Thursday, June 23, 2016

When Pulp Meets Urban Fantasy

I love a good urban fantasy yarn. I'm a regular reader of the tales of Harry Dresden, Atticus O'Sullivan, and Detective Inspector Wei Chen. There is just something about the combination of noir tropes with magic that excites my literary appetites. I'm also a big fan of Pulp heroes like Nick Charles, The Spider, Doc Savage, and Billy Byrne. In my opinion, these two genre are too rarely combined. Manly Wade Wellman's tales of John Thunstone are among some of the most imaginative fiction I've read. The Thunstone tales combine the cool atmospherics of a Thin Man film and add a wonderful layer of sinister mysticism. Thunstone faces fantastic foes who lurk on the edges of human society, seeking our destruction.

The Complete Thunstone from Haffner Press. Image by Raymond Swanland.
Given my love of these kinds of stories, and my love of Angry Robot Books, it is surprising that I missed the release of Alyc Helms' The Dragon of Heaven which is the first entry in her Missy Masters/Mr. Mystic series of books. This July will see the release of The Conclave of Shadow, a title that echoes Wellman's School of Darkness, and it looks to be an intriguing entry.

The books tell the tale of a street magician named Missy Masters who had inherited magical powers, and a job as the vigilante hero Mr. Mystic, from her estranged grandfather. Missy soon discovers that it takes more than a snazzy clothes and a talent for witty banter to combat the forces of evil effectively, it also takes experience.

From this basic premise, it appears at first glance that Helms brings in narrative elements that might be inspired by Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds series and dials up the magical power dial up to 11. It's hard to tell where on the scale of Savvy Scholar outwits the Forces of Evil to Sorcerer Supreme obliterates Cosmic Threats this book series lies, but the premises are intriguing enough for me to find out. I'll be checking out this series in the next couple of weeks, so I'll let you know. I might even throw in a Savage Worlds and Shadow of the Demon Lord write up or two for characters in the series.

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