Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs
Publisher: Night Shade Books
It’s getting closer and closer to my favorite time of the year. October is just around the corner (which of course means Halloween), and the weather is finally cooling down. For me, this means sprinkling in some horror with my urban fantasy. There’s been a bit of an influx of Southern Noir in both film and books lately, and the atmosphere that books set in the deep south creates is always a draw for me. Southern Gods has been on my radar for a while for a few reasons: a.) It’s a Night Shade Books publication b.) Did you get a load of the awesomeness of that cover?, and c.)It just plain sounded good. The cover establishes the mood and the feel of the novel perfectly, which is always a plus for me. Crack this sucker open, and you’re in for a wild ride. Bull Ingram (he’s a ginormous brute of a man, the name says it all), WWII vet and strong-arm for hire, is hired by a radio station owner to find a salesman that seems to have gone missing while on the road, promoting new artists. The salesman is not the type to jump off the radar, and his family and the station owner is genuinely worried. Keep in mind, this is 1951 Arkansas, so Bull has a lot of legwork ahead of him. He’s also asked to find out anything he can about a bluesman called Ramblin’ John. Little does he know (but will soon find out), Ramblin’ John is anything but human, and bad news all the way around. Just how bad, Bull will soon find out. Meanwhile, Sarah Reinhardt is fleeing her abusive husband with her young daughter, to return to her family home. So, what do this young mother and Bull Ingram have to do with each other? Quite a lot, actually, and their paths will eventually converge in order to fight an ancient evil that threatens to end humanity as we know it.
Southern Gods starts off with a bang, and it rarely lets up. Take the hot, steamy landscape of 1951 Arkansas, throw in the walking dead, blues that have the power to take over your soul (and not in a good way), and the mythos of the Old Gods, and you have a potent cocktail that goes down smooth, then hits you like a freight train. Bull is a man that’s rough around the edges, a bit tortured, and the author certainly puts this poor man through his paces. Sarah is looking for something (or someone) to believe in, and also an escape from her misery. She finds this to a certain extent in her oldest friend, Alice, who still runs her family home, however, the presence of her ailing and controlling mother puts a bit of a damper on things, to say the least. Southern Gods isn’t for the faint of heart, folks. There is some toe-curling violence here (nothing gratuitous, however, yet some of it is disturbing), but there are also a few scenes that are genuinely creepy, like, little-, hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck-standing-up creepy, and the author knows just how, and when, to temper the out-and-out scary with the moments of creeping terror. There is also another huge component to this story: hope. It shines in Sarah and Bull, especially in Sarah’s love for her daughter, and their humanity and strength elevates this novel far above the usual horror fare. If you love southern goth, intelligent horror, Cthulhu, and just plain outstanding writing (don’t forget having your pants scared off), you’ll love Southern Gods!