Black Light by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Stephen Romano

Mulholland Books (UK and US) are releasing the debut book written by writers from the Saw franchise. To me, that’s enough to be intrigued, but not enough to go out in search of it. I mean, the Saw films are great eye candy, but I don’t pay enough attention to movies these days, and am woefully behind on my visual horror treats. So color me intrigued when this little puppy showed up on my doorstep, completely unsolicited. Upon opening it, I was very impressed with the cover. It’s slick, it’s dark, the font is amazing, and the book just “felt right”.

Lo and behold, when I cracked Black Light open and started reading, I found myself riveted to the page, and about to go for the ride of my life. Leave it to Melton, Dunstan and Romano, three writers for the screen, to take a visually stuning film series and translate it brilliantly to literature. This, my friend, is a fantastic read.

If you have a supernatural problem that won’t go away, you need Buck Carlsbad: private eye, exorcist, and last resort.

Buck’s got a way with spirits that no one else can match. He was normal, once. Until Something Horrible killed his parents and left him for dead.

Buck has spent years using his gift to trace his family. It’s his only hope of finding out what happened to them – and what made him the was he is.

Now the voices say that something big is coming. Buck already knows what it is – a super high-tech bullet train running express across a stretch of unforgiving desert known for the most deadly paranormal events in history. A place where Buck almost died a few years ago, and where he swore he would never return.

But as the train prepares to rumble down the tracks, Buck knows it can only be the inevidable hand of fate pulling him back to the most harrowing unfinished case of his career at four hundred miles per hour.

Now, rumbling down the track doesn’t quite express the sheer speed of the action in this novel. It starts off at a sleepy, incredibly confident stride, sauntering around your brain like it owns the place, but very quickly picks up the pace and does not let go. Buck Carlsbad is one of the most suave, sarcastic, and slick anti-heroes I’ve read in a while, and y’all know how much I love my anti-heros. In fact, this character reminded me a lot of Kevin Lucia‘s turn with Hiram Grange in The Chosen One, book 4 of the Scandalous Misadventures of Hiram Grange series of novellas from Shroud Publishing. He’s just so damned badass that you can’t help rooting for him. He’s also one stubborn bastard, as you’re bound to find out with every turn of the page.

The authors play wonderfully off each other, never letting on who’s doing what writing, and blending everything seamlessly. The narrative is quick, witty, and very dark, bringing a wonderfully exciting feeling to the story. When Buck feels pain, you feel it with him. That’s how effective the writing actually is. I loved it.

Now, I don’t know who was at the helm of all of the gore, but my, my, my, did they do a wonderful job. Some parts of Black Light read like a great old 80’s/early 90’s slasher flick, complete with descriptions so accurate, blood and gore might as well be flying from the pages. The style here is phenomenal, all at once calling upon noir, action, and straight-up, hard-core horror, and throwing it at the reader in a well blended mix. I’d love to see these authors go to work on another piece of fiction. Buck just seems like one of those characters that deserves to be abused again and again.

And speaking of abuse, this character takes a severe beating throughout the novel. A priviate eye who also exorcises demons and badness… by ingesting them? Awesome. Seriously, this is some Craig T. Nelson-a-la-Poltergeist-2 kinda of stuff. A brilliant play on the whole medium/ghost hunter thing, and a concrete way to make all fans of horror happy in one way or another.

Whether it be the great, dramatic way they approach the paranormal genre, the non-stop action, the visceral gore, or the wacky bullet train that rockets itself forward at over 400mph, this book has something for everyone. As for the writers, that’s a curious subject.

Melton and Dunstan have written the screenplays for Saw IV, V, VI, and Saw 3D, and The Collector, which Dunstan also directed. To see folks like this come across from film to literature isn’t all that uncommon, but to see them come from modern film to literature is awesome. The fact that, while they would probably have no problem getting a screenplay green lit (especially with this rock solid, original idea), they chose to release this as a novel, just makes me all fuzzy inside. Are we bound to see more powerhouses in the horror film industry turning to writing fiction? If Black Light is an indication of the caliber we’ll see, I damn well hope so!

And Romano, I knew there was something I recognized about that name. He’s the artist behind Greg Lamberson’s Slime  City poster. A phenomenal artist, and a great writer, Romano has… well… see for yourself at his website. I can’t tell you how much of a fan I am of this man’s work. It’s incredible. If you’re an artist, you’ll completely understand where I’m coming from. Even if you’re not, you’ll still love his work.

All three of these guys work so damned well together, and I’m hoping Black Light spawns a sequel (and a series, to be honest). It’s well deserved, and I’m sure it would be openly accepted.

This is a phenomenal first effort by three very talented writers. Mulholland Books is very fortunate to have these guys under their banner.

The book drops on October 5th, so go get yourself a copy here.

C.