Monday, December 29, 2014


By Lyndsay Faye
Berkley Books
427 pages

One of the joys of reading any Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes mystery is their settings.  It is unlikely Doyle’s purpose was ever to offer an historical travelogue but nonetheless we are given such in each and every tale.  Whereas Lyndsay Faye, following in Doyle’s footsteps, which she does incredibly well in “The Gods of Gotham,” is decidedly intent on showing us the astounding world of New York City in the nineteenth century.  The burgeoning metropolis on the Hudson is as much a character in this epic saga as its struggling inhabitants battling to eke out a living from day to day against overwhelming odds.

Timothy Wilde and his older brother, Valentine, are the orphaned sons of two Irish immigrants.  Val works as a firefighter and is active in the Irish Democratic Party while Tim manages a bar and is saving his money to propose to Miss Mercy Underhill, the daughter of a protestant minister he has grown up loving.  When a horrible fire destroys both his business establishment and his apartment building, Tim is suddenly destitute without a penny to his name.  Without conferring with him, Val enlists them both into the newly formed New York Police Department being assembled by Judge George Washington Matsell.  Like all good historical novels, fiction and fact have to work together smoothly and the birth of the New York Police is deftly handled here as it depicts the aversion to its creation by New Yorkers who saw it as just another gang in a city riddled with such.

Tim begrudgingly accepts his “copper star” until something better can come along.  Then one night he bumps into a runaway child prostitute covered in blood.  It is she who tells him of a mysterious black-cloaked man responsible for the murder and mutilation of over a dozen children; all of them employed at various brothels throughout the city.  All of which leads to the discovery of a gruesome gravesite in the woods north of Twenty-third Street.  As these events come to light, Matsell sees in Tim a moral stubbornness in his desire to pursue the case while at the same time exhibiting a keen mind for puzzle-solving; the type of skills required in this post-crime situation.  Tim, much to his own surprise, is becoming a detective; a role that will lead him down the dark, depraved alleys of the human psyche.

“The Gods of Gotham,” is a truly remarkable writing achievement. It would not surprise this reviewer if Lyndsay Faye did not have a working time-machine hidden in her New York apartment as the scenes she describes are so brilliantly real. In every sense they transport the reader back to a world that, until now, only existed in dusty museums.  She brings that past to life and in doing so enriches us all.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


By R.S. Belcher
Tor Books
396 pages

One of our favorite books of last year was “The Six-Gun Tarot,” by R.S. Belcher which we reviewed at that time as one of the most original, audacious weird western novels ever written.  Now comes its sequel and we totally need to find new, better adjectives worthy of this amazing follow up tale of the most haunted town on the frontier, Golgotha, Nevada.

The Mormon mayor possesses a magical sword and golden armor left to his father by the Prophet John Smith.  The richest man in town, Malachi Bick, is a fallen angel. The Sheriff, Jon Hightower, was once hanged; it didn’t take and now is considered some kind of immortal whereas his chief deputy is a shape-shifting half-breed named Mutt.  The widow Maude Stapleton is the three times grand-daughter of the pirate queen, Ann Boney and the town blacksmith, Clay Turlough is a frustrated scientist attempting to raise the dead with the blood from unholy worms. These are but a handful Golgotha’s colorful citizenry.  There are many more, all of whom eventually play a role in the story’s central plot. 

Raziel, another fallen angel calling himself Ray Ziel, has come to Golgotha to find the skull of the first mortal ever murdered.  Within this aged relic has been imprisoned the essence of destruction.  Should the skull be destroyed then this malevolent spirit would be released and infect all humans; turning them into mindless creatures of death.  This is Raziel’s goal and to achieve it he sends out an ethereal call throughout the world calling only the most savage, cruel, monstrous people to heed his summons and come to Golgotha. 

Thus Bick must ally himself with Sheriff Hightower and his supernaturally gifted associates in finding a way to battle Raziel and defeat his army of butchers before they can lay waste to the town and capture its treasure, the possessed skull. 

The action never lets up for a second and Belcher juggles all his wonderful characters with a master’s touch, allowing each ample time with their various subplots while moving the main narrative forward.  It is an unrelenting pace and the suspense mounts rapidly until upon reaching the final battle between good and evil, the reader is transfixed; mesmerized in such a skillful way unable to stop until the final page has been devoured.  Weird westerns are easily one of the most popular genres of new pulps today and no one writes them better than R.S. Belcher.  “The Shotgun Arcana” is a fantastic book lovers of the macabre are going to applaud long and hard.  Miss this one to your  regret.

Saturday, December 06, 2014


Edited by J.M. & Randy Lofficier
Black Coat Press
278 pages

Earlier in the year we saw the cover to this anthology and were greatly intrigued by it. Till then we had never head of Doctor Omega.  This was obviously a sequel of sorts to the book “Doctor Omega” by Arnould Galopin that Black Coat Press had published several years ago. Then, much to our delight, our good friend, Lucas Garrett provided us with a copy of that old French science fiction adventure thus familiarizing us with this hero.  We read the book; enjoyed it immensely and wrote up an enthusiastic review in which we noted many of the similarities between Doctor Omega and another highly popular Doctor, this one of British origins on the telly.

Then we happily went out and bought a copy of this title.  It is a collection of thirteen brand new Doctor Omega stories as penned by some of the best writers in the New Pulp field today; from G.L. Gick, Chris Roberson, Stuart Shiffman and Matthew Baugh to name a few.  Let me add that every story in this volume is excellent, though they vary in theme and length considerably, there is in each a spark of gleeful imagination and twisted perspectives on daring-do.

From wonky vampires to cowboy heroes, Prof. Moriarity and the Bride of Frankenstein, the good Doctor’s adventures are peppered with classic fictional characters easily recognizable and handled with deft interpretations.  And though it seems unfair to single out one particular entry, we must applaud the fateful meeting between Omega’s ship the Cosmos and a tiny little craft from the planet Krypton.  You can pretty much figure out what happens next.

“Doctor Omega and the Shadowmen” is one of the best anthologies released this year and it is guaranteed to entertain fans of the fantastic.  Do yourselves a big favor and pick up copy.  You can thank us later.