Sunday, May 6, 2012

City of the Lost

A few weeks ago, I went to Barnes & Nobles to pick up the new Jonathan Maberry novel, Assassin's Code. It was sitting on the new book table, at the front of the store, so I grabbed a copy on my way in, and carried it around, as I looked over all the other goodies on the shelves.

And that's when I saw it.

Bright orange spine. Title in black. Author's name in yellow. City of the Lost. Stephen Blackmoore. I'd never heard of the guy, but, what the hell, I'm always looking for something new. I pulled the book off the shelf. Right off the bat, an interesting cover. A cityscape in shades of orange. And in the foreground, a tough guy with a cigarette, a black leather jacket, and a smoking hole in his chest. Ok. You've got my attention.

I flip the book over; read the back cover. Mm hm. Joe Sunday, Leg breaker for the mob, goes out on a job and ends up a zombie. Sorta. And then the freaks come out. Joe is thrust into a dark world of supernatural horror. Sounds good.

And then...those seven words that had me putting Maberry back on the table (Don't worry, Jonathan. I picked up Assassin's Code the next week.) and taking City of the Lost up to the register: "Cover and interior art by Sean Phillips."

I know Sean's art from his work with Ed Brubaker on Criminal, Incognito, and, most recently, Fatale. To me, Sean is the go to guy for noir artwork. His splash pages for the essays in the back of Brubaker's comics are masterpieces. So, yeah, I want this book.

And what a book it is. It's Criminal, with monsters, and I mean that in the best possible way. It's Richard Stark's Parker, stuck in a horror film. It's supernatural noir! (Not to be confused with Supernatural Noir, a great anthology edited by Ellen Datlow, from Dark Horse Books.)

Joe Sunday is a bad guy, but you will find yourself rooting for him, as he goes up against bizarre foes, even badder than he is. You've got a nazi wizard, a feral dwarf, an incubus bartender, and, of course, a beautiful femme fatale. Everyone is looking for a magic stone. Most want it for something nefarious. Joe needs it to keep from rotting away. They all walk the dark streets of L.A., wheeling, dealing, and dying, as the clock ticks down to the final confrontation.

Blackmoore's writing is slick and fast, like his characters, and Sean Phillip's art is as fantastic as ever. The violence is nice and bloody, and the story is filled with twists and turns. This book is great as both horror and noir, and I would recommend it for fans of both.

I certainly wish for Stephen Blackmoore to have a long and fruitful writing career. Purely for selfish reasons, of course. I want to read much more of his work. (That's the problem with discovering a new author. No backlog to dig up and enjoy.) So, thanls to Stephen and Sean for some great entertainment. Keep it up guys.

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