Storm Demon by Gregory Lamberson

stormdemonStorm Demon, the 5th instalment in the Helman canon, takes Jake further into the fire than ever before, and sees him face down a bigger and badder villain than he’s seen in… well… 4 books. Trust me when I say this: If you weren’t completely invested in this series by now, you’re doomed to become a super-fan from here on out.

And thus we commence my annual drool fest for another volume of the Jake Helman series: 

Jake returns to New York City, anxious to start a new live with NYPD homicide detective Maria Vasquez. But the supernatural forces making his life hell have no intention of leaving him alone. 

When Psychic healer Laurel Doniger disappears, Jake lays his life on the line to bring her back alive. With time running out, he must uncover the truth behind Laurel’s secret past. He’s drawn into a conflict with a being who has existed since the dawn of mankind. She’ll destroy New York City to take revenge on those who interfere with her plans. This beautiful creature is known by many names – Lilith, succubus, witch – but Jake and his allies will come to know her as the Storm Demon. And the world will never be the same. 

– from the back cover

The Helman files have been rife with huge baddies and epic plots depicting insane situations for our favorite ex-cop/detective to endure. First we had ‘the Cypher’, then we had Lamberson’s take on zombies with his drug induced zonbies, and then came Avademe and, in the next book, the Demon Kalfu… and now this. I won’t go into any detailed explanations because I’m just going to assume you’ve been following the series, but if you haven’t, you should at least know that the aforementioned bad guys describe a drastic escalation in craziness for our main character from book to book.

Jake has been through hell more than I could possibly imagine, and this installment is no different than the rest… save for the massive amount of action involved. Truth be told, Lamberson has always made his best efforts to keep the pace going at an even keel, but this particular story sees virtually no lull long enough to even refresh a coffee or, god forbid, sleep. 

Where the previous outing, Tortured Souls, took me a little while to get through, Storm Demon wouldn’t allow for that. Tortured Souls was a fantastic book, and I gave it a very positive review, but, in retrospect, I almost feel that setting the story in the midst of a political revolution, and moreover, in a foreign land, gave it a bit too much room to breathe, if you follow me. It’s understandable that the probability of pulling off such a dynamic and detailed plot would have been next to impossible on American soil (or North American soil, for that matter), but the claustrophobic, familiar setting of this novel made the suspension of disbelief that much easier. 

Given the fact that I, and many other readers, have actually been to most of the locations described in the book, it’s far easier to see a gigantic storm ravaging Manhattan, or a giant stone angel slamming through the garden of a beautiful Eastchester mansion (because that stuff happens for real … right?) as opposed to an army of political dissidents attempting to stage a coup in a war torn country that, despite all of my OCD-like 

And that’s where Storm Demon steps up and slams the ball out of the park. Every setting, character, and situation is accessible. There’s no room for tangents or speculation. It’s all go-go-go. Which is, as you’ve no doubt figured out by now, how me likes me stories.

Tight, fast-paced tales make for some of the best horror fiction there is, and especially when you’re talking about a series. Now, there’s something to be said for explaining a  back story and/or catching a reader up on a series through info-dumps, and if I’m going to be honest, it’s something I absolutely hate in genre fiction, but sometimes it’s necessary. Lamberson is undoubtedly guilty of this in the Helman series, and it’s understandable. What I really dug about this entry is the fact that it’s pulled off so effortlessly – it’s almost negligible, yet it’s definitely in there. An author always wants their reader to know what’s going on when and where in their novels, but sometimes it’s to the detriment of pacing or at the behest of an overzealous copy-editor. Not this time, folks. Storm Demon is one of the best examples of a balls-to-the-wall action/horror and how it’s done right. 

Not only is Lamberson on the top of his game with Storm Demon, but he delivers one of the best “YOU’RE FUCKING KIDDING ME!?” moments of recent memory, with a twist even I wasn’t expecting. And that’s saying a lot, given the years I’ve invested in this series. 

The author’s depiction of Lillith is also one of most brutal and sexy depictions set to paper that I have ever read. I would love to be in the company of this woman, but am also aware that I wouldn’t last a moment. Hell, nobody would, really. She’s a storm. A force to be reckoned with, in the truest sense of the phrase. 

Lamberson outdoes himself with every installment of the Helman files, leaving this reader exhausted, yet begging for more with the end of every book. Storm Demon is no exception. 

Like I’ve said a few times before – I can’t wait for the next one. 

C.

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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.