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Thursday, October 1, 2009

“My Dead Body” by Charlie Huston (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Charlie Huston Website
Order “My Dead BodyHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “The Shotgun Rule
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of the first three Joe Pitt Casebooks
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Charlie Huston is the author of the Henry Thompson trilogy which includes the Edgar-nominated “Six Bad Things”, the Joe Pitt Casebooks, the Los Angeles Times bestseller, “The Shotgun Rule”, and “The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death”. Charlie also penned the recently relaunched Marvel comic book, Moon Knight. Upcoming releases include “Sleepless” (January 2010) and a Deathlok comic book miniseries.

PLOT SUMMARY: Nobody lives forever. Not even a Vampyre. Just ask Joe Pitt. After exposing the secret source of blood for half of Manhattan’s Vampyres, he’s definitely a dead man walking. He’s been a punching bag and a bullet magnet for every Vampyre Clan in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, not to mention a private eye, an enforcer, an exile, and a vigilante. But now he’s just a target with legs.

For a year he’s sloshed around the subway tunnels and sewers, tapping the veins of the lost, while above ground a Vampyre civil war threatens to drag the Clans into the sunlight once and for all. What’s it gonna take to dig him up? How about the search for a missing girl who’s carrying a baby that just might be the destiny of Vampyre-kind. Not that Joe cares all that much about destiny and such. What he cares about is that his ex-girl Evie wants him to take the gig. What’s the risk? Another turn-playing pigeon in a shooting gallery. What’s the reward? Maybe one shot of his own. What’s he aiming for? Nothing much. Just all the evil at the heart of his world...

CLASSIFICATION: The Joe Pitt novels are a cross between hard-boiled noir, pulp fiction and horror distinguished by Charlie’s razor-sharp dialogue, eclectic characters and over-the-top violence, all presented in a harshly unrestrained manner. Imagine I Am Legend without the apocalypse and co-written by Quentin Tarantino and Raymond Chandler...

FORMAT/INFO:My Dead Body” is 336 pages long. Like the previous Joe Pitt novels, there are no chapter breaks, although the book does feature Charlie’s own version of a Prologue and Epilogue and also includes maps. Narration is in the first-person, exclusively through the protagonist Joe Pitt. Because Joe provides recaps of events from the previous novels, readers could technically pick up “My Dead Body” without having read the others first , but I would strongly advise against it if you want to understand the whole picture. “My Dead Body” is the fifth and final book in the Joe Pitt series—after Already Dead, No Dominion, Half the Blood of Brooklyn and Every Last Drop—and does a bang-up job of tying up loose ends, although another sequel or two wouldn’t be impossible to pull off...

October 13, 2009 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of “My Dead Body” via Del Rey. The UK edition (see below) will be released on December 3, 2009 by Orbit UK.

ANALYSIS: I love the Joe Pitt novels by Charlie Huston who has quickly become one of my favorite authors of all time ever since reading his book “The Shotgun Rule”. That said, I was disappointed by the last Joe Pitt novel. While “Every Last Drop” finally reveals the source of the Coalition’s blood supply—quite the gut-churning revelation—and takes Joe & Evie’s relationship to new levels, not to mention sparking a war between the Clans, the book as a whole felt incomplete. That’s because “Every Last Drop” was basically a setup novel with no resolutions or payoffs. So my disappointment in the book made me wonder if Charlie Huston could pull off a finale worthy of the series. That answer, unequivocally, is a yes...

Like the other sequels, “My Dead Body” starts out a year after the events of the previous volume. In this case, Joe has basically turned his back on everything and is barely scrounging out an existence in Manhattan’s underworld. Then one day he receives a visit from porn director Chubby Freeze asking Joe to find his daughter, a human who has not only fallen in love with a Vampyre, but is pregnant with a child that some view as The Uniter. Joe reluctantly agrees, not so much for Chubby, but because Evie asked him to and the very slim hope that his former girlfriend might give him another chance . . . if he survives that is.

From here, Charlie weaves a story that is worthy of being the concluding volume in the Joe Pitt series. It features all of the main players up to this point including Terry Bird, Hurley, Lydia and the Society; Dexter Predo and the Coalition; Amanda Horde, Sela and the Cure Clan; DJ Grave Digga, Percy and the Hood; Evie, the Count and Enclave; and Phil Sax. The plot is wickedly dark, twisted and creative. The body count is high with many of the main players perishing in a manner that is unpredictable, spectacular, or sometimes both. Joe—who has already lost an eye, a toe and has a bad knee—suffers even greater physical abuse. And most of the series’ most pressing questions are answered by the end of the book. Like what is the Vyrus? (The answer is a doozy). Can Amanda come up with a cure? Who or what are Wraiths? Will the Coaliton’s blood supply in Queens be taken care of? Are the Enclave just crazy or was Daniel really right about them and Joe? Which Clan comes out on top? Will the Vampyres announce their presence to the rest of the world? And finally, do Joe & Evie get back together? Throw in monsters that hunt infected as well as humans, a doomsday plague, a zombie revelation and more, and it’s no question that “My Dead Body” ends the series with a bang...

Negatively, there were a number of confusing narrative breaks that required a reread or three to figure out exactly where Charlie was coming from, thus interrupting the flow of the novel, but this was a minor complaint. Conversely, “My Dead Body” once again reminded me what I loved about the series like the crackling dialogue, specifically the distinctive manner of speaking of certain characters (Amanda, Grave Digga, Hurley, Terry, etc) and their relationship with Joe, which really makes up the foundation on which the series turns. I also love the sense of realism the novels contain, so even though the books are about Vampyres and have featured zombies and Wraiths in the past, there’s a scientific explanation for almost everything that happens.

In the end, “My Dead Body” firmly dismissed any worries that I had about Charlie Huston concluding the series, with a finale that is stylish, powerful, and unforgiving. Just a brilliant finish to a brilliant series...


Calibandar said...

Excellent review, detailed. Really wets my appetitie for this book.

The Reader said...

Nice Review Mr. Robert... Its good to know that this series has a focal endpoint & CH has done it in a set number of books. I have the first 4 books with me, good to know the series finale isn't dissapointing.


Robert said...

Thanks Calibander! I hope you enjoy the book :)

Mihir, if you haven't started the series yet, what are you waiting for!

CroakerBC said...

I finished My Dead Body in one single night. I just couldn't put it down. I was sad that the stories of Joe Pitt ended but I was also extremely happy because this is a great, satisfying end to a wonderful series.

I hope one day Charlie Huston will try his hands at dark, hard-boiled fantasy like Richard Morgan did with The Steel Remains.


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