Lore and Dysorder by Patrick Thomas, Padwolf Publishing
Patrick Thomas is, in my opinion, the absolute master of the trickster leprechaun story. So when he decided to do a series on the ancient Sumerian god Negral, who chooses to work as Hell’s Chief of Police instead of facing oblivion, I should not have been surprised at the result. Negral gets his jollies from putting one over on the Devil, on the Devil’s dime. As a former god he’s used to meting out punishment and justice, and tweaking the Devil’s whiskers to help someone gets him off like a fine wine.
Lore and Dysorder is a series of short stories and novellas about Negral’s adventures set, literally, mostly in hell. He has to solve mysteries like finding a succubus’ virginity (!) and dealing with a menace that is destroying demon lords, a mystery that leads him to the gates of heaven itself. Through all this Thomas weaves impressive, and occasionally hilarious, dark world-building: showing hell as seen through the eyes of a jaded PI who styles himself after Bogie and deals with the darkness like a wisecracking cop.
Bullets & Brimstone by Patrick Thomas and John L. French, Dark Quest Books
Set in the same world as Lore and Dysorder, this collaboration joins the adventures of hell’s Chief of Police with those of the woman who made Baltimore impervious to Satan: John L. French’s impressive policewoman, Detective Bianca Jones. Since the devil cannot see into or affect Baltimore, Hell’s Detective has to find out what’s going on in Charm City for his boss. Since his boss also hates the woman who cost him his influence in Baltimore, Negral cannot become too friendly with her lest he incur the wrath of hell. So they solve cases with overlapping jurisdictions, wary of each other but gaining a growing respect for the other “good cop” – or is he?
My favorite quote: “Who would have a treaty with hell? The government, of course.” This gives you an idea of the tone of the book, which is another set of adventures in the short story and novella length. If paranormal that mocks the darkness is your cup of tea, check this out. It is best bought as a set with Lore and Dysorder, above, as the events in Bullets & Brimstone chronologically happen part-way through that book. But it’s a great stand-alone read, and a good introduction to both Bianca Jones and Negral, and their other books.
Quick Fall of Light by Sherrida Woodley and Michael Dixon (Gray Dog Press)
I found the story engaging—very engaging
this post-apocalyptic (nay, in media res apocalyptic) plague story that centered on the extinct species “passenger pigeon” to be a well-written medical thriller, a lovely psychological study, a travelogue, and a great mystery/thriller. The mystical element in the transference of homing between species is what sets this apart from your average book. Highly enjoyable.
Ten With a Flag and Other Playthings by Joseph Paul Haines, Gryffynperch Books
Color me prejudiced: the story reprinted from a previous edition of Abyss & Apex is my favorite in this collection. But “The Man Behind the Curtain” aside, the standout story is the title cut: “Ten With a Flag.” In these days of increasingly pronounced government intervention, this tale is chilling and warns, as so many good science fiction stories do, of a terrifying possible future.
Many of the tales are chilling, but a cover with a child impaling a bird and insect prepared me for that edge. These stories linger after reading. “Triad in the Key of Lies”, “The Last Viewing,” “Malingering” and “Copper Angels” are all haunting tales as well (some have actual ghosts). That’s fine: however, I did not care for “Scratch” as I don’t like bald-faced horror.
“Public Service” was a hoot, and a great adventure. “Multiple Pages on a Monday Morning, From the Scrapbook of Infinite Possibilities” looks at the choices we make, and as in the movie Peggy Sue Got Married, and yet not. In its own way, it makes us think about possibilities: if we could change our decisions, would we do things the same way?
“Ma, Gin, and Bug-Eyed Aliens” is a rollicking tale. As is “CC&R’s at the Widdershins Parallelium”, but then Haines gets sentimental in “On the Nightside of the Ancient, Walnut Moon”. That’s okay; he does sentimental very well.
All in all it’s a good short story collection, dark yet satisfying.