As some of you may know, I’ve been going through a lot of novels in the last year or so ever since I signed up for Audible.com. I’ve been trying a lot of books on recommendation of friends or colleagues while others I’ve happened on through searching google, etc. Jim Butcher’s series The Dresden Files and Kevin Hearne’s series The Iron Druid has been getting a lot of my time, but I’m getting to the end on both, so the other night I went out hunting for similar series. This lead me to the Joe Pitt Casebooks written by Charlie Huston. I know Huston’s work from his run on Moon Knight for Marvel, combine that with some good reviews and I downloaded a copy of Already Dead, the first book in the series from 2005.
All of the above books tend to be put into a category called Urban Fantasy. I’m not a fan of that category because I don’t think it describes the books well. I would used the term Supernatural Noir, and where some Urban Fantasy doesn’t fit my suggested title, the ones that do are the ones that I think readers would more likely jump to. This is the same category my own Lucius Fogg series falls into.
Already Dead introduces us to Joe Pitt and the very complicated world he lives in. New York City is divide into territories run by vampyre clans. Each clan has very different beliefs in how things should be run and that causes a lot of conflict. Joe is an unaffiliated vampyre that does odd jobs for which ever clan wants to hire him at the time. Joe gets tapped by the Coalition and their head man Dexter Predo to take out a couple of shamblers… what Joe calls zombies… but it turns out there is a carrier in the group, which is rare and dangerous. The encounter goes bad and a mess is made. Which upsets the society run by Terry Bird, as Terry wants everyone to get along and to keep the humans from learning about vampyres in such a horrific way and start hunting them.
Predo then asks… and by asking I mean forces… Joe to take on a missing kid job for a rich couple named Holding that know about the vampyres. Which means that Joe is now running around trying to find both the carrier of the zombie virus and the missing girl… and the missing girl used to hang out with one of the shamblers that Joe killed. And while that is going on, Joe is trying to have a relationship with his HIV positive bartender girlfriend Evie who doesn’t know he’s a vampyre.
Joe is a classic noir hero in that he’s a bit more muscle than brains, his life is pretty tragic and even when he wins, he loses. He has connections with all the clan leaders… the mutual hate with Predo of the Coalition, the smack around friendship with Bird of the Society and a weird, spiritual mentor thing going on with Daniel of the Enclave. There is also The Hood which is talked about, but Joe doesn’t interact with in this book… and a few other minor clans like a biker gang called The Dusters. His relationship with Evie is frustrating as hell for him as she is afraid to do anything sexual with him because of HIV, and he knows he could actually cure her but is afraid of the side effects.
Huston has created a rich world for Joe to exist in. Other than Evie, everyone is using Joe for something and he’s just focused on getting through the next day. Joe doesn’t call himself a detective or anything, and that’s good because most of his discoveries were by chance or being in the right place at the right time. But he’s determined to see things through to the end and pig headed enough to not just lay down and die… again.
And this is set in New York, Joe’s a New Yorker… so the language is rough, a bit vulgar and at times in-your-face. Huston tells a tale that keeps you involved the whole time. And if you do the audio book, it’s read by Scott Brick who is one of the best in the business. It’s a good read / listen.