The Paladin Mandates / Sailors of the Skies by Mike Chinn, Alchemy Press, Kindle, £1.23 / 77p, http://alchemypress.wordpress.com/
Reviewed by David Brzeski
The original paperback of ‘The Paladin Mandates’ was, I believe, the first book to be published by Alchemy Press. It’s now long out of print, but a new edition was released for the Kindle ereader in 2012, complete with an extra story.
‘The Paladin Mandates’ opens with ‘Good Evening, Princess’, which chronicles Damian Paladin’s first meeting with Leigh Oswin, his partner in all the subsequent tales. Leigh is on the run from some dangerous men, when she blunders into the path of Damian Paladin, who is also being pursued, but by something much more deadly.
We jump ahead an unspecified amount of time for ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’. Damian is now set up as owner of a swanky restaurant, with Leigh Oswin, his ghost-buster status being one of the joint’s main draws. The story is slightly reminiscent of M.R. James’ ‘Casting of the Runes’, in that it involves the targeting of a victim by hiding a document in one of his books.
Paladin employs a tried and tested method when dealing with a Lovecraftian slug-monster in ‘Ace in the Hole’.
Unfortunately for the treeware holdouts, the next story, ‘There’ll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight’, is only available in the Kindle edition of the book. Especially unfortunate, as it was my favourite in this collection. A once-thriving town, not far from the Mexican border, in Arizona, now has just a single remaining citizen. Nightly attacks from a huge bird, the size of a bomber, have seen to that. Is it a pterodactyl, the legendary Thunderbird or something worse? Written in response to a reader who complained there weren’t enough aerial dogfights in the original edition, this story slips into G8 and his Battle Aces territory, except Paladin doesn’t have an entire squadron to help him out.
‘You Ought to be in Pictures’ is another of the better tales in the book. It involves a Hollywood movie set, a nazi agent and a golem. The main strength of the story is the way it shows that evil things are sometimes done in the name of a good cause.
The pasts of Damian Paladin and Leigh Oswin intersect and come back to haunt them in ‘Racketeer’s Blues’. Mobsters, a bomb and this time the supernatural element is not Paladin’s problem.
The final story in the collection, ‘Song of the Dawn’, reveals some more details of Paladin’s past, except this time it’s a more distant past than the reader might expect. A case involving an ancient Egyptian papyrus scroll gives Paladin a chance to honour a long-standing promise to a friend.
We now come to the second of the two Damian Paladin ebooks, published by Alchemy Press. In this case, the book contains just a single short story, which initially saw print in ‘Dark Horizons’ #55, published by the BFS—and currently very hard to find.
In ‘Sailors of the Skies’, airplanes are going missing in the skies over New England. The barriers between realities are weakening and things are passing through, in both directions. We learn a little more about Paladin’s mysterious past, and about his friend, Professor James Morton Stanley, who made the ultimate sacrifice on the last occasion Paladin faced this particular problem.
A noteable feature of these stories is that they frequently offer glimpses into Damian Paladin’s long and eventful past. Usually, when wishing to read further adventures of a fictional character, we look to what happened next. In this series, so much is hinted at, yet left untold that we’re just as interested in what went before.
Mike Chinn shows an obvious love for the setting of his stories. He mentions in the dedication for ‘The Paladin Mandates’ that his father shared his love for old biplanes. Not only the period hardware, but the author’s evident interest in such things as Egyptology give a real sense of authenticity to the background of his work.
Damien Paladin is set to return in a crossover with Adrian Cole’s Nick Nightmare in ‘Nick Nightmare Investigates’, which I have also reviewed. There is also a new collection of Damian Paladin stories, entitled ‘Walkers in Shadow’ on the cards. I can’t wait.