BOOK REVIEW: Tough Guys
– By Dave Dubrow
If you’re familiar with Adrian Cole’s body of work, what I’m about to say about his collection of novellas TOUGH GUYS won’t come as a surprise. If you’re not familiar, then thank me, because I’m going to tell you about an amazing read. Simply put, TOUGH GUYS is the best old-school horror I’ve read in many, many years. In it, Cole reaches deep into your soul to elicit atavistic terrors, making the stories timeless, while mingling them with a feeling of adventure reminiscent of the finest works of Robert E Howard and Michael Moorcock.
The publisher, Parallel Universe Publications, cleverly selected the best novella in the collection to be the first: Wait for the Ricochet. It describes the travails of Nick Nightmare, a private eye whose cases deal with the occult in its most sinister aspects. While the Urban Fantasy genre is stuffed to the gills with such stories, Wait for the Ricochet blows them out of the water in sheer thrills; this is a fully thought-out world, one that we only get a glimpse of in this all-too-short tale. I don’t dare give any more away.
If You Don’t Eat Your Meat describes a plague-ridden dystopia with a disturbing narrator, where wars between neighboring farms are investigated by the sinisterly-named People Police Units and cannibalism goes from an unthinkable horror to a terrible necessity. The author gets you to not just care about the often-disturbing characters in this story, but even root for them. Should I feel bad about that?
While the mystery of A Smell of Burning isn’t quite as startling as it might be, it’s a solid morality tale about child abuse and how it can shatter several lives in its wake.
Like Wait for the Ricochet, the story Not if You Want to Live is a straight-up supernatural adventure tale that peels back the skin of the world to show you what’s really going on inside such things as life and death, Heaven and Hell. Are there more Razorjack stories in the works? Man, I hope so.
Across the board, Tough Guys is great stuff, the kind of horror we used to take for granted years ago. Apparently, it hasn’t gone anywhere: Adrian Cole is still writing it. (You might want to skip the introduction until after you’ve read the rest of the book to preserve the stories’ surprise.) This is my first five-star read of the year, and I’m thrilled to find a new favorite author in Mr Cole. Get yourself a copy and tell us what you think at The Slaughtered Bird.