I read hundreds of novels and anthologies each year – and they’re not all fantasy and science fiction: a good amount is crime fiction. Some of you remember me as the longtime editor of B&N’s science fiction/fantasy newsletter Explorations but I also wrote the reviews for the Ransom Notes mystery newsletter as well and have written crime fiction reviews for the Chicago Tribune and Publishers Weekly. I love pulp noir – you know, those gritty, unapologetically ruthless novels that just grab you by the throat and narratively pummel your tender parts with brass knuckles and steel-toed boots. Ken Bruen, Jason Starr, Charlie Huston, Lawrence Block, Ed McBain, Megan Abbott, Warren Ellis… I love a good black-hearted read.  

We’ve talked at length in BarnesandNoble.com’s community forums about the continuing blurring of genre fiction boundaries and I was pleasantly surprised – blown away, in truth – last week when I read Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey, which is officially released tomorrow (July 21st). This “dirty-ass masterpiece” (according to William Gibson) is a highly palatable fusion of dark fantasy and crime fiction and features sarcastic antihero James Stark – a powerful magician who gets exiled to Hell by a rival and, after 11 years “Downtown,” finally escapes back to Los Angeles on a mission of unholy retribution. Stark is like the illegitimate lovechild of Charles Bukowski, Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and, well, the Prince of Darkness! Picture Max Allan Collins’ iconic hitman Quarry wielding a black blade forged in Hell and having the power to instantaneously travel anywhere in time or space and you’ve got a pretty good picture of Stark a.k.a. Sandman Slim – “the monster who kills monsters.”

While the demon-replete storyline is comparable to other elite paranormal sagas – especially Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series – it’s Kadrey’s biting sense of humor and acerbic writing style that makes this novel so singularly enjoyable. The novel takes place largely in Los Angeles, described as: “what happens when a bunch of Lovecraftian elder gods and porn starlets spend a weekend locked up in the Chateau Marmont snorting lines of crank off Jim Morrison’s bones. If the Viagra and illegal Traci Lords videos don’t get you going, then the Japanese tentacle porn will.”

And:  “L.A. is all a$$holes and angels, bloodsuckers and trust-fund satanists, black magic and movie moguls with more bodies buried under the house than John Wayne Gacy.”

Yes, I loved Kadrey’s take on paranormal fantasy and his decidedly noir narrative style. But I think what made this novel so memorable was the “kitchen sink factor” – nothing is off limits for Kadrey. The storyline contains Nazis, vampires, fallen angels, demonic henchmen, Satan worshippers, Homeland Security agents, drug dealers, porn pushers, even references to Wild Bill Hickok!

Looking for something unusual to read this summer? Pick up Sandman Slim – and get a healthy dose of brass knuckles and brimstone with your literary escapism/beach reading. And don't forget lots of iced tea: I hear Hell is pretty hot this time of year...
Comments
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎07-20-2009 09:57 AM

Paul - You know, I really don't need to find any new authors. I have about 500 books waiting to be read, and that's no exaggeration. I read about a book a day, too, so it's not as if I'm slacking off. 

 

You introduced me to a lot of paranormal, science fiction, fantasy and urban fantasy authors on your board(s), and now you've added one more. I love Lawrence Block and I teethed on Ed McBain -- and my dad and I are both hooked on Marshall Karp now, thanks to you.

 

This book sounds wacky enough to suit my taste, so I just put it on my shopping list! 

by Sensitivemuse on ‎07-20-2009 03:31 PM
Heyyyyy where did you find all these interesting books? this one sort of reminds me of Harry Dresden..but more grittier and more noir. It's also sort of like Charlie Huston novels (I've only read one though) but Sandman Slim just stands out to me. Thanks for the info I'm going to look it up.
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎07-20-2009 03:35 PM
Oh, I love Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. I'm pretty sure I learned about that series on Paul's board, too.
by on ‎07-20-2009 04:18 PM

Paul,

 

Just what I need another book to request the library obtain.  As if I don't find enough on my own.  Oh well they can always decide they won't get it then I will have to find another way to find it.  Great article.

 

Toni

by carmen22 on ‎07-21-2009 08:25 AM

Cool, very cool!

by on ‎10-02-2010 10:25 PM

I loved this book. If you haven't read it, you're missing the best noir/action/paranormal fusion published in 2009. Plus, Sandman's (Stark's) character is one irresistible thug. Witty, pulpy and action-packed, this is one great read. I can't wait to read Kadrey's "Kill the Dead" sequel.  

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