Review: “Dead Man Rising” By Lilith Saintcrow (Novel)

Well, after reading Lilith Saintcrow’s “Working For The Devil” a week or two ago, I’d planned to read more books in Saintcrow’s excellent “Dante Valentine” series – especially since I found a cheap second-hand paperback omnibus online. So, I thought that I’d take a look at the next novel in the series – “Dead Man Rising” (2006).

Although this sci-fi/urban fantasy/horror/detective novel can theoretically be read as a stand-alone novel (since it contains recaps), it is best read after “Working For The Devil”. Not only will some elements of the story make more sense, but this novel will also have a much greater emotional impact if you’ve read the previous one first.

So, let’s take a look at “Dead Man Rising”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 2011 Orbit (UK) paperback omnibus which contained the copy of “Dead Man Rising” that I read.

Set in a futuristic cyberpunk-style city called Saint City, the novel starts with half-demon necromancer Dante Valentine and her ex-boyfriend Jace in the middle of a dangerous bounty hunting mission. After the events of the previous novel, Dante has thrown herself into her work in order to distract herself from the emotional and physical pain that she feels.

However, after the bounty has been caught, Dante gets a call from her old friend on the police force. There have been a series of grisly murders and a clue found next to one of the bodies suggests that Dante and one of the victims have a common history. Despite the fact that Dante is still deeply troubled by this distant part of her past, she agrees to help investigate the case…

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it is both very gripping and it also contains far more horror elements than the previous novel did 🙂 This novel is also more of a character-based drama too, with lots of emphasis placed on Dante’s emotional battles as well as more physical conflicts. So, yes, the emotional tone of this story is a lot darker and grimmer than the previous one, although this segues quite well with the ending of the previous novel in addition to emphasising the horror elements of the story too.

Talking of which, I cannot praise the horror elements of this story highly enough. Although this novel contains a decent amount of gory horror and paranormal horror, there’s also a chilling focus on the nightmarishly dystopian psychic school that Dante was forced to attend when she was younger. Whilst the reader is given enough grim details about this to make them recoil and shudder, there’s also the creeping sense that these details are just the tip of a very disturbing iceberg. So, unlike the previous “Dante Valentine” novel, this novel is actually a horror novel.

The novel’s detective elements are reasonably good too, since they lend the story a level of claustrophobic suspense and gritty tension that the previous novel lacked slightly. Although the solution to the mystery is something that you might guess about half to two-thirds of the way through the story, it includes some really clever flourishes – such as a variation on the traditional “locked room mystery” sub-genre of detective fiction.

In a lot of ways, the detective elements of this story reminded me a bit of both Mike Carey’s excellent “Felix Castor” novels and the “Blackwell” computer games (which I reviewed here, here, here, here and here). Not to mention that they help to keep the story moving at a reasonably decent pace too.

But, whilst this novel is more of a traditional detective/horror thriller, there are still a few action-packed moments too – the best of these being a really cool, if somewhat superflous, fight scene set in a vampire nightclub – which reminded me a little bit of Jocelynn Drake’s excellent “Dark Days” novels (which is never a bad thing 🙂).

In terms of the writing, Saintcrow’s first-person narration is as good as ever – and it is written in the kind of informal “matter of fact” way that you would expect in a good thriller or noir novel. Like with the previous novel in the series, the narration also includes a few mildly cyberpunk flourishes (eg: futuristic jargon like “holovids”, “plasguns”, “plasteel” etc..) in addition to including a fair amount of introspection and characterisation too.

As for the characters in this novel, they’re reasonably good and this story devotes quite a bit of time to characterisation too. However, the characterisation in this story is very much on the “gritty drama” side of things, with lots of scenes showing how traumatic effects have affected the characters. Likewise, the story’s main villian is left mysterious enough to be genuinely creepy too. So, yes, the characterisation in this novel is pretty interesting.

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is ok. Whilst the omnibus edition of “Dead Man Rising” seems to be an efficient 250-70 pages in length, this is only due to larger pages and smaller print. Looking online, the stand-alone paperback edition of this novel is about 416 pages long. Still, the novel never really felt like it was too long. Likewise, even though some of the gloomy introspection slows the story down a bit, this novel was still gripping enough for me to binge-read most of it within the space of a single day.

All in all, this is a gripping paranormal detective thriller/horror novel 🙂 Yes, the emotional tone of this story is a bit on the depressing side of things – but, despite this, it is still a creepily chilling and grippingly compelling novel.

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

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Review: “Blue Streak (Film)”

Well, the next film in what seems to be turning into a series of 1990s film reviews is a comedic heist/detective thriller movie from 1999 called “Blue Streak”.

Although I’d vaguely heard of this film quite a few years ago, I hadn’t seen it before. But, since it sounded interesting and was going fairly cheap second-hand, I decided to check it out.

So, let’s take a look at “Blue Streak”. Needless to say, this review will contain SPOILERS.

And, yes, this is a DVD from the days when film studios added small print to DVD covers about the BBFC increasing the age rating due to the special features.

“Blue Streak” begins with an elite jewel thief called Logan (played by Martin Lawrence) pulling off a thrilling high-tech heist in a skyscraper in Los Angeles. Things start out fairly well for Logan and his accomplices, and he is soon able to purloin a rather impressive diamond.

A daring late-night heist in a heavily-guarded building in the middle of a large city? What could possibly go wrong?

However, thanks to a betrayal by one of his accomplices and a couple of unfortunate coincidences, the police are soon alerted. On the run from the law and threatened by his traitorous accomplice, Logan manages to get to a nearby building site and hide in an air vent. But, he realises that it’s only a matter of time before the cops find him. So, he conceals the diamond in the vent and hands himself in.

Two years later, Logan is released from prison and decides to go back to the building site to pick up his diamond. However, there’s just one problem…

The building is now a police station.

After a failed attempt at sneaking into the station, Logan quickly realises that the only way that he’s going to get hold of the diamond is to impersonate a detective. However, although he just planned to sneak in and grab the diamond, his disguise is perhaps a little bit too good – since he quickly gets assigned a partner and sent out to investigate crimes. Needless to say, hilarity ensues…

Even more amusingly, Logan is also told to teach his inexperienced new partner how to be a detective.

One of the first things that I will say about “Blue Streak” is that, like a couple of the films from the 1990s I’ve reviewed recently, it is just fun to watch.

Not only does it work really well as a comedy film, but it also works fairly well as a mildly suspenseful light-hearted thriller film too (since Logan’s former accomplice is after him, since Logan gets involved in a major case and since Logan still also has to find that pesky diamond too).

The premise of this film is also fairly clever too. This certainly isn’t an ordinary detective movie! Not to mention that the fact that Logan is somewhat out of his depth also easily allows for a good mixture of comedy, action and suspense too.

For example, in one scene Logan accidentally ends up in the middle of an armed robbery at a cornershop. Having very little police experience, he hides behind a row of shelves whilst the robber and the shopkeeper have a dramatic shootout. Outside the shop, Logan’s new partner rigidly follows police procedure to the letter.

And, yes, this part of the scene is played in a hilariously stuffy and serious way.

By a slight twist of fate, Logan then apprehends the robber… only to discover that he is none other than his old friend (and accomplice) Tulley, who is somewhat surprised to see him. Logan then tries to help Tulley escape before his partner makes a dramatic entrance.

However, Tulley ends up fleeing down a one-way alleyway and ends up hiding behind a dumpster whilst the police gather at the other end of the alleyway. Disregarding procedure, Logan strides down the alleyway (as the other cops look on in awe) to “confront” Tulley. Of course, the two of them then end up having an absolutely hilarious argument with each other.

So, yes, the premise of the film allows for an enjoyable mixture of comedy, action and suspense.

Needless to say – the comedy elements of this film are absolutely brilliant, with a lot of the best comedy in the film coming from both Martin Lawrence and Dave Chappelle’s hilariously funny performances as Logan and Tulley. This is especially true in scenes where Logan and Tulley end up arguing with each other.

Interestingly, in the special features on the DVD, the makers of this film point out that the film ended up containing a lot more “Logan & Tulley”-based scenes than originally planned, purely because these scenes are so hilarious.

Not only is this film filled with all sorts of amusingly irreverent, ironic and informal dialogue but, like a lot of good comedies, the film also includes a variety of different types of humour.

In addition to the comedic dialogue, there’s also character-based humour, slapstick comedy, “double act“- based humour, farce, parody and satire too. Although the humour in this film isn’t always the most sophisticated thing in the world, it is rarely predictable and it works really well.

The film’s action/thriller scenes are also fairly well-handled too. Unlike in some action-comedy films I’ve seen, the emphasis remains firmly on the comedy. Whilst the film might contain a few dramatic gunfights and suspenseful scenes, these are often used as a basis for amusing dialogue or slapstick comedy rather than just as an excuse for a spectacular gunfight or car chase. Even so, the action in some later scenes of the film is handled in a mildly more “serious” way.

It’s a stand-off, in Mexico. Now, if only there was some quick and pithy way to describe this unusual situation….

The set design, special effects and lighting design in this film are all reasonably good too. Thanks to the focus on practical effects and the relatively small number of action scenes in the film, the special effects are pretty much “timeless”.

Likewise, the film’s locations all look reasonably ok and, best of all, the film also contains some really cool lighting in a few scenes too. However, most of the lighting in this film is fairly “realistic” and “modern” when compared to the cool high-contrast lighting in a lot of other films from this decade. Still, there’s a little bit of classic 1990s-style high-contrast lighting in this film (especially in the earlier scenes).

Seriously, more of the film should have included lighting like this!

Not to mention that lighting and visual style during the opening credits looks really amazing too 🙂

In terms of the music, the most memorable music in the film consists of a couple of rap songs. Interestingly, the DVD’s special features also include a few music videos too although, at the time of writing, I haven’t got round to watching these yet.

All in all, “Blue Streak” is a fun, funny, feel-good film. Not only is this film a really good comedy, but the crime/thriller elements of it also work reasonably well too. Yes, it isn’t a “serious” thriller movie or anything like that, but it still contains some enjoyably light-hearted action and suspense.

Plus, at a lean and streamlined 90 minutes in length, the film moves along at a reasonable pace too. Seriously, if you want something to cheer you up if you’re in a slightly gloomy mood (like I was when I started watching it), then you can do a lot worse than this film.

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

Today’s Art (21st January 2018)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the second comic in “Damania Reflection”, a new webcomic mini series featuring the characters who have appeared in most of my other webcomics. Although this mini series will consist of self-contained comics, I’m kind of thinking of making a more introspection-themed mini series this time. You can catch up on previous comics from this mini series here: Comic One

And, yes, it has been way too long since Harvey last solved a case (and even longer since any of the gentleman rogues last appeared). In keeping with the introspective theme, this comic is also a comic about things like highly-inspired creative projects, amazing videogames etc.. too.


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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Reflection – Project” By C. A. Brown

All Ten Of My “Noir Christmas 2017” Short Stories

Well, in case you missed any of them, here’s a handy list of links to all ten of my recent “Noir Christmas” short stories.

These stories are best read in order, although many of them are fairly self-contained. If you just want to read the basic underlying story arc, then read the first, third, fourth and tenth stories. My personal favourite story in the collection is probably the ninth one.

Surprisingly, this was the first collection I’ve written in quite some time to feature a single unnamed main character throughout the collection. Surprisingly, the stories also ended up being set in something resembling present-day Britain rather than the more traditional “1920s-50s America” setting I’d originally thought about using.

Anyway, here are the stories 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

1) “Preludes And Portents – A private detective hasn’t had a client in days. Perhaps a piece of junk mail holds the answers….

2) “Headlines“: The detective muses about Raymond Chandler, only to find that a mysterious man with a gun has appeared outside the office door.

3) “Stakeout“: The detective decides to investigate the slick new detective agency that has recently appeared in the local shopping centre. However, things may not be as they seem…

4) “Amateurs“: Finally! A client! And, perhaps many more…

5) “Magic“: The detective is asked to explain a magic trick…

6) “Espionage“: The detective’s latest client wants the private computer codes of a senior German politician. Not only is the case illegal, but it’s too much *ugh* effort. What will the detective do?

7) “Night Off“: The detective takes a night off.

8) “Paranormal“: A rich property developer needs the detective’s help. Ever since he planned to turn the local community centre into luxury flats, he’s been hearing ominous noises at night….

9) “The Twelve Cases Of Christmas“: Twelve clients in one morning!? What will the detective do?

10) “Finale“: The detective’s new business strategy has ruffled some feathers…

“Finale” By C. A. Brown (Noir Christmas Short Stories – #10)

Stay tuned for a full series retrospective tomorrow evening at 9:30pm [GMT]

After the Christmas rush had started, I’d begun to get a little too used to the sound of people knocking on my office door. Don’t get me wrong, ever since I’d found myself in the strange situation of becoming a consulting detective for the users of a trendy new “gig economy” private detective app who found themselves out of their depth, this had been my most successful Christmas yet.

But, I was getting too used to people knocking on the door.

This was probably why I didn’t recognise the knock until it was too late. That sharp, gunshot-like rapping which portends nothing but trouble. It isn’t the indiscriminate hammering of an angry caller or the soft tapping of a charity collector, it’s the knock of someone who feels that they have every right to frighten you and all the time in the world to do it.

Come in, it’s.. open.‘ I said, as a sinking feeling washed through my gut. I had mere seconds to prepare myself.

The door swung open and two men in designer suits walked through. They were mid-thirties, athletic and wearing sunglasses. One of them asked me my name. I considered giving a false one but I had the feeling that they’d probably seen a photo of me before. So, I gave them my real name.

With a sharp intake of breath, the other man said: ‘We understand that you’ve been providing a “consulting detective” service.

I shrugged: ‘Are you interested in hiring me?

He held up a corporate ID card like it was a police badge: ‘We are shutting your little operation down.

Huh? There’s no law against helping out the poor souls who signed up to your app.‘ I shrugged again, careful not to show fear.

The man closest to the door reached into his jacket and pulled out a sheaf of papers. Speaking in a robotic monotone, he said: ‘Terms and conditions, section five, subsection thirty-two. Provision of unauthorised ancillary services….

I must have zoned out for a few minutes but, when my attention returned to the room, he was still reading. ‘…subject to any action the company deems necessary.

The other man spoke softly, like he was trying to be my friend: ‘What this basically means is that you need to stop offering your services to our customers. It..‘ He made a show of trying to control his emotions ‘.. disrupts our ecosystem.

Or what?‘ I asked.

Robot man stepped in again: ‘You will be in further violation of our terms and conditions. This could result in suspension of your…

Ah.‘ I grinned ‘I never signed up to them. And, more importantly, I never signed up to your app either.

Robot man said ‘Yes, but your clients have. We demand to see a list of all of our users who have used your services. Examples have to be made.

I shrugged and tapped my forehead: ‘It’s in here. First rule of a good P.I is to know what not to write down. The second rule of a good P.I is to start recording as soon as someone official knocks on the door.

I made a show of reaching under my desk and pulling out a small dictaphone cassette. ‘The papers will no doubt be interested to know about your attempts to access private data about my clients. And, if they aren’t interested, there’s always the internet.

The men were speechless. With a smile, I gestured towards the door: ‘But I hope it doesn’t come to that. I trust you can see yourselves out.

As they shuffled away sheepishly, I cracked open a new bottle of scotch and poured myself a large measure. Outside my window, the snow continued to fall and the Christmas lights above the high street gently glowed and flickered. I twiddled the blank dictaphone cassette between my fingers before putting it back under the desk. The third rule of a good P.I is, of course, to be a better con artist than the ones who walk through your door.

“The Twelve Cases Of Christmas” By C. A. Brown (Noir Christmas Short Stories – #9)

Stay tuned for the final short story in this series tomorrow evening at 9:30pm GMT 🙂

If there was one thing I didn’t expect after I’d set myself up as a consulting detective for people who had signed up to a trendy new “gig economy” private detective app and found themselves out of their depth, it’s that I would be drawn into the pre-Christmas rush. I mean, I’m hardly a supermarket or anything like that. Yet, today, I found myself with no less than twelve clients.

My first client wanted me to find a lost cat. I just gave him the phone number of another client who had made some off-hand remark about specialising in searching for lost pets. Then I wished him luck. People are easy to track down, but cats are something else entirely.

My second client had found himself drawn into some kind of international conspiracy involving the Illuminati, extraterrestrial life and the United Nations.

After giving him valuable advice about how to fashion a protective cap from common household supplies, I dropped a cryptic hint that the answers he sought could be found behind a secret panel in the cloakroom of Hitler’s second bunker- which could be found by overlaying a sketch of the chemtrails above the local shopping centre at precisely 6:16am onto an out-of-print map of Milton Keynes from 1949. Well, we all amuse ourselves in different ways, I guess.

My third client had been hired by someone who was sure that his partner had just started having an affair. It was a pretty open and shut case. After all, who has the time for things like that during the pre-Christmas rush?

My fourth client was probably a serial killer. Thankfully, he was a rather stupid one. I’m still waiting for my letter of commendation from the police.

My fifth client had found herself trying to track down an out-of-print book from 1973 for a wealthy bibliophile. I got to astonish her by pulling a copy of the book from the old bookshelf in the corner of my office. Not bothering to clean out my office when I’d started renting it was an even wiser decision than I had thought. I celebrated by resolving never to tidy my desk drawers.

My sixth client had been hired by someone who didn’t know how to operate his VCR. How anyone still has a functioning VCR in this day and age, I’ll never know.

My seventh client actually turned out to be my second client again, who had just remembered that Milton Keynes hadn’t been built until the 1960s. When he threatened to report me for fraud, I just lowered my voice to a conspiratorial whisper and said ‘No, the OTHER Milton Keynes.. the one THEY don’t want you to know about.‘ He just nodded sagely, thanked me profoundly and left. I tried not to laugh too much.

My eighth client had been hired by someone who needed to find eight maids a-milking for a themed Christmas party. I solemnly pointed out that such a thing not only broke five EU food hygiene regulations, but that it also perpetuated outdated stereotypes about the modern farming industry. She seemed to believe me. I just hoped her client did too.

My ninth client wanted to sell me double-glazing. I showed him the door instead.

My tenth client had been hired by someone who wanted to solve a seemingly impossible murder that had taken place in a locked room in a sealed train carriage in the middle of nowhere. I passed the case on to my friends in the local police. Serves them right for not sending me that letter of commendation.

My eleventh client had been falsely accused of murdering someone in a locked room in a sealed train carriage in the middle of nowhere. I introduced her to my tenth client and told them to argue in the hall. Best thirty minutes of entertainment I’d had in years.

My twelfth client gave me an angry phone call saying that he’d been scared away from my office by two idiots outside the door who had been arguing about trains, of all things. I feigned ignorance and suggested that he’d got the address wrong, before giving him the “right” address. I felt sorry for the owner of the local pizza shop though. Still, with all those detective novels he keeps lying around on the counter, he’d probably have a field day when my client showed up.

Letting out a long sigh, I checked my watch. It wasn’t even noon yet. I hate Christmas.

“Night Off” By C. A. Brown (Noir Christmas Short Stories – #7)

Stay tuned for the next story tomorrow evening at 9:30pm GMT 🙂

The idea that private detectives suddenly find themselves pulled into cases whilst going about their everyday lives is something that only happens on television. In reality, outside of the office is one of the few places where you don’t have to worry about being bothered by clients. After all, a good detective shouldn’t stand out as being a detective.

This was why, after solving five absurdly small cases within a single day, I decided to take the evening off. I’d planned to go to the pub, but even the terrace had looked more crowded than a supermarket on Christmas eve. So, instead, I headed for the Christmas market. It was one of those sophisticated continental things that, thanks to the referendum, we probably only had another year or two left to enjoy.

Against the falling snow, the fairy lights around each wooden stall glowed like futuristic fireflies. The aroma of spicy mulled wine and melting chocolate filled the air. A tinny speaker crackled out a bland version of “The Little Drummer Boy”. A rotund Santa Claus menaced a few tourists with a charity tin. A taxidermy reindeer head glowered down at me, his beady eyes somehow unaffected by the heavy snow.

When I stopped off for mulled wine, I ended up having a friendly argument about pronunciation. Apparently, it’s not meant to be pronounced “Glur-wine”. The correct pronunciation is “Glue-vine”. Which made sense. Either I’d got the dregs from the bottom of the cauldron or the guy behind the counter wanted to give me a helpful reminder by adding a dash of PVA to my plastic mug when I wasn’t looking.

Above the constant tinny music, the sound of phone shutters echoed like crickets. It took me a few seconds to notice it, but it actually seemed like more people were taking selfies than actually talking to each other. Not that I was complaining. If I wanted to listen to inane babbling, I’d have extended my office hours.

But, as I finished my mug of wine and found myself passing the same ornate arrangement of sugar plum chocolates for the third time, I felt a twinge of boredom. Not only that, the market was starting to get crowded too.

So, I headed for the cinema. If there’s one place no-one visits these days, it’s the cinema. As I stood on the escalator and watched the glowing blue signs slowly drift into view, I realised that I hadn’t even bothered to look at the listings in the paper earlier. Great, I thought, I’d be reduced to standing in front of the main desk like a pillock and craning my neck at the display board. Even so, it still seemed like a marginally less stupid idea than getting a smartphone.

But, like television at this time of night, there was barely anything worth watching. About the only vaguely interesting things were a leftover horror movie from Halloween and a shiny new adaptation of an old detective novel. Although the horror movie looked like it could be fun, I’d have to wait an entire hour for the next screening. So, with a sigh, I got a ticket to the detective movie.

Thankfully, the theatre was almost empty. Grabbing a seat in the middle, I waited for the trailers to begin. The cinema’s logo glowered down at me from the big screen whilst old pop music played in the background. Why, I wondered, did they bother advertising this place to people who were already here? Surely it was a bit self-defeating.

When the opening credits finally deigned to roll and an ornate train whooshed across the screen, I suddenly remembered that I’d read the book this film was based on. Worst of all, I remembered the ending too. Even by the standards of old-fashioned detective fiction, it had been a little bit on the contrived side of things. The next two hours would be fun.

As the moustachioed Belgian detective on the screen gasped and said: ‘A murder?‘ I felt something approaching jealousy. As much as I’d wanted peace and quiet, I’d also forgotten how boring it was.

Two rows back, someone gasped. Quick as a flash, I turned around and whispered: ‘Everything ok?

It wasn’t a murder. Someone had just spilled their popcorn.