Urban fantasy is not merely about bringing the supernatural into the modern world, but reimagining both the hardboiled world of Black Mask Magazine with the fantastic. The purveyors of this genre channel their inner Raymond Chandler to create noirish worlds inhabited not merely with corrupt politicians and bent cops, but werewolves, vampires and other denizens of the night.
Chandler and Dashiell Hammett constructed world weary heroes who, while not exactly Knights in shining armor, had a strong sense of morality. That’s why Mickey Spillane‘s Mike Hammer was so different and controversial. Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade would not intentionally kill someone for revenge. They’d only kill in self-defense. As brutal as their world was, they tried not to allow it brutalize them. I, Jury opens with a friend of Hammer’s being gut shot and then dragging himself across the floor until he died. Hammer vows to the do the same to the killer, and in the end he does.
Spillane was not unaware of the furor regarding his brutal take on the PI. He told that in one novel Hammer “killed 100 commies with a machine gun.” His editor thought that the scene was too violent, so Spillane cut the number down to 50.
If Harry Dresden is the urban fantasy homage to Marlowe, then Larry Correia’s Jack Sullivan is the homage to Mike Hammer. Hard Magic, which introduces Sullivan, has all the brutality and hard lines of a Mickey Spillane story. Correia has reimagined the end of the 19th century and into the 1930s with the emergence of magical talents. A person can have one talent, healer, strength, telekinesis and the like with varying degrees of power. This has created a world somewhat different by 1930 then we are used to.
Germany lie is ruins having been devastated by a magical weapon created by Tesla during the Great War. The Japanese Empire is run by the “Chairman” who has learned the secret of the new magic and is using that knowledge for world domination. Americans have an uneasy relationship with the gifted, known as “Actives.” While willing to use them in the Great War and some areas of industry, they face discrimination and envy from the public at large. Like the X-Men, Actives in America are barely tolerated, if at all. The Chairman has been stoking that fires to encourage the alienation, as he doesn’t want America to use its actives, while he himself is recruiting them. The Chairman while recruiting Actives for this new world order, engages in a psychological operations to stoke the fires of distrust between Actives and Normals. This ensures a steady supply of recruits for these plans.
Only the Grimnoir, a shadowy world-wide organization of Actives stands in the Chairman’s path. But, according to American Grimnoir leader, General “Black Jack” Pershing they are too timid. Perishing is one of the many historical characters running around this series.
Jack is a Heavy. His talent allows him to alter the gravitational field for himself and others. This results in him being a big and strong man. Through, he is wrongly mistaken for slow, when he is in fact a very deep thinker. Jack just finished a stint in prison for killing a sheriff who was hassling a young Negro Active in New Orleans. Now, he is being used by J. Edgar Hoover to track down rogue Actives. As a condition of his early release he is required to help arrest five actives. Things go wrong when he is supposed to capture his old flame, Delia.
Jack soon finds himself caught up in the Grimnoir’s struggle against the Chairman. It also turns out that Jack’s older and more brutal brother, Matty, is now the Chairman’s number one Iron Guard. The Chairman is searching for the pieces of a superweapon built by Tesla which could level half a continent. Jack joins the Grimnoir in trying to stop him.
Demons, zombies, powers from beyond the stars, and lots of gun battles. If you love the old pulps, a good story with villains, monsters and a high body count, this is dark urban fantasy this is for you.