith. Grahame-Smith drew from his own religious crossroads: His name, Seth Jared Greenberg, was changed when his divorced mother married an Episcopalian. Now his son gets a Christmas tree and a menorah. His upcoming book? “The world’s longest suicide note.”