Losing time with Sam Truman

Just under 11 months ago horror writer and publisher, Ed Kurtz, released the first in a series of novellas featuring a downtrodden and disgraced PI named Sam Truman, who attempts to meek out an existence in an LA-esque city where his only friend is an unfriendly hash slinger named Clu. The framework for any number of stories filled with PI tropes, and in Sam’s case a beeline for the bizarre. You wouldn’t expect a horror writer to present us a straight PI case, would you?

cmksmallKurtz kicked off the chaos with CATCH MY KILLER. Penned by Kurtz himself, the first book sets the tone for the series and introduces us to Sam Truman and Clu the begrudging friend and owner of the hash house, Ralph’s. We learn quickly that Sam is in dept up to his eyeballs and out of cash, and he can’t find a straight gig because of his tarnished name and lost license. His only saving grace is service served with a frown along with a cup putrid coffee and overdone hash compliments of Clu. So when Clu gets held up, Sam tries the make the most of the situation, maybe gain favor of Clu, and save the day. Of course it goes sideways turning into a tale dead women and body snatchers. While things get their worse for Sam and Clu, Sam manages to get by on his wit, a generous portion of luck and a relentlessness to get the job done. And he does.

CATCH MY KILLER is quickly followed up by THE LAST INVASION by Brandon Zuern and SOFT KISS, HARD DEATH by Tobin Elliott. THE LAST INVASION has Sam looking for a lost girl, chasing a serial killer and finding aliens, and not the kind that come from south of the border. Elliott’s SOFT KISS, HARD DEATH Sam suddenly finds himself flush with money only to find himself destined for a deadly date with a creature who’s just trying to figure herself out. Sam has her number and does the figuring himself.

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The first three are very compatible, Sam cracks wise and manages to get by, even though he rarely has any control he seems confident enough that he can manipulate the situation to his benefit. The fourth novella in the series is somewhat of a departure.

rsz_bound_by_jade_cover_s_1BOUND BY JADE written by Adam Cesare takes Sam out of his comfort zone. Instead of heading into danger of his own choice, he wakes up right in the middle and as the story goes you get a sense he’s been dragged along for the ride just like the reader. Of course there is a purpose to this change in direction as it relates directly towards the mystery at hand, Sam is bound not only by his natural white knight fatalistic tendencies but bound to the artifact he has been asked to protect.

The Sam Truman series evolves and never takes the same turn. That is the strength of a novella series like this, where each is written by a different writer who add both to the mythos and piece of themselves while staying true to what came before it. And with each chapter this series gets stronger.

To be honest, forthright, I have worked with Ed Kurtz in the past, publishing his stories on Shotgun Honey. I’ve enjoyed much of his work and despite knowing him and reading his work, I hadn’t read any of the Sam Truman stories until just over a week ago when I discovered CATCH MY KILLER on my Kindle when I was looking for something different to read. So I did, which prompted me to buy, download and machine gun through the next three books, over two days, roughly 8 hours. I don’t do that. Not anymore, with the reading load I have editing and managing multiple short fiction sites. So if you want to know honest opinion on how I felt about the series? I read one and then I read them all.

I also read THE PALE MAN by Nate Southard, a talented horror writer I first discovered through Brian Keene. Ed was kind enough to send me a copy in advance. I suppose I may have begged for it, maybe? I read it over a lunch and a break, with just a little to finish off while I made dinner.

palemanSouthard’s installment in the Sam Truman Mystery series for me is my favorite. Building on the prior stories, Southard brings back the confident, wisecracking Sam, at least for a little bit. Sam is looking for a missing person who has stolen a family heirloom, and the heirloom must be found at all cost. And all cost, apparently, includes Sam’s sanity and anyone who succumb to power of THE PALE MAN. While the previous stories touched upon the bizarre and paranormal, with a dash of horror, Southard’s THE PALE MAN kicks it up a notch leaning a little more towards horror taking Sam from a confident to a horrified, albeit persistent, man.

From hard-boiled to sci-fi to horror, along with Sam’s deftly delivered wisecracks, any genre fan will read this novella series and find something to enjoy. I like a little mix-mash and trust me, the Goulash is good. I look forward to the next Sam Truman Mystery and wonder which genre and adversary will he defy?

To give you a little more 411, I asked Ed a quick trio of questions. This is what he had to say.

1 – What was the inspiration for Sam Truman and the series?

I’m a longtime fan of “men’s adventure serials” in fiction, the sort of thing wherein a generally macho antihero leaps from adventure to adventure in each volume with nary a scratch on him, and as a horror and crime writer, I wanted to create something that combined all of these elements. Sam Truman is a classic mid-20th century P.I. existing in a supernatural underworld most people don’t know about. Ebooks have made serial fiction something people can really enjoy again, so it’s definitely time for a revival, as we’ve seen with other series like Lee Goldberg’s The Dead Man.

2 – Sam manages to get by on persistence and very little luck, what keeps him going when the world is against him?

Sam is terribly fatalistic and doesn’t give much time to thinking about how the things he sees and investigates could happen, much less why they happen to him. He’s a man of action, always pushing forward to the next thing, barely hanging on by a thread but the thread is enough. It’s possible he might give up if he ever had a chance to catch his breath, but there’s always something else about to menace him right around the corner.

3 – With 5 books in, what do you take away from doing a novella series? And I know this is a cheat, but would you consider doing future series?

It’s been tremendous fun working with so many terrific authors and watching how they take this character and make him their own. Though there aren’t any plans in motion right now for another series apart from Sam Truman, it is certainly a possibility…

52Books: The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry

Last year saw the debut of Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series with the outstanding techno-thriller Patient Zero. This was one of my favorite books of 2009 as Maberry introduced readers to a mash-up of fast action thriller, hard science hooks and global terrorism all culminating in Joe Ledger kicking some serious zombie terrorist butt.

The Dragon Factory throws Joe Ledger and Department of Military Sciences (DMS) back into fray again, and this time the trouble isn’t only external. In a coerced move the Vice President, President Pro Tem, sends the NSA after DMS to lock them down and gain access to their super computer MindReader.

This is externally motivated by a pair celebrity geneticist, the nearly perfect Jakoby Twins. Their goal is to mine genetic research from competing companies and labs to fill in gaps in their own research, developing designer creatures.

The attack on Joe Ledger and DMS and the attempted acquisition of information by the Jakoby Twins become confluent to the larger plot dealing with Cyrus Jakoby, father of the famed Jakoby Twins, who in bent on continuing the work of the Nazi scientist Josef Mengele and the purification of the human race.

Cloning, genetic manipulation, genocide, para-military hit squads and all the Joe Ledger you can handle culminate in the final confrontation at the Jakoby Twin’s The Dragon Factory.

The Dragon Factory is a solid follow up to Patient Zero, with great adrenaline pumped action and a reminder that Science is scary but no match for Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Science.

Fans of the book may have something to be excited about. ABC has put a fast track development on Department Zero based on Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series. Read more about it over at Deadline.

Learn more about Jonathan Maberry and his work over at his Big, Scary Blog.

For the jumbled masses keeping track. I read The Dragon Factory the week of March 8, 2010 and started writing this review (at least a version of it) March 15, 2010.  As an aside, not taking away from the well written book, I wasn’t happy at the end. With a certain event.

52Books: Sleepless by Charlie Huston

Read this book. Get a copy of Charlie Huston’s Sleepless and just read it.

I don’t have a long history with Charlie Huston. Before six month ago, I didn’t even know he was a writer. Had I still been an avid $200 a month comic junkie, I’m sure I would have come across the name well before now. But those days are gone.

How I discovered him isn’t important. I just know what I like. I like Charlie Huston. The man’s name even has a swagger that elicits thoughts of his preferred genre, Crime. Almost as if he’s a man in the know.

Read this book.

Sleepless is set in the now, a world so much like our own, I fear Huston might have a thumb on our future. Alter the timelines and choices made ever so slightly, I can believe the present as depicted in Sleepless, as lived by rookie LAPD officer Parker Haas.

In Parker’s world, one in ten are dying from prion based disease called Sleepless (SLP). Similar to Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI), SLP prevents the infected from restorative REM sleep and the disease is 100% fatal. No cure exists, but there is a limited and government regulated drug called Dreamer that alleviates the symptoms reducing the suffering as SLP progresses to it’s final conclusion.

Parker, aside from being a rookie cop, is also a young husband and father, who’s wife suffers with SLP and suspects his daughter might as well. It is Parker’s job to work undercover as a drug dealer and ferret out a potential Dreamer black market. Because Parker is dedicated to the ideals of his job, when he finds a tangible link to what appears to be a gang slaying and is told to back down, proceeds with diligence regardless of the consequences.

Read the book.

Sleepless is told from multiple POV using Parker’s perspective told in first (a journal) and third person, as well as that of an aging hitman, Jasper, who becomes intertwined with Parker’s story.

This stand out novel by Charlie Huston is an engaging police procedural within a terrifying plausible science-fiction wrapper.

If you haven’t already made plans, go get the book and read it.

I’ve fallen behind my book a week target, so sometime this month I’ll double up a week with my 52 Reviews.

Currently reading Horns by Joe Hill. After that will either be Jonathan Maberry’s Dragon Factory or another Charlie Huston, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death.

Learn more about Charlie Huston at his website: http://www.pulpnoir.com