It’s been quite the magical mystery tour for Shawn Thomas Odyssey, the theater-man/film-composer/author who’s celebrating the release of his first novel this week. From his upbringing in Bakersfield to a decade of artistic growth in Santa Barbara, the current Nevada City resident worked for years on his kid-focused, adult-friendly detective fantasy The Wizard of Dark Street. The story follows a young girl wizard-in-denial named Oona as she uses the logical side of her brain to unravel a supernatural whodunit overflowing with colorful characters, surreal settings, and talking animals.
Moving to Santa Barbara in 1994, Odyssey quickly became the right-hand man to the late theater god Robert Grande Weiss. “I took so much away from him,” said Odyssey, “learning not just how to be an artist, but how to take things on fearlessly.” Then came experimentation with a music sequencer—perhaps best remembered via the band Blume with Rey Villalobos—and then a job under celebrated film score composer Reinhold Heil (Run Lola Run, One Hour Photo), who hired Odyssey for work on such shows as Deadwood and Without a Trace. “I consider myself first and foremost a storyteller,” said Odyssey, “so when I was able to take music and use it to help tell a story, to tell the undertones of a story, it was a dream job.”
But it also gave him time to focus on writing, which is when he invented a place called Dark Street, located between 19th century New York City and the Land of the Faeries, smack-dab between hard realism and supernatural fantasy. Oona, who’s brought up as a wizard but would rather rely on reason to solve crimes (think: Sherlock Holmes), soon emerged as a heroine. “One day I sat down at the computer, and the prologue to the book just spilled out of me,” he recalled. “It was one of those beautiful little gifts. I knew I had something special.”
Though it’s an “almost over-the-top classic whodunit” at its core, The Wizard of Dark Street dwells thematically on the constant war between logic and intuition. “It sometimes seems as if they can’t coexist, but they can if we learn to look for them,” said Odyssey. “It’s really about finding the balance between the two.” And he’s confident a younger audience can appreciate that too, citing J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series as proof. “She showed us that kids can follow complex plots and complex characters and complex issues,” he said, “and that they eat it up.” And he’s pretty sure we will, too.
Shawn Thomas Odyssey will sign copies of The Wizard of Dark Street at Chaucer’s Books on July 31 at 1 p.m. Visit thewizardofdarkstreet.com for info.