Occult Detectives, Volume 1 edited by Ron Fortier. Book review

Occult Detectives, Volume 1 edited by Ron Fortier, Airship 27 Productions, p/b, £10.82 / Kindle, £3.83 (Amazon prices correct at time of writing) / PDF, $3.00 (from publisher’s website), Website

Reviewed by Dave Brzeski

The occult detective has made a bit of a comeback over the last decade. Not only do we have new stories of the classic characters, such as Carnacki, and even new Sherlock Holmes tales which pit the Great Detective against various supernatural menaces, but there are a good number of new characters joining their ranks.

This is by no means the first collection of tales of more recently created investigators of the arcane, but it also isn’t the least of them.

The book opens with ‟Personal Devil” by Joel Jenkins. Lone Crow is a rarity—a Native American gunslinger and occult detective, operating in the old west. I hadn’t read any of Joel Jenkins’ work previously, so it soon became obvious that Lone Crow, and his Mormon gunslinger friend, Porter Rockwell both have back stories that I have yet to catch up on. Rockwell, for instance, appears to be bulletproof. This story centres around an evil, female spirit known as a kurdaitcha, which comes from Australian aboriginal folklore. It works well as an introduction to the world of Lone Crow, and I shall seek out more of his adventures.

I’m a fan of Josh Reynolds’ writing, so I was pleased to see this anthology contained one of his St. Cyprian tales. The identity of the real life historical figure who St. Cyprian and his assistant, Ebe Gallowglass have to rescue in ‟The Strix Society” will surprise people. I was amused by St. Cyprian’s suggestion that he, ‟… should stick to politics, if I were you. Less chance of you making a spectacular ass of yourself.” The only complaint I had about this story was that Josh Reynolds evidently has no idea how a cup of tea is prepared. That much I can forgive.

I’ve previously reviewed volumes one and two of the Sgt. Janus stories, by Jim Beard, and an earlier version of ‟The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan” had previously been serialised for free on the author’s blog. This, however, is a greatly expanded version. It’s also much improved, to the extent that it is now my favourite of Sgt. Janus’ adventures to date, and the highlight of this collection. I find myself wondering if Sgt. Janus will ever again clash with the unnamed, but devilish ‟Doctor”. Only time and licensing issues will tell.

I’ve recently been sent a review copy of a new Ravenwood novel, by Micah Harris. As is so often my wont, I’ve also picked up two collections of new Ravenwood stories, also published by Airship 27, and the Altus Press collection of the original Ravenwood pulp stories by Frederick C. Davis. I shall no doubt be putting together one of my sets of connected reviews in the not too distant future. In the meantime, the editor of those collections of new tales of Ravenwood: Stepson of Mystery, Ron Fortier, has contributed a new Ravenwood tale to this volume. It came as no surprise that this should turn out to be the pulpiest, most action-packed story in the book. ‟Jazzy” opens with a vampire attack in a diner, as Ravenwood encounters the title character of one of Ron Fortier and Rob Davis’s comic book projects, The Daughter of Dracula, and her teenage daughter. After reading it, I had to go looking for the graphic novel.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that Rob Davis, the artist for the aforementioned graphic novel, contributes three full page black and white illustrations for each of the four stories. He also co-created the excellent front cover with Jésus Rodríguez.

I very much enjoyed this, what I hope is just the first volume of a series.