Dillon and the Pirates of Xonira

Dillon and the Pirates of XoniraThey say that the only certainties in life are death and taxes, but I’ve got a third certainty: a Derrick Ferguson Dillon yarn will always be spectacular.

I’m no stranger to Ferguson’s writing or the world of Dillon. I was both fortunate and unfortunate enough to jump onboard when the first book, Dillon and the Voice of Odin, was initially released almost ten years ago. I say fortunate because I’ve gotten to spend that time with this character, reading and in some cases re-reading his adventures. I say unfortunate because that also means I’ve had to endure waiting for the next book to come out. There have been four Dillon books to date: Dillon and the Voice of Odin, Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell, Four Bullets For Dillon (a collection of short stories), and now Dillon and the Pirates of Xonira. Each one has been superbly written, with white-knuckle action, snappy dialogue, and witty humor.

This latest tale comes on the heels of The Legend of the Golden Bell, and just like in that book, we see Dillon returning to the fictional nation of Xonira. When I first heard that this book would take place in Xonira again, I have to admit some skepticism on my part—we just finished a tale there, so why did we need to return so soon when Dillon is a global adventurer? But my skepticism was unfounded, as Xonira feels as fresh and as intriguing a setting now as it was a few years back when it was first introduced in The Legend of the Golden Bell.

Dillon, of course, is back. Along with his frequent partner-in-crime and mentor, Eli Creed (who, despite retiring, seems to be doing a very bad job of actually staying retired, and bless him for that as he’s always a fun addition). Signing up for this mission as well is Toi Lahayne, a representative of the mysterious Braithwaite Group and Allie and Shon Pierri, a mother-and-son team of French defense agents. On the other side, we have the Pirates of Xonira, commanded by a man who has some history with Dillon.

The action moves along at a brisk pace. At a little over two hundred pages, it feels like a lot less, given how quickly you can progress through the book. Ferguson very rarely lets up on his characters, even for the briefest of moments, and there’s always something either happening or on the verge of happening (or sometimes both simultaneously).

While the roles of one of the characters seemed a bit too obvious to me at first, Ferguson flipped it on its head slightly at the end of the book. I won’t say anything more about it than that, other than it’s a very realistic thing in this situation, and serves both to give Dillon a bit more humanity by presenting him with a problem he can’t really solve as well as opening the door for a follow-up in the future. And speaking of follow-ups, the last scene hints at exactly that in a very big way.

I’m not sure when the rest of that adventure will be told, but I will be waiting for it.

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Writing Update

I’ve just completed the first draft of Outlaw Blues. This book is the second novel in the Infernum series, which began with Love & Bullets. Outlaw Blues features an Infernum assassin named Carl Flint, who characters may remember made a very, very minor but very significant appearance in Love & Bullets. (And if you haven’t read the book, what are you waiting for? Head on over to my store and pick up a copy!)

Outlaw Blues follows the Infernum series modus operandi of lots of action, betrayal and intrigue. It does differ a bit–Love & Bullets probably had more in common with John Woo’s Hong Kong Blood Operas such as Hard Boiled mixed with a healthy dose of James Bond trappings. Outlaw Blues is more akin to a modern-day western, taking inspiration from the films of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood.

Carl Flint is similar to Angela Lockhart in some respects. He’s an assassin but whereas Angela was out for revenge, Flint is looking for redemption wherever he can find it. And his search will bring him on a collision course with a Colombian drug cartel in a small Mexican town.

Some familiar faces from Love & Bullets will make a reprise, particularly Julie Kim. Readers of Love & Bullets will remember her as the partner of Agency operative Christian Pierce. She was originally written in Love & Bullets as something of a background character, but she proved to be a pretty big hit with readers, which has led to her having an elevated role both in Outlaw Blues and in future installments. And, of course, the colorful and mysterious leader of Infernum, Dante, will return (albeit in a bit of a reduced role).

I’m going to begin edits on the manuscript first thing tomorrow. Depending on the Pulpwork Press release schedule, Outlaw Blues will be available for sale either towards the end of 2011 or in early 2012.

But while you may have to wait a while for the second Infernum novel, you’ve still got other opportunities to read my work. The Myth Hunter is due for an early 2011 release. This will be the start of a new series, featuring a character named Elisa Hill, who travels the world exploring various mythologies. I’m really excited about this new series and Elisa’s a character I’ve been living with for several years now. If you enjoy the Indiana Jones films, chances are you’ll get a real kick out of it.

As far as other future projects, my next novel, which I begun while Outlaw Blues was on hiatus due to computer trouble, is back on track. This book, At The Gates of Hell (working title), will feature paranormal investigator Luther Cross and focus almost exclusively on the realm of Christian mythology. I was thirty pages into it before I was able to resolve the computer trouble with Outlaw Blues, and am now prepared to go full-steam ahead.

And, of course, you can check out SoulQuest, my ongoing online serial at the Revenance Original Fiction site. The second chapter has been sent in and should see a release shortly. I’ve also got some other irons in the fire, but it’s premature at the moment to make any official announcements about those.

Dracula Lives!

I’m going to admit something here and now, something which I’m sure my fellow horror fans will probably want to flay me alive for even thinking, let alone giving voice to:

I’m not a fan of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

I’m not sure what it is, but something about the book just doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve tried reading it a few times and each time I do, I just can’t get into it (although interestingly enough, the other horror classic, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, is in my eyes one of the greatest books ever written).

But that’s quite different from the character of Dracula. I love the character of Dracula, I just don’t care much for his first outing. He is, without a doubt, one of the best villains ever created. So popular that even now, over a century after his creation, he still manages to raise hairs on the back of your neck. That’s nothing to scoff at.

One of the best things about Dracula is also one of the worst. Since Bram Stoker’s Dracula is in the public domain, anyone can use one of literature’s greatest villains in their story. The downside to this is that…well, anyone can use one of literature’s greatest villains in their story. This has led to some truly awful renditions of the character (if you’ve seen Dracula 2000 or Blade: Trinity, you know what I’m talking about).

Dracula has transcended the medium of literature. He’s been depicted in film, television, comic books, video games, stage (including a puppet musical in Forgetting Sarah Marshall), and so on. There are some very iconic Dracula renditions, my personal favorite being Christopher Lee’s portrayal in the classic Hammer films.

Of course, this is all just rambling and for that I’m sorry. I’m supposed to be talking about Joshua Reynolds’ latest book, Dracula Lives! And I should devote some time to it, because remember how I mentioned lesser writers who completely abused Dracula’s character?

Josh isn’t one of those guys.

Josh’s Dracula is menacing, imposing, monstrously vicious and savage, but also with a certain charm and elegance. And the amazing thing about Dracula Lives? For the most part, Dracula’s not in it. He remains an imposing figure in the background, and the build-up and tension to his first appearance is handled with masterful subtlety and suspense. By the time Dracula does show his face, you might think it’d be a let-down. But no, not at all — Dracula’s debut in this novel is well-worth the wait.

Of course, you won’t be doing much waiting. The book’s not very long and there’s plenty to keep you entertained up until the titular character stands revealed. Dracula’s been portrayed in gothic romances, slasher flicks, comedies, but it’s not often you see him in a tale of espionage and mystery. And that’s exactly what this is — an espionage thriller, complete with backstabs, shady characters from shady organizations, and some femme fatales for added bonus.

The book centers around an assassin named Jonas Cream. And if you’re like me, you may have chuckled a little when you first read that name. But fortunately, Josh doesn’t give you much time to mock the character and quickly, you’re shown that Cream is the kind of guy you don’t want to mess around with. Unless of course you’re part of one of the shady organizations pulling his strings or trying to kill him.

The thrills never let up, and the veil of mystery over why Cream is so important to these people is handled masterfully. But even better than that, even better than Cream’s development through the book, is the growing menace that casts a shadow over every page. So by the time the last page hits, you are left dumbfounded.

This is only the first of a series of Dracula novels Josh is working on. The second one is titled Dracula Unbound! which if the preview at the end of this book is any indication, hopefully won’t be too far off.

180 pages, available from Pulpwork Press
Buy now at my store!

The Sea Witch

I first discovered Joel Jenkins when I read Dire Planet. This is the first book of Joel’s I’ve read that took place in the real world, so to speak, so it was interesting to see how Joel’s style translates in a non-fantasy setting.

Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

The Sea Witch introduces us to Max Damage, an Olympic fencer and son of Pierre Dommage, a very eccentric man. Growing up, Max was given some very unusual tutoring. Max himself is a bit unusual, extremely strong and fast, a quick healer, but with some drawbacks including sensitivity to light. But Max’s life gets turned upside down when his father passes away and he inherits the family business, Damage Inc. While Max and his new accountant Seth investigate the mysterious projects and messy bookkeeping, they’re confronted by a strange Russian woman named Minnie. It seems Max’s father was involved with a man named Zhinov, President of a splintered Russian state. And now Max and his friends have become Zhinov’s targets.

The Sea Witch opens with a bang and never makes the mistake of letting you get bored. The banter between Max, Minnie and Seth is always fun to read and Joel always manages to find a new way to keep your eyes glued to the page. This is a book that will always surprise you with new action ideas Joel is able to pull out. And the machinations of Zhinov fit in perfectly with his character as a chessmaster. And the mystery behind Max’s unusual abilities as well as his connection to Minnie is maintained nicely through the course of the book until its revelation.

As much as I enjoy Joel’s fantasy work, I have to say The Sea Witch is a welcome change and just might be my favorite of his works to date. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Max and the rest of Damage Inc.

200 pages, available from Pulpwork Press
Buy now from my store!