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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

SPFBO Semifinalist: Hell Comes To Hogtown (Reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)

Official Author Website
Order Hell Comes To Hogtown HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: C.D. Gallant-King wrote his first story when he was five years old. He had to make his baby-sitter look up how to spell "extra-terrestrial" in the dictionary. He now writes stories about un-heroic people doing generally hilarious things in horrifying worlds. 

C.D. has also written eight novels you haven't read, because they're still locked in The Closet. The Closet is both a figurative and literal location - it is the space in his head where the stories are kept, but it's also an actual closet under the stairs in his basement where the stories are also kept. It's very meta.

He's a loving husband and proud father of two wonderful little kids. He was born and raised in Newfoundland and currently resides in Ottawa, Ontario. There was also a ten-year period in between where he tried to make a go of a career in Theatre in Toronto, but that didn't work out so well.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Fitz is a broke night manager for a grubby comic book store. His only friend Dee is a drugged-out, womanizing pro-wrestler. Together they’re the most pathetic losers on the face of the planet. Their lives cannot possibly get any worse. And then they’re implicated in the kidnapping of the prime minister’s wife. On the run from the cops, Fitz and Dee discover there is something far worse than the RCMP stalking the dark streets of Toronto. They are being hunted by an ancient demon of unspeakable evil with an insatiable taste for blood... or maybe it’s just your run-of-the-mill giant murderous hobo? Either way, life in prison might be better than whatever the creepy drifter has in store for them...

CLASSIFICATION: Hell Comes To Hogtown is a genre - bending mix of horror, comedy, fantasy and supernatural thriller.

FORMAT/INFO: Hell Comes To Hogtown is 303 pages long divided over thirty-nine numbered chapters with a prologue and epilogue. The narration is in the third person via Fitz and Inspector Croteau.

The book is available in e-book and paperback formats. It was self-published by the author. Cover art and design are by Jason Salvadori and Max Covers. .

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I'm a fantasy guy at heart. Sure, I go on adventures and try new things but there's nothing like a good old-fashioned epic story. Horror is a genre of its own that can intersect with fantasy but is definitely not contained fully within it. I have a feeling that horror tends to create two very distinct camps– those who love it and those who would never dream of reading (or watching) anything in the genre. I'm in the middle. I'm willing to read horror novels, but I rarely enjoy them.

Hell Comes to Hogtown surprised me in a good way. How do I even describe it? It’s a strange, genre-bending mixture of action, horror, fantasy and comedy. And it works - it entertains, surprises and, above all, gives a lot of fun.

Fitz (Fistpunch Chetrit) is a broke night manager for a grubby comic book store. His only friend in the world, Dee (King David Bonecrusher) is a womanizing drug fiend and pro-wrestler. Everybody has ups and downs in their lives, but in case of these two, there are no ups. To make matter worse, they’re implicated in the kidnapping of the prime minister’s wife and, in consequence, plunged into a world of darkness.

Soon, they discover that Toronto police is nothing compared to unspeakable evil stalking the dark streets of the city.

Hell Comes to Hogtown has plenty of strengths. The thing that gripped my attention from page one was a humorous, instantly likeable writing voice. It blends comedy and blackness in a way that hits all the right notes for me. I would go as far as to say it may appeal to Pratchett or Vonnegut fans. On the other hand, where Pratchett's perfectly British sense of humour was quite universal, Gallant's dark and pop-culture influenced voice may be slightly over the top to more sensitive readers. Be prepared to see dildo-bat used to fight forces of darkness or hear Dee's sexist ramblings. Sometimes the dialogue is vulgar but witty. All in all, if you like Family Guy's kind of fun, you'll dig it. I did.

The writing is neat and has an excellent flow that made the book difficult to put down. I particularly enjoyed the use of Canadian French slang (later on the swears become more imaginative, but also richer in fucks, so I won't quote them):
What is wrong with you? They were my suspects, too!”

“Constable Salvatore was only a few days away from retirement.”

Tabarnak, he was, like, thirty years old! Tabarnak”
The story is told through two points of view: Fitz and Croteau. Fitz is a bit dorky and slow on the uptake of what's happening around him but don't let it fool you. Despite being an utter coward and a loser, he always manages to find his way around and get out of a jam. Additionally, his slightly self-deprecating voice is hilarious. Inspector Croteau is a tough, impetuous gay Policeman swearing in most imaginative ways. I loved his short-tempered voice and his chapters were fantastic. When they meet the bad guy with ungodly powers, pacing becomes breakneck, with few pauses for comedic scenes.

In essence, I enjoy this kind of story—a race against the clock, a motley crew of characters, nicely flowing prose.

In practice, however, Hell comes to Hogtown has a few things going against it. It started perfectly and up until around 65% of the book I simply couldn't put it down. But then the book tried to be more serious and black than comedic and somehow it didn't have expected impact on me. It's not even crazy orgy in which people die in the whirlwind of ecstasy. It's mostly Ariadne (prime minister's wife) arc resolution. I hoped the story would be more daring and dark. That there won't be any doubtful internal struggles between good and wrong. As a result, the climax was a bit disappointing and slightly too cartoonish. The final twist, though, and final reveal were satisfying.

CONCLUSION: In the end, I enjoyed this novel. It has a similar vibe to Tarantino or Guy Ritchie's movies. The story is simple but twists and turns are legion and you really can't be sure what to expect. It'll entertain you in a loud and violent way. The narrative won't appeal to everyone, but for those who enjoy dark and twisted humour, it offers a delectable adventure full of fun, laughter and terror.

Also, the brain gets very mushy with nothing new to entertain it. It needs the challenge of something new and different and Hell Comes to Hogtown delivers something like that.



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