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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"The Sword-Edged Blonde" by Alex Bledsoe

Order “The Sword-Edged BlondeHERE
Read “Things That Fit” (An Original Eddie LaCrosse Short Story) HERE Free

I don’t know if it’s like this with anyone else, but every once in a while I can just look at a book cover and know that I’m going to like it. That was the case when I first set eyes on “The Sword-Edged Blonde” by Alex Bledsoe, a first-time novelist with over fifty published short stories. Justin Sweet’s artwork immediately brought to mind the pulpy magic of Robert E. Howard’s wonderful Conan adventures and Frank Frazetta’s stellar paintings, and I just knew that I had to read the book. And then, when I heard the novel blended traditional sword-and-sorcery fantasy elements with the 1930s/40s-era detective novels of Raymond Chandler & Dashiell Hammett, I couldn’t get a copy fast enough. Granted, I’ve never actually read any Chandler or Hammett, but I’ve always loved a good mystery—Sherlock Holmes is a favorite of mine; and have enjoyed it when crime noir is mixed with other genres like science fiction.

Of course, there has to be more to a book than just a snazzy nostalgic cover and a cool concept. After all, it’s not like “The Sword-Edged Blonde” is the first novel to have ever brought together two such disparate worlds as fantasy and mystery. Fortunately, the book ‘brings its A-game’ in the other areas as well. For one, even though “The Sword-Edged Blonde” is considered Mr. Bledsoe’s debut, the writing in the book was extremely impressive—great pacing, strong characterization, an excellent mix of humor & charm, witty dialogue… I guess all of that short fiction experience really paid off! Secondly, the story is just a fun tribute to both the classic whodunit tale and the hero quest. In a nutshell, you have Eddie LaCrosse, a private investigator who’s been hired to find a runaway princess. What should be a fairly simple job becomes unexpectedly complicated when in the middle of taking care of business Eddie gets a request from his old pal King Philip to solve the murder of his infant son. Things go from bad to worse when the accused turns out to be a face from Eddie’s past that he thought was long dead. From there, the private eye goes on an epic journey searching out clues and reliving memories in an attempt to solve the case, save some lives, and maybe even redeem himself along the way… So that’s the basic setup. At the heart of the book is an engaging little mystery that is pretty easy to figure out once all of the facts are laid bare, but “The Sword-Edged Blonde” is also about Eddie—who he was, how he became the person he is today, and painful lessons about love and faith…

As far as the mixing of the two genres, Alex comes up with a pretty good formula I thought. From a presentation standpoint, “The Sword-Edged Blonde” is essentially a detective novel. I mean Eddie the main character is a private investigator; the book is told in the first-person, usually in a sarcastic, comic manner common within the genre; flashbacks are liberally used to revisit Eddie’s past; and I’ve already talked about the mystery which takes up the bulk of the story. Where the fantasy elements come into play are the time period and setting. Basically, it’s a land of kings and queens, castles, swords instead of guns, horses instead of cars, and a dash of the unexplainable like horse goddesses, magic birds and immortal dwarves… The one thing that threw me though was how contemporary the world was—law enforcement, the military, school systems, courier service, commerce, peoples’ names (Eddie, Phil, Cathy, Andrew, Stan), the use of minutes, the lingo…it was like being in the present time or the not too long ago past. Heck, Eddie even says “cool dude” in the book! Once you get past this little quirk though, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in just how much fun it is to read the book. In fact, aside from a little swearing, a smidgen of sex and a couple of really brutal scenes, “The Sword-Edged Blonde” is practically family-friendly fare, though in more of a pulp magazine manner, including how conveniently the mystery was solved and Eddie’s happy little ending ;)

For those that do end up enjoying the book, the good news is that this is just the beginning for Eddie LaCrosse with the detective's next mystery adventure “Burn Me, Deadly” tentatively set for release next October. And if Alex Bledsoe can kick it up a notch or two, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if major publishers come around knocking…

In the end, what can I say—the sweet cover art reeled me in; the concept, Eddie’s charming personality, Alex’s surprisingly strong writing, and an all around fun story kept me glued to the pages; and I ended up loving “The Sword-Edged Blonde” every bit as much as I thought I would :) Definitely another favorite added to the list...

7 comments:

Paul W said...

The question is, how does it stack up to Glen Cook's efforts in this vein?

David said...

Very good review. Yeah, I think that Sweet cover art is my favorite from the year. The book's a keeper. :)

Robert said...

Paul, I'm assuming you're talking about Mr. Cook's Garrett P.I. novels which unfortunately I haven't read, so I wasn't able to make a comparison...

David, thanks! The cover is definitely one of my favorites...at least it's on my list which I'll have for readers at the end of December ;)

Calibandar said...

I had dismissed this book when it came out as too gimmicky and just overly lightweight, but now that you're heavily recommending it I am having second thoughts.

Robert said...

Calibander, I'd really give it a shot. The good thing is it's really short (233 pages) so even if you end up not liking it, it shouldn't take too much of your time. Or at least give the short story a try...

Tia Nevitt said...

Did you know that Night Shade Books is now considered a major publisher by the SFWA?

Robert said...

Tia, I hadn't heard that. Thanks for the heads up :) I still consider Nightshade an indie though. I just don't think they can offer the same kind of marketing push that say Random House or Tor does...

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