Some of you may remember the adventures of John Sinclair for their distant past. The series first began in 1973, featuring a dashing Scottish hero, who mixed James Bond heroics, with Hammer Horror devilry, it was a roaring success. The series has now returned in an all new series of adventures, that pits the dashing Sinclair against all manner of beasties and monsters.
Curse of the Undead is the first new story in the series and it sees our hero go up against a dastardly necromancer and his horde of the undead. Don't groan this isn't yet another zombie novel it is so much more.
Curse of The Undead is a odd sort of book, I don't know why I decided to stick with the book past its extremely annoying introduction. It almost feels as though another writer penned the clumsy introduction. It is full of phrases like
"BUT HE HAD HEARD IT. OR HAD HE"
"MAYBE IT WAS AN ANIMAL? HE THOUGHT. OR MAYBE THE WHISKEY.... OR MAYBE NOT"
There is just something particularly annoying about a writer using this turn of phrase once never mind filling up a whole section of the book with it. And yet there was something intrinsically gripping about the book and its premise that made me plough through this clumsy introduction. It is not normally something I would do, but I am glad I did.
If we ignore the first few pages of the book, what we the readers are left with is a brilliant modern reworking of the classic pulp novels from the 1970s. Curse of the Undead has a lot to love about it. A hero so suave and dashing, he makes James Bond look like a grubby detective sergeant, a plot that reads like it came straight from the great vaults of Hammer, and enough action and derring do to keep even the most ardent pulp fan smiling with glee.
I always worry when books are set in Scotland, so many authors don't have an idea about setting a book a Scotland, they think that we all speak the same, and nine times out of ten it just reads wrong. I won't say that this book gets it right, as it doesn't really matter as the whole book just reads like a 1970s horror film, with characters like Dr Orgoff, Sir James, and Anne Baxter, the plucky reporter, who you are just waiting to pull the hair pins pout of her hair and shake her hair like she is in a Timotee advert. While these all seem like terrible cliches, Gabriel Conroy pulls it off with such aplomb and love for the source material that it just doesn't matter. Even when we visit the Black Keep we the readers are so engrossed in the the pulptastic story that these things just don't matter.
A tight, punchy read that heralds the start of a great new series of pulp horror. Highly recommended.