Book Review: "Blood and Bullets" (NO SPOILERS)
James R. Tuck, a member of my Kennesaw writing group, premiered his first novel Blood and Bullets in early February. He was so kind as to supply me with a signed advance copy at the last meeting of our writing group, which I finished fairly quickly.
Now for the review. Given how new the book is, I'm going to try to keep it spoiler-free:
The book starts out with an epic grabber--protagonist Deacon Chalk is in the parking lot of the strip club he owns, pointing a handgun in the face of a teenage vampire who looks disturbingly like his dead teenage daughter. Most writing guides say to begin en media res (in the middle of things) or "when the story begins" and he does the latter well. Plus having the vampire resembling his dead daughter allows the reveal about Deacon's dead family without being info-dumpy.
The descriptive bits are really good. James does a good job of using verbs to describe a scene so the descriptive passages aren't boring. One passage that stands out is when Deacon is waiting for another vampire-hunter in an abandoned industrial park--he describes in detail overgrown bushes and a plastic bag drifting on the wind and it isn't slow.
The narrative is laugh-out-loud--a lot. There's a scene where Deacon is discoursing on vampires and how they're all evil in which he takes a major shot at Twilight.
"And vampires never sparkle unless they just ate a stripper."
There's another comment where Deacon talks about staking vampires during the day and how bloody it gets. When I read the line "I usually wear a raincoat," the way it was delivered was hilarious.
And here's one from Father Mulcahy--yes, he is a shout-out to MASH.
"No, Father, I am cursed. I am unworthy to be anointed with the cross."
Father Mulcahy sighed loudly.
"Are you fighting evil tonight?"
(Name redacted for spoiler reasons) nodded slowly.
"Then you are doing the Lord's work. Shut the fuck up."
Also, James clearly knows his way around Atlanta. There's a scene where Deacon and another vampire hunter go to downtown Atlanta--to get take-out and then an anti-vampire mission and he knows the area of North Avenue and Georgia Tech rather well.
And one of the more interesting parts of the book is the origin of vampires. James ties it in with the Crucifixion, although not in the same manner Dracula 2000 does. Not going to give this one away because it's one of the more creative elements of the book.
Finally, although lycanthropes are touched on more in the upcoming novel Blood and Silver than in this one, James includes were-gorrillas and were-spiders. That's a lot more creative than just werewolves. And although I don't want to get into too much detail just now, there are a lot of kinds of were-critters in the Deaconverse.
The ending is a bit anti-climactic. Not going to go into a lot of detail to avoid even dropping hints.
Deacon references knowing another vampire hunter and how the two of them help each other out sometimes. He encounters said hunter later, in a rather sticky situation (not going to go into detail to avoid spoilers) and having more of a reaction to it would have been good.
There's an editing glitch on page 126. Instead of "a were-gorilla," it's "a WWere-gorilla." Three times. I know this is a glitch because on page 127, the critter in question is referred to as a were-gorrilla.
A fun little monster-hunting rampage. 8 out of 10.
Now to discuss some related matters. James brought a prequel novella entitled That Thing At the Zoo to the writing group for us to critique. This one features Deacon investigating diabolical doings at Zoo Atlanta. The novella ended up being sold as an eBook and released before Blood and Bullets. There'll be another e-novella called "Spider's Lullaby" that has not yet been released. He had to write that one in two weeks (!), so it never went before the group.
That's pretty clever. When I was in high school or college, I wrote a short story set in the "Wastelands" universe around 100 years before the story began. I never finished it and the "Wastelands"-verse has changed so much since then that the story is pretty much obsolete. And Stephen King has written a Dark Tower short story called "The Little Sisters of Eleuria."
However, I'd never thought about releasing them in advance of the main product as a buzz-builder. That partial story cannot be salvaged (in fact, I might have deleted it), but I could always write a new one. I'll need to think of a storyline first--if I followed James' pattern, it would be something that takes place just before the story begins.
Either way, I think this is a pretty clever idea. And with Kindles, e-publishing, etc. it's even easier to implement, since there won't be printing costs.
BTW, anybody want to start a TVTropes page for the series? Between Blood and Bullets, "That Thing At The Zoo," and the free fiction available on his web-site, there should be plenty of material.