Blood and Bullets
James R. Tuck
Published 2012 271 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Since hunting down the monster who took the lives of his wife and children five years ago, occult bounty-hunter Deacon Chalk has lived by only one rule.
He does not work for the monsters. He kills them.
So why would a vampire try to hire him as protection against another monster hunter? After enforcing his only rule Deacon goes to meet the target, a vampire slayer named Nyteblade. Professional courtesy demands he tell this Nyteblade the vampires are hiring people to kill him. Deacon finds the vampire slayer waiting in an alley – waiting to stake him.
He discovers that Nyteblade is a bumbling, fumbling, wanna-be instead of a badass vampire hunter. Someone who needs saving from monsters instead of the other way around. This is proven when a horde of vampires descend and he has to escape while trying to keep Nyteblade alive.
Someone has set Deacon up. Someone wants him dead. Someone should have sent more vampires.
Bound and determined, Deacon will find out who tried to kill him no matter how many bloodsuckers, were-spiders, cursed immortals, undead strippers, or insanely powerful hell-bitches he has to wade through. It's going to be a long night.
Blood and Bullets is the first novel in the dark urban fantasy Deacon Chalk Occult Bounty Hunter series by new author James R. Tuck. The story follows a couple of days in the life of Deacon Chalk, a monster hunter who gets set up to kill another vampire slayer and ends up taking on a huge nest of hungry vampires. The high-octane action starts from the very first page and doesn’t let up until the grand vampire slaying finale.
In the Deacon-verse there is no shortage of monsters – vampires, lycanthropes, nephilim and the Fey abound – although this story is pretty much vamp-centric. While some monsters can be good (for example lycanthropes are people underneath and the individual can be either good or bad, depending on personality type) there are no moral grey areas when it comes to vampires. They are all evil bloodsuckers – a point which is frequently illustrated in blood and gore throughout the rest of the story.
Blood and Bullets is confidently narrated in first person by Deacon Chalk, the story’s tattooed, gun-toting bad-ass hero. The greatest strength, and the greatest weakness, of this debut novel is the Deacon Chalk character. He is a strong character with a surfeit of self-confidence that occasionally slips into an unattractive hectoring. There is real danger here that he is liable to polarize readers into one of two camps – either Deacon-lovers or Deacon-haters. Deacon’s treatment of “Nyteblade” (a.k.a Larson) the wannabe vampire slayer is casually contemptuous in places. As a reader I know that the hero of this piece is Deacon, he’s the one with the experience, the tragic past and the special skills, but he shows so little empathy for Nyteblade/Larson that he winds up coming off as a self-important dick in places. It’s like Deacon thinks he’s the only monster hunter in the village or something.
While I found Deacon hard to swallow in places the secondary characters were well realised. Father Mulcahy (a monster fighting priest) and Kat (performing the task of monster research/hunter admin) were interesting additions to Team Deacon, and ones that would stand up to further expansion in later story instalments. For supernatural thrills Blood and Bullets avoids the obvious in terms of lycanthropes (wolves) and serves up some inspired were-spiders and were-gorillas instead. There is an imaginative fantasy mythology at work throughout the story and in some ways this is reminiscent of Laurell K. Hamilton’s earliest (and best) Anita Blake books – just don’t expect Deacon to sleep with any of the vampires, this really isn’t that sort of story.
The resulting story is one that fits somewhere between the dark urban fantasy and horror genres. There is no shortage of blood and guts horror, violence is so common it’s practically a form of communication and the outlook is generally bleak for our outnumbered heroes. The monsters are creepy and horrifically evil – even the ones that turnout not to be evil are still hugely creepy. With its guns, knives and bullets (and long passages of text about the merits of various guns, knives and bullets) this is a story with plenty of appeal for readers who like their fantasy thrills dangerous and bloody.
Blood and Bullets is available February 2012 along with “That Thing At The Zoo”, a Deacon Chalk novella published exclusively in e-format – available from 27th Jan 2012.
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