Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
WWII veteran Lewis "Bull" Ingram is a fixer and a hard man, when somebody owes a Memphis underworld figure money, they send the Bull to collect. He is offered an unusual job, tracking down a missing record promoter (the novel is set in the Payola days of the early 1950's) and to see if he can locate a pirate radio station that plays the music of bluesman Ramblin' John Hastur, a man whose very voice can drive normally sane men to commit adultery, murder... and raise the dead. The other thread of the story concerns Sarah, an abused wife who escapes he husband to return to her ancestral home in Arkansas, where she is drawn into a mysterious collection of occult literature that her father and uncle had gathered. Bull and Sarah become intertwined in ways they could scarcely imagine, as we learn that Ramblin' John Hastur is actually a lesser god that can inhabit the flesh of human beings to incite murder and mayhem. And he has his eyes on Sarah's daughter as a sacrificial victim to further his plan. It was really interesting to read a noir/horror story with a blues music thread running through it. The scenes with Bull are fascinating, particularly a (literally) explosive scene at a rural juke joint on the Arkansas River with Bull on the run from hoards of the undead. The sections with Sarah and her family machinations drag on a bit too long creating a lull in the action, but when she contacts a local Catholic Priest to help her translate the occult books, she realizes she must team up with Bull before the unthinkable happens, the story builds to a furious conclusion. As a debut novel, this is a very assured work. Jacobs melds the crime and horror genres as skillfully as Tom Piccrilli (on whose blog I read about this book) and I look forward to reading more from this talented author. Southern Gods - amazon.com
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