Reviewed by David Brzeski
This is a collection of separate stories, which have been put together to make a novel. They called this a â€œfix-upâ€ back in the day. All but the last story previously appeared in assorted magazines and anthologies.
Often, a series of related tales like these will becentered around a main character and a side-kick. In this case, however, there are two main characters, with different, if related areas of expertise, who are forced by circumstance into working together. This is not helped by the fact that they can’t stand each other.
The first two stories in the book, Though they weren’t the first to be written, are there to establish the characters individually, before they are teamed up.
‘The Legend of the Kongamato’, introduces us to Dr. Hugh Blakley, crypto-zoologist in residence at Duke University, Durham, NC. and his colleague the para-psychologist, Dr. William Boles. After establishing the tense relationship between the two, the rest of the story is devoted to Blakley’s investigation into reports of a pterosaur-like creature on the loose in Zambia. It has a nice Burroughs/Rider Haggard feel to it. My main criticism is that it feels a little rushed and may have worked better within a longer format, but such is the reality of working within commercial markets, with strict word-count limitations.
‘The Real Case of the Headless Horseman’ sees Dr. Boles investigating a classic case of a vengeful spirit.
It is in the third story (actually the first written) that things really start to gel. The two leads, and their strained working relationship are a combination much greater than the sum of their parts. They encounter a legendary beastie called a skunk-ape, a native American shaman and a particularly nasty witch in a tale which also introduces a sidekick, in the shape of Donna Fargo- a classic tough pulp heroine.
Donna gets a solo story of her own, before officially signing up for the team, and a second, in which she teams up with another psychic investigator, C.J. Henderson’s tortured Lai Wan, the Dreamwalker.
The final story, ‘Where Angels Fear’ is the only one original to this collection and is the strongest, bringing Blakley, Boles and Fargo together to tackle a menace they believed already dealt with. Indeed it’s the regular references to earlier adventures that brings the whole together as a fix-up novel.
I have heard on the grapevine that an actual Blakley and Boles novel is in the planning. I look forward to reading it when it’s published.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the excellent cover and internal illustrations by Ben Fogletto.
Having established that I liked this collection a lot, I do have one major criticism to make. Dark Quest Books need to employ a decent copy editor. There are simply far too many typos and errors in this book, which somewhat hindered the flow of the stories.