Sunday, July 24, 2016

Review: Already Dead

Already Dead Already Dead by Charlie Huston
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s a lot harder to do this than it looks. I know, all too well, because I’ve been working on something in the same vein. (And “vein” isn’t a pun, though it could be.)

Huston’s basic plan here is to marry the hardboiled novel to the vampire story. His hero, Joe Pitt, is a vampire who, true to the Chandler/Hammett code, insists on working alone in a quasi-existential bid to figure out what it all means. In other words, his case(s) turn out to be as much about self-discovery as about their more proximate causes.

And it works. It works pretty well.

Being a vampire (vampyre) means that Pitt is changed from what he was when he was human. He isn’t sure what fulfillment might look like. He balances his girlfriend – who, as someone HIV-positive, refuses to sleep with him – with his uncertain place in the pecking order of the New York vampire world. He takes cases no one else can manage because, precarious and alone as he may be, no one else in this world is as self-possessed, as legitimately his own person.

The story itself is solid. Pitt comes up against the agendas of several different people, and it isn’t clear until the end who’s responsible for what. It’s professional work, entertaining and engaging, and, as I say, I’ve tried my hand at something similar.

Things fall down a little when too much of the story turns on the particulars of what it means to be a vampire, things like how the virus affects its host and how driven particular vampires are to the different clans and gangs, to the politics of the vampyre world. But, from what I can tell, Huston builds on all of that as part of the ongoing series. He’s planting the seeds of a more complex world where each decision here has implications for future novels. So, if it feels a touch too pat here, I can forgive it.

I also can’t help contrasting this with Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books. Where those are clunky and cliché-ridden, with a protagonist in love with his idiosyncrasies, this is someone who approaches a real character – at least as real as a vampire private detective can get.

In the end (or in the beginning if you prefer) it’s a stretch to make this work, but Huston does. I’m not quite in a hurry to read what’s next, but it’s on the list. This is quality pulp fiction, and I’m taking notes on how Huston pulls it off.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment