Last week, I reviewed the first installment of Pro Se’s Sovereign City Project, The Adventures of Lazarus Gray by Barry Reese. And now, I’ve just tackled the second installment, The Adventures of Fortune McCall by Derrick Ferguson.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already read previous reviews I’ve written of Ferguson’s material. This one won’t be much different. The same witty dialogue and heart-pumping action Ferguson brings to his Dillon stories are present here with Fortune and his gang.
Fortune is a new arrival in Sovereign City, having arrived on his gambling ship, The Heart of Fortune. Also onboard are a loyal crew and an army of soldiers from the Otwani tribe based in the African nation of Khusra. And here’s where things get really interesting.
Despite the urban 1930s setting and Fortune’s gangster-like appearance of a fedora, trench coat and suit, right from the start you can tell there’s something different about Fortune. Namely that he doesn’t speak the way you’d expect a character like this to speak. Although there is occasionally some slang thrown in, for the most part Fortune speaks in a very formal tone and you can picture his speech tinted with an African accent. Turns out, Fortune is royalty in Khusra, but to what extent or why he’s traveling the world, we don’t yet know. We only get the barest hints of this and, just as with Reese’s Lazarus Gray, the mystery of the character’s backstory is the most interesting aspect.
Whereas Reese’s Lazarus Gray tales are more of the supernatural and superheroic variety, Ferguson takes on more of an investigative slant, handling crimes committed by very human people. It’s an important distinction that helps set Fortune McCall apart from Lazarus Gray, but despite that, you still feel like these two characters inhabit the same city. Indeed, just as there were mentions of Fortune McCall in The Adventures of Lazarus Gray, so you also have mentions of Gray in this collection.
The little snippets we’re given of Fortune’s supporting cast are interesting but I feel like the cast itself is a bit too large. For the amount of time there is to tell these stories, there’s not enough space to really go into any of the characters except in a few instances. Names are thrown around a lot and it’s difficult to get a feel for all but a few of them. Tracy is one who stands out immediately, because she’s front and center in most of the stories. Ronald gets some nice spotlight in one of the tales as well. But other than that, it’s difficult to get a feel for them.
Even though it’s difficult to get into some of these characters, when they appear they’re written with great, snappy dialogue, as is Ferguson’s trademark. The stories are quick and punchy and I found myself breezing through each of them in short order.
The second entry for Sovereign City is now in place. I’m looking forward to Tommy Hancock’s installment, featuring the oft-mentioned Doc Daye. But after reading both Reese’s and Ferguson’s takes on Sovereign City, I will say that the bar has been set extremely high. And while I’m confident Hancock will be able to at the very least reach that bar (if not raise it further himself), I will say it’s a task I do not envy. Although other books in the New Pulp movement have had shared continuity, none of them have felt as ambitious as the Sovereign City Project. That makes this a very exciting time for New Pulp fans and I encourage you to get in on the ground floor, if you haven’t already.