Soft Kiss, Hard Death by Tobin Elliott

It’s always wicked to me to see how a particular type of character can have so many different faces when taken on by different creative minds. Think of the original Hulk vs the two subsequent film portrayals. Hell, look at vampire fiction and werewolf fiction, or even mystery and suspense. They all broker in folks who stalk the pages of uniformity, and create a recipe or formula that gives the reader what they want.

And then you have something like the Truman Mysteries – now 3 books into the series. The series is in its infancy, really, but you can tell right off the bat that the character at the forefront of the books is going to go through massive overhauls throughout the series’ span, but always land back on square one. Now, what makes this different for me is who’s writing the damned thing. Kurtz gave us a gravel voiced, love lorn hardass; Zuern came at the reader with a funnier, more slapstick kind of lead character, and now Elliott (the only author so far without a “z” in his name) is giving us a brick-punching, hard as nails, tough-man who might just make my top pick for frustratingly obscure Halloween costume this year.

Elliott’s version of this story starts with a bang (no pun intended) and, unfortunately, ends with a whimper.

From Amazon:

Sam is hired by a man whose extramarital dalliance has resulted in a lot more than he bargained for when the girl in question deposits something horrible inside his body and then promptly dies. Now Sam finds himself chasing the dead girl’s doppelganger all over the City, from seedy bars to the city morgue, in an effort to discover what she is and how he can stop her before she can spread her bizarre brand of lovemaking to another poor sap!

I’m sorry. I’m totally giggling about that pun. hahahahaha. Seriously. Go read the book and then reread that. Heh heh heh. Sorry.

Though it’s been said around the water cooler that, if (when) the Truman series sees a print version, the reader will be in for a brilliantly brutal ending that I’m quite positive Elliott can only deliver. See, of Elliott’s work that I’ve had the pleasure to read, one similar theme kind of jumps up and kicks me in the face every time. This is an author who likes to make people suffer. And no, it’s not because his writing is crap – it’s very much the opposite. Elliott has a command of the language in such a way that he is able to make use of less in order produce more. The man’s style is blunt and visceral, a tour de force of grotesque, jarring, and mentally scarring visions that will remind you at once of both Ketchum and Brandner. It’s not hard to make that comparison once you’ve read Elliott’s chapbook, Vanishing Hope, and, if you can get your hands on it, his short story, Stealing Cory.

Elliott has a flair for the flesh… meaning that he really likes making his characters deal with things that they really shouldn’t have to.

Truman is no exception to the rule. Elliott whoops him a-plenty, but it’s the supporting cast that get got in all manners of shuddery grossness. I… ugh… I don’t even want to tell you. Let’s just say that our male readers are going to cringe, and our female readers, especially those who’ve passed children through their southern gates, will… well… yeah, they’ll cringe too.

Now, anyone who remembers me before I lost my mind and went traipsing through the tulips of insanity, knows that I love me some gruefully gross monster-things. The gnarlier the better, is what I say. Elliott offers a hideous platter of sick things in this story that remind me of a period in history when a younger Donald Sutherland had a reason to scream, and something came spew-lunking straight outta Craig T. Nelson’s mouth. Extra points if you can name the references there. If you can’t… what the hell is wrong with you? Seriously? Get out of my house. Now.

Moving on…

When Elliott marries the point of contact for our monsters to start a-killin’, and introduces their final destination, and then brings us to the stinky underbelly of what they actually are – the reader is left with a yearn for a nice hot shower, and a brillo-pad towel dry just to get the yuck off. The descriptions Elliott laces throughout this story are thick with realism and made this reader want to gag. I don’t really even want to describe this anymore. It’s just gross. Good gross… but gross.

Another thing Elliott is aptly suited to describe, apparently, is women. My lord, what I wouldn’t give to have a look at the woman he talks about in this book. The effect that she has on poor ole’ Sam doesn’t end there. Eve doesn’t just play her wicked little seduction out on Mr. Truman, but instead radiates outwardly and into the minds of whoever is reading it, causing our fascination to grow, and our distaste for Truman to grow along with it. Call me deranged, but I was hoping the bastard got all sorts of killed, just in hopes that there would be more Eve to spread around. And then Tobin went and took my “spread around” comment and realized it fully, and I started feeling ridiculous because I was coveting a freakin’ character in a book.

Like I said at the beginning of this piece, I found the ending to be a bit lackluster, especially for what I’ve become accustomed to with Elliott’s work. The whole of the story is very well paced, the dialogue is fun, and the gore is glorious. To have it end in such a BLAM!-and-now-the-story-is-over kind of way just felt like reliving my love life in my teenage years – a lot of talk and no great finale. (How’s that for TMI?) And again, the water cooler gossip says that this ain’t gonna be the case for long, but insomuch that I haven’t read differently, this is the way the cookie crumbled for me.

A worthwhile venture, nonetheless, as The Sam Truman mysteries are always a blast and a wicked fast read to be enjoyed with a beer, or in my case a coffee, and the expectation that entertainment is secured for at least an hour’s time. Elliott has proven now, that he can swing his stick in a few different playing fields. Next up, hopefully, we’ll see the sequel to Vanishing Hope, and a few other stories from this Crazy Canadian Creep.

C.

Advertisements

The Last Invasion by Brandon Zuern

When Ed Kurtz gave birth to Sam Truman, a character I knew would instantly survive pretty much anything he threw at the poor bastard, I had no idea that he would be delivering a series featuring several different authors abusing the same person for a seemingly unlimited run. Now that I know, I’m doubly stoked about the prospect of watching this man bleed the same blood some of my other favourite PI’s bleed. Granted, if you’re a fan of the Hard Case Crime and other noirish/mystery/procedural pieces in this genre, you’ve probably not seen anything like this before. And holy sweet Jesus on a flapjack does Zuern offer up a weirdo of a concept with his entry – The Last Invasion.

From Amazon.com

Eager to put the bizarre, otherworldly events of Catch My Killer! behind him and resume working regular cases again, Sam Truman agrees to investigate a missing persons case when a pair of distraught parents seek his help to find their daughter. The city is being terrorized by a serial killer the cops can’t catch, and Sam fears the worst as his fearless instincts lead him not down the killer’s path, but to uncover a nascent alien invasion that threatens the existence of all life on earth! Sam’s shot at rescuing the girl becomes a race against time before the invasion starts, and all while the unknown killer’s body count rises all over the city. But the unlicensed P.I. is determined to return the girl to her parents and make damn sure that the aliens’ hostile intentions are THE LAST INVASION!

I don’t have any problem letting the reader know that there are killer giraffes in this novella. Why? Because there aren’t, and I’m lying. But there are aliens! LOADS of em! One even pounds people in a robotic search of root beer and any other nummy liquid sweetness it can gather. Mind you, if I was in Truman’s shoes and wanted a root-beer, I’d go around kicking ass and taking names as well. But in this case, well… a ginger ale just might have to do. I’m not going up against anything like this big bastard any time soon.

Zuern’s style of writing is succinct in some places, yet offers almost too much information in others. Case in point, the fact that Truman digs himself a good old root-beer while he’s thinking – that’s good info and connects the reader to the character. Explaining that the soda jerk has a wife and two kids, assuming it’s used to validate the character’s happy demeanor… not really useful. Hell, I know a lot of people who aren’t happy, and they have wives, husbands, kids, dogs, cats, fleshlights, those awesome automatic card shuffling machines, and all that junk. It doesn’t really matter too much to the story, and it really doesn’t validate things. But what it does do, and I have to give the author this one, is it kind of slams home just how damned happy this guy is. And seriously, I want to see this character on the big screen. He seems like one of those guys you’d either love to be around, or want to dragon-punch after five minutes of exposure to his inane gaieties.

Either way, fun will be had.

Now as for this incarnation of Truman, I found him to be a little bit more of an asshole than Kurtz’s version. He’s more likely to sock a dude for looking at him funny, seems a little more shady, a little less apt to follow the right lead, and a whole helluva lot more goofy. The one-liners in here are virtually priceless, and the whole attitude of the book has less of a black and white/sepia tone effect, and more of a Warner Brothers/Who Framed Roger Rabbit-styled color scheme. Which brings me to my next topic of discussion…

ALIENS! But not your normal “we came to poke you in the bum with these lightsaber dealies” kind of grey things. No no no. Zuern has something else in store for the reader. Let’s just say that these pretty little thangs ain’t so pretty, and they definitely won’t be hugging and squeezing and calling you “George” any time soon. Nope. They’re just gonna smell the place up before they shoot the place up. Which just basically makes for some awesome end-scene catastrophes.

Zuern is on top of his game when the action is hot, there’s no doubt about that. His wit, coupled with his deliberately shortandtothegoddamnedpoint scenes of comic book violence make this a wickedly fast read. While there are obviously some ups and downs in the delivery of this tale, it’s more than made up for with the fun the reader experiences at the end.

In fact, the only downfall for me was one key plot point that just needed to be played with a bit more. Hopefully Kurtz and company will delivery on this delightfully Dexter-esque story similarity, and show the goods with a regular cameo (and a tied up storyline as well) from this mysterious serial killer.

If this is the way the Truman Series plans to roll, this reader is in for the long haul. But now, as is my bookshelf’s greatest displeasure, I’m wanting a paperback… so we’re going to have band together and pressure Abattoir into producing something a little more physical in the near future.

C.

All Hallow’s Read (Day 23) A scary book for…

…someone who loves movies

We’ve gotta hand out more love for Laymon during this month’s festivities, and especially for this little treat of a book.

Packed with more blood, action, and excitement than any of Laymon’s other books, One Rainy Night will surely satisfy not only the bloodlust that most horror movie enthusiasts experience, but it also remains one of the quickest reads you will ever experience from a full length novel. This book is not only 100% Dreadfully Approved, but it sits in Colum’s list of the top 3 Laymon books you must read. One Rainy Night is perfect for anyone who digs movies and would argue that they don’t have enough time to read a book.

All Hallow’s Read is a book-giving tradition thought up by author Neil Gaiman. We’ll be making book suggestions all month long in case you need ideas!

All Hallow’s Read (Day 18) A scary book for…

…someone who loves a badass hero.

Today we’ve got three suggestions for you. Here we go!

Written by the guys who gave you Saw 4-3D, Black Light features an incredible exorcist with a truly strange way of pulling demons. Buck Carlsbad is one awesome anti-hero, that’s for sure. You can hear Colum chat with them here.

The Gospel Of Bucky Dennis features on of the best anti-heroes you’ll ever come across. With his southern drawl, and his “don’t take no shit” attitude, Bucky is bound to become something of a legend in the halls of badassery, everywhere.

Honestly, we only added this one because we were afraid that Rico Slade might fucking kill us, so please… go buy Rico Slade Will Fucking Kill You… Please… *whimper*

All Hallow’s Read is a book-giving tradition thought up by author Neil Gaiman. We’ll be making book suggestions all month long in case you need ideas!