RARA-AVIS: Charlie Huston

From: Craig Larson ( CLarson@nhcc.edu)
Date: 03 Feb 2006

I can't recall if I've seen mention of Charlie Huston on this list before, but I read all three of his books last year and grew to like his work more and more. The first, _Caught Stealing_, introduces Hank Thompson, a typical guy in New York who agrees to look after his neighbor's cat. This leads him, bit by bit, into a labyrinthine plot wherein he's attacked by Russian mobsters, a corrupt policeman, a pair of bank-robbing brothers, etc., and in which his friends are tortured and killed. At times, I thought the killings got a bit too much and some of the gore and torture scenes were over-the-top. But the book had an undeniable fascination that kept me turning the pages to see how or if Hank would be able to pull himself out of this mess.

The follow-up, _Six Bad Things_, finds Hank in hiding in Mexico, living on the beach and trying to stay out of sight. He's managed to escape with millions of dollars of ill-gotten gains and the deaths of numerous people are on his conscience. He's the subject of true crime novels and television programs and has earned quite a bit of notoriety. When a Russian backpacker shows up and starts asking questions, Hank realizes his safe haven may not be so safe anymore and finds himself on the run, heading back to the States to make sure his parents are safe and will remain so. This sequel has more of the intense violence and the tightly-wrapped plot that leaves Hank little room to move or breathe. It also has more heart to it--you fear for Hank and those he cares about as numerous forces collide and clash, all trying to get their hands on his money. The book obviously shows some growth and development on Huston's part, and it was recently nominated for an Edgar.

Hot on the heels of _Six Bad Things_, there appeared _Already Dead_, a vampire (or "vampyre") detective novel featuring Joe Pitt, a rogue vampire trying to survive in a New York City divided up between a number of competing vampire clans. There are those who are dedicated to maintaining the vampires' secrecy. Another clan of radicals want to someday integrate vampires and humans. And another group is pursuing a monastic existence, deliberately not feeding in an attempt to push the envelope of the superhuman abilities that the vampire "vyrus" affords those infected by it. Joe survives by doing favors for the various clans and so maintains a sense of independence. He is called upon to track down a young girl who has disappeared into the goth subculture, while at the same time trying to track down those responsible for a recent rash of zombie, or "shambler," violence, which is bad for everyone since it brings unwanted attention. I realize a vampire detective is probably th
 e last thing most Rara-Avians would want to read about, but this really was a great book, with a real, seedy New York ambiance to it. Huston has a website, www.pulpnoir.com, where he talks about his writing and projects (he'll be writing a Moon Knight re-vamp for Marvel Comics) and has contact email addresses. I sent an email to congratulate him on his Edgar nom and he responded within a couple of hours!

Craig Larson Plymouth, MN

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