Hello & welcome back to the Friday Fiction Feature! Tabatha here again to bring you the pulse-pounding stories of…oh wait…poor choice of words. With stories of mystery & adventure that will really get your blood pumpin…drat. Gotta try again. We’ve got some eye-popping…oh bugger! Forget it. No more hyperbole! (I’m going to alienate our differently-alive writers!). This week’s stories are all tales from the pulse-challenged. Stories from beyond the grave from all manner of chatty corpses. And so, with no more ado (or life-ist slogans!) I bring you books from the beyond the grave!
If You’re Reading This, I’m Already Dead by Andrew Nicoll
First we’ll start with the more conventional method of writing from the great beyond (that’s right, we’ve gotten so far down this rabbit hole we’re working on making ghosts conventional); simply writing it all down in the great right-here first. From the well-known first line If You’re Reading This I’m Already Dead, our ghostly narrator unfolds the story of an acrobat’s journey from the caravan to the palace & finally the grave. Now if only we can figure out how to follow in only the first two of those footsteps…
‘I want people to know how Otto Witte, acrobat of Hamburg, became the crowned king of Albania.’ Otto Witte is an old man. The Allies are raining bombs on his city and, having narrowly escaped death, he has come home to his little caravan to drink what remains of his coffee (dust) and wait for the inevitable. Convinced that he will not see the sunrise, he decides to write the story of his life for the poor soul who finds what’s left of him come the morning. And it’s quite a story. Years earlier, when he was in either Buda or Pest, working at the circus, a dear friend brought him the newspaper. Inside was an article about how Albania was looking for a particular Turkish prince, because the country was in need of a new king. This Turkish prince is the image of Otto…A plan is formed; adventure, disaster, love and sheer, unabashed hope await.
Hard Day’s Knight by John G. Hartness
Not everyone is content to simply communicate from beyond the grave; some stubborn buggers insist on actually taking part in the whole mortal coil even after they’ve successfully shuffled away. The protagonist duo of Hard Day’s Knight is a pair who passed away & then decided to pass on the usual long-capes-bigamous-maiden-seducing
lifestyle deathstyle in favor of an entirely cape-free uniform & the night shift. Let’s just hope no stubborn suspects refuse to let them over the threshold with their search warrants.
Children are missing.
The police are stumped.
Halloween is coming, with an ancient evil on the horizon.
The vampires are the good guys.
This is not your ordinary fall weekend in Charlotte, NC. Vampire private detectives Jimmy Black and Greg Knightwood have been hired to keep a young client from being cursed for all eternity, but end up in a bigger mess than they ever imagined.
Suddenly trapped in the middle of a serial kidnapping case, Jimmy and Greg uncover a plot to bring forth an ancient evil into the world, and enlist the help of a police detective, a priest, a witch, a fallen angel, and strip club proprietor to save the world. This unlikely band of heroes battles zombies, witches, neuroses and sunburn while cracking jokes and looking for the perfect bag of O-negative.
Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
Mr. Witte & the police vampires were our more conventional dead men- content to have a normal lifespan as Turkish royalty & die normally, or at least come back in one of the approved fashions (vampire or zombie), but some people just have to be different. Like the protagonist of Sandman Slim, who couldn’t even stay put and get tortured like everyone else in Hell- he has to go and escape. (Of course what’s really impressive about Mr. Stark is that he is even able to have adventures after he runs away- I’d have thought he’d spend the rest of his unnatural un-life in various religious buildings yelling “Sanctuary!”).
Life sucks, and then you die. Or, if you’re James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles.
Now Stark’s back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you’d expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future.
Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.
Dead Mann Walking (Hessius Mann #1) by Stefan Petrucha
Following in the shuffling footsteps of his predecessors, the eponymous Dead Mann Walking takes an entirely different approach to the afterlife, namely “What the ^&*#! Who did that!?” Brought back to life(ish) against his will, this hero bravely decides to take the unexpected change in his (shambling) stride and gets back into the swing of life(ish). Unfortunately that’s easier said than done. It’s hard enough getting a job with a prison record, but just try explaining that your criminal record was expunged when you were executed. Determined to move on, Mann goes into business for himself as a private eye. At least he’s got good camouflage for stakeouts: shuffling around in the dark is practically an obligation for the undead.
After Hessius Mann was convicted of his wife’s murder, suppressed evidence came to light and the verdict was overturned-too bad he was already executed. But thanks to the miracles of modern science Hessius was brought back to life. Sort of.
Now that he’s joined the ranks of Fort Hammer’s pulse-challenged population, Hessius attempts to make a “living” as a private investigator. But when a missing persons case leads to a few zombies cut to pieces, Hessius starts thinking that someone’s giving him the run-around-and it’s not like he’s in any condition to make a quick getaway…
Many Bloody Returns: Tales of Birthdays with Bite by Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong, Toni L.P. Kelner and more
And for our final selection today I am going to completely ignore the theme we’ve been building, and wish myself a happy birthday (this weekend) with Many Bloody Returns!
From cakes to stakes, a celebration of everyone’s favorite bloodsucking subculture by a baker’s dozen of favorite authors. Each of these thirteen original stories offers a fresh and unique take on what birthdays mean to the undead. From Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse attending a birthday party for Dracula to Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden battling bloodsucking party crashers, these suspenseful, surprising, sometimes dark, sometimes humorous stories will ensure paranormal fans will never think of vampires or birthdays quite the same again.