Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Already Dead - Charlie Huston

Joe Pitt is dead, and a P.I. in New York City. At least comes close to describing the urban fantasy/mystery/horror novel Already Dead. Really, Joe Pitt isn't Joe's real name, and Joe isn't a human, and Joe isn't what you'd call a private investigator.

Although this novel is a few years old (2005, Del Rey), it is not dated in the least. The setting is New York City, mainly midtown and lower Manhattan. The protagonist is a vampire, who is a freelancer, working between the political lines of several clans of vampires who share the turf of Manhattan. And he's looking for a murderer - someone who is spreading a flesh eating bacteria that turns humans into zombies.

Needless to say, I always enjoy a novel set in NYC - I've come to know it so well from my own writings. But Already Dead brings with it the hardboiled feel of a Raymond Chandler novel. Admittedly, it is unorthodox in its approach to dialogue. There are no "quotation marks" around the dialogue in this novel. It uses emdashes "-" (a bit longer then that one). Adding to this, Huston doesn't use tag lines such as "he said." What this means to the reader is that you need to pay close attention to who is speaking. In most cases, Huston pulls off the dialogue through context. But for some, this style might be a bit startling at first. Here is an example:

The phone wakes me in the morning. Why the hell someone is calling me in the
morning I don't know, so I let the machine get it.

-This is Joe Pitt. Leave a message.

-Joe, it's Philip.I don't pick up the phone, not for Philip Sax.

I close my eyes and try to find my way back to sleep.

-Joe, I think maybe i got something if ya can pick up the phone.

Other than the unique approach to the character's speaking, the novel is a straight forward work. Well, the protagonist who is dead (a vampire) and is "living" in NYC. As you might expect, Joe follows a trail of death and clues, using his fists a bit more than his head, all the while having to deal with his own past, and the different clans of vampires who dominant the city - unbeknownst to the living in the city.

What I don't want to convey is a setting filled with vampires manipulating the world. That is an undercurrent in the work, but Huston is careful not to overdo it. Things do get rough - Joe is a brute of a vampire - and the crimes are brutal, but not dancing with gore. Also, Huston has provides an excellent tour through the streets of Manhattan - leaving the outer boroughs to "who knows what."

Fans of urban fantasy, hardboiled supernatural tales, and vampires (even zombies) should give this book a read. There are more in the Joe Pitt series, but this is the place to start.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I've not read this. I've basically been avoiding a lot of the urban fantasy, which seems very often to be a new name for supernatural romance. Sounds like this is not.