Review: “Meddling Kids” By Edgar Cantero (Novel)

A few weeks before I wrote this book review, I ended up watching several episodes of “Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated” and was amazed at how good this modern Saturday morning cartoon was.

A couple of weeks later, I was looking around online for second-hand horror novels and happened to find a modern novel from 2018 called “Meddling Kids” by Edgar Cantero, which seemed to be a Lovecraftian dark comedy parody of “Scooby Doo” 🙂

So, let’s take a look at “Meddling Kids”. Needless to say, this review may contain SPOILERS.

This is the 2018 Titan Books (UK) paperback edition of “Meddling Kids” that I read.

In 1977, the four young investigators of the Blyton Summer Detective Club (and their trusty dog Sean), solve the mystery of the Sleepy Lake monster. Far from being a giant salamander monster, it was actually a masked criminal called Thomas Wickley who would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.

Flash forward to 1990 and Wickley is up for parole. But, soon after he leaves prison, he is ambushed by Andrea “Andy” Rodriguez, a former member of the detective club who is determined to get the truth out of him. There were things in Sleepy Lake that were too strange to be part of an elaborate criminal scheme. Unexplainable, unworldly horrors that have haunted the nightmares of the club members ever since that fateful summer holiday.

As a result of that horrifying summer, Andy has ended up living a life of crime, nerdy redhead Kerri has ended up in a series of dead-end jobs and weedy, nervous Nate has found himself in a mental hospital (but, at least he has the ghost of tall, athletic Peter to keep him company). About the only club member who is vaguely ok is Tim, Sean’s canine descendent.

Rattled by the mysterious incantations that Wickley babbles after she questions him, Andy decides that the only thing to do is to get the club together again and return to Sleepy Lake……

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is WOW! It’s a funny, creepy, thrilling and mysterious mixture of dark comedy, Lovecraftian horror and retro nostalgia 🙂 In other words, this novel is kind of like a mixture of H.P. Lovecraft, “The Last Door“, “Blood“, “Twin Peaks”, “Supernatural”, “The X-Files”, “Scooby Doo” and some kind of alternative punk comic from the 1990s. So, yes, it’s pretty awesome 🙂

The novel’s horror elements are pretty interesting. As you would expect from a modern Lovecraftian horror story there’s a really good mixture of ominous horror, occult horror, monster horror, suspenseful horror, jump scares, psychological horror, implied horror, scientific horror, economic horror/ post-industrial decay, claustrophobic horror and gruesome horror. Although this novel isn’t likely to leave you frozen with fright, there is a wonderfully creepy and ominous atmosphere in many parts of the story 🙂

The novel’s comedy elements also work reasonably well. Although there were only a couple of moments that really made me laugh out loud, the novel has a wonderfully irreverent attitude, some moments of bizarre slapstick comedy, numerous retro pop culture references, a gleefully farcical denouement, lots of amusing dialogue and some brilliant dark comedy plot elements too.

The novel’s detective elements are fairly interesting too. Although the novel enters the realms of fantasy and science fiction, pretty much everything in the story has a logical scientific, practical and/or paranormal explanation. Even though fans of H.P. Lovecraft won’t be too surprised by the premise of the story, there are enough clever plot twists and intriguing clues, locations etc… to keep the story intriguingly gripping.

Interestingly, this novel starts out as a slower-paced mystery, psychological thriller and character-based drama novel. These elements all work surprisingly well and, although this means that the first two-thirds or so of this novel are relatively slow paced (but still really compelling), the novel then segues into this absolutely spectacular action-packed final act that occasionally reminded me a little bit of the classic computer game “Blood” (which, again, is never a bad thing 🙂 ).

The story’s atmosphere is really cool too. In addition to the kind of ominous atmosphere you would expect from a Lovecraftian horror story, this story also includes the cynical nihilism of the 1990s (in addition to some vague hints of that decade’s more famous optimism) and a brilliantly dark and twisted version of the fun atmosphere of “Scooby Doo” too 🙂

In terms of the characters, they are brilliant 🙂 Not only do all of the main characters come across as stylised, but realistic, people with a huge number of quirks, flaws and emotions but the novel’s characters are also both a brilliantly inventive parody of both “Scooby Doo” and Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” too. In short, the level of characterisation here is on par with Neil Gaiman’s amazing “Sandman” comics and Winston Rowntree’s “Subnormality” 🙂

The novel’s main characters also allow for the exploration of numerous themes such as mental illness, memory, non-conformity, friendship, love, trauma etc… too. Seriously, I cannot praise the characters in this novel highly enough 🙂 They’re a glorious band of misfits who are so much fun to hang out with.

In terms of the writing, this novel’s (mostly) third-person narration is amazing. It is this wonderfully weird mixture of formal descriptive narration, highly informal narration and more experimental/avant-garde narration… and, somehow, it really works 🙂

In true punk fashion, this novel isn’t afraid to break the rules by doing things like using film script-like dialogue segments, breaking the fourth wall (usually subtly, but one instance of it – involving a chapter ending- is truly epic) and occasionally inventing new words just for the hell of it. The inventive, irreverent and unique writing style in this novel is an absolute joy to read 🙂 Still, if you’re used to more conventional writing styles, then you might not enjoy the narration as much.

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is interesting. At 442 pages, this is one of those novels that will sometimes feel like reading a DVD boxset. However, although the first two-thirds of the story are relatively slow-paced, they remain really compelling thanks to the atmosphere, the characters, the writing style and the mysterious plot. These slower-paced segments also contrast really well with the brilliantly gripping and fast-paced final act too 🙂

All in all, this is a punk Lovecraftian horror dark comedy parody of “Scooby Doo” that is set in the 1990s 🙂 Need I say more?

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five.

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Today’s Art (20th April 2019)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the first comic in “Damania Retracted”, this month’s four-comic webcomic mini series. You can find links to lots of other comics featuring these characters on this page.

This is a comic about last year’s Eurovision Song Contest. And, yes, I tend to make these comics quite far in advance. Even so, I was kind of surprised that there only seemed to be just one metal/rock/punk group (AWS from Hungary – with this song. Even though I couldn’t understand the lyrics, it was pretty cool – although it reminded me of early-mid 2000s metal a bit though) in what I saw of the contest. But, given the sheer variety of awesome music out there, it’s always weird how Eurovision almost always seems to focus on just one genre (pop music).

Note: Today’s comic update is NOT released under any kind of Creative Commons licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Retracted – Eurovision 2018” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – December 2018

Well, it’s the end of the month (and the year). So, I thought that I’d do my usual thing of collecting a list of links to the ten best articles about writing fiction, making art etc… that I’ve posted here over the past month. As usual, I’ll also include a couple of honourable mentions too.

Surprisingly, due to all of the book reviews I posted here this month (it seems to be becoming a regular feature), there weren’t as many “ordinary” articles as I’d expected. Even so, some of them turned out reasonably well and I also ended up writing more writing-based articles than usual too 🙂

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – December 2018:

– “What Can Novel Cover Art Teach Us About Making Art?
– “Don’t Show Your Audience Everything – A Ramble
– “Three Tips For Basing Lots Of Stories Around A Single Theme
– “What Books Can Do That Other Entertainment Mediums Can’t – A Ramble
– “One Quick Tip For Writing Ultra-Gripping Action Scenes In Thriller Stories
– “Three Shocking Tips For Writing 1980s-Style Splatterpunk Horror Fiction
– “Three Tips For Making Webcomics When You’ve Got Less Time
– “Three Differences Between Thriller Fiction And Horror Fiction
– “How Straightforward Should Your Narration Be?
– “Two Basic Tips For Using Digital Lighting Effects In “GIMP” (GNU Image Manipulation Program)

Honourable Mentions:

– “Three Silly Tips For Writing ‘Creature Feature’ Horror Stories
– “Three Tips For Writing 1990s-Style Cyberpunk Fiction

Top Ten Articles – November 2018

Well, it’s the end of the month and this means that it’s time for me to compile my usual list of links to my ten favourite articles about making art, making comics, writing fiction etc… that I’ve posted here over the past month. As usual, I’ll include a couple of honourable mentions too.

All in all, this was a bit of a variable month in terms of articles. Not only were there more reviews than I had expected, but I had both highly-inspired days and uninspired days when writing the non-review articles. So, the quality of this month’s articles varied quite a bit. Hopefully, next month’s articles will be better 🙂

Anyway, here are the lists. Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – November 2018:

– “Want More Originality? Try Some Emotional Variation – A Ramble
– “What Can Games Teach Writers About Challenging Their Audience? – A Ramble
– “What An Old Novel Taught Me About Writing Thrilling Dialogue
– “What Tribute Bands Can Teach Us About Fan Art- A Ramble
– “Is There An Artistic Equivalent Of A “Live Version” Of A Song? – A Ramble
– “Three Tips For Remaking Your Old Webcomic Updates
– “Three Tips For Bringing Old Genres Up To Date
– “Three Random Tips For Modern 1970s-Style Storytelling
– “Four Tips For Getting Back Into Reading Regularly
– “The Library Of The Imagination – A Ramble

Honourable Mentions:

– “Why You Should Create Your Own Fictional Universe When Making Comics – A Ramble
– “How Subtle Should Dark Comedy Be? – A Ramble

The Complete “Nocturnal” – All 11 Pages Of The New Halloween Comic By C. A. Brown

Well, in case you missed any of it, here are all eleven pages (including the cover) of my new Halloween comic in one easy-to-read post 🙂 You can also find loads of other comics featuring these characters here too.

This comic went surprisingly well and was a lot of fun to make 🙂 The initial inspiration for it was a phase I went through where I re-played “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” almost obssessively. I then realised that whilst I’d made a haunted house comic in 2015, a zombie comic in 2016 and an “evil alternate dimension” comic in 2017, I hadn’t made a vampire comic yet.

Unlike last year’s comic, I initially decided to return to black and white artwork (mostly for time and/or sanity reasons, given the length of the comic). But, this soon mostly turned into limited colour greyscale after I realised that I could use red ink for blood effects. And, well, you can’t have a vampire comic without blood in it…

Anyway, here’s the comic 🙂 I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had making it 🙂

As usual, all pages of this comic are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence. Likewise, you can click on each page to see a much larger version of it.

“Nocturnal – Cover” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 1” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 2” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 3” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 4” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 5” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 6” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 7” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 8” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 9” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 10” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (31st October 2018)

Happy Halloween everyone 🙂 Here’s the final page of “Nocturnal” 🙂 But, don’t worry if you missesd any of it – I’ll be posting a full retrospective here later tonight. In the meantime, you can find lots of other comics featuring these characters here.

Wow! Although the ending ended up being a little bit compressed and contrived (eg: I didn’t have space to include an explanation that the main characters survived because they were only recently turned into vampires), making this page was a surprisingly eerie experience.

Basically, my drawing pen ran out before the last two panels. So, I was forced to switch to one with a finer nib when drawing these panels. Then, when I was editing the page on my computer, I suddenly had vivid flashbacks to my early experiments with comics (using a finer pen than I normally do) during 2010. It literally felt like no time whatsoever had passed since then. It’s a difficult experience to put into words, but it really caught me by surprise.

Anyway, I’m rambling. So, here’s the comic page. Enjoy 🙂

As usual, this comic page is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Nocturnal – Page 10” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – October 2018

First of all, Happy Halloween everyone 🙂 Anyway, since it’s the end of the month, it’s time for my usual list of links to what I consider to be the ten best articles about making art, making webcomics, writing fiction etc… that I’ve posted here over the past month. As usual, I’ll also include a few honourable mentions too.

All in all, this month probably wasn’t the best one in terms of articles. Partly, this was due to being busy with a couple of other projects at the time of preparing this month’s articles in addition to problems caused by tiredness and/or writer’s block. Still, there were some good articles posted here this month.

So, without any further ado, here are the lists. Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – October 2018

– “Three Stress- Reduction Tips For Making Comics And/Or Webcomics”
– “Why “Less Is More” Applies To Blood In Horror Comics – A Ramble
– “Time Travel And Art Mediums- A Ramble
– “Are Games Art? – A Ramble
– “The Joy Of … The ‘Hedonism’ Genre
– “Three Things An Old Computer Game Can Teach Us About How To Add Some Heavy Metal To The Fantasy Genre
– “Three Unusual Things To Do If You Write Yourself Into A Corner
– “Single-Location Comedy – A Ramble
– “Three Ways To Deal With Comparing Your Own Creative Works To ‘Great Works’
– “Making Art – Do The ‘Graphics’ Matter? – A Ramble

Honourable mentions:

– “Using Fake Anachronisms In Historical Art And Fiction – A Ramble
– “Creativity, Subcultures And Fandoms – A Ramble
– “Four Reasons Why Creating Stuff With Older And/Or Low-Tech Tools Is Awesome