TNB Book Club 6.07: Shadows Over Baker Street Part 7

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Hey gang, welcome back to The Nerd Blitz Book Club!

In this 7th episode of a 9 episode series, we crack open a book we have been wanting to dive into for a long time, the Sherlock Holmes meets H.P. Lovecraft pastiche short story collection, Shadows Over Baker Street.

This week sees us discussing and dissecting the next 2 entries in this book, edited by Michael Reaves and John Pelan, The Drowned Geologist & A Case Of Insomnia which were written by Caitlin R. Keirnan & John P. Vourlis respectively.

So find yourself a copy of this gathering of stories and read along with us cause the game is most certainly afoot as the darkest of dark clouds settles in over the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and things get spooky at 221B Baker Street, gang.

Also, a special thank you goes to @gigiamk30
for providing this book and making this entire 6th series of The Nerd Blitz Book Club possible.

URL: TNB Book Club 6.07: Shadows Over Baker Street Part 7
Direct Download: tnbbc006007.mp3

And for more great and spooky Nerd Blitz content like this, head over to Patreon.com/NerdBlitzPod or TSDJAProductions.bandcamp.com and have a look around.

Murder In Cormyr Review

If you’ve read many of these reviews or listened to the pod, you know that I dig detective/private investigator stories.
The less straight forward and more off beat the better.
Be it Monk, Psych, Dan Shamble, or Mystery Inc, there is just something about the nontraditional mystery solver that I love.

You’ve also heard my interest in Dungeons And Dragons grow since this show launched nearly 4 and a half years ago, as evidenced by Ep 100 of the main show (listen to that here).
So what happens when you combine D&D and a murder mystery?
Let’s find out!

As always, let it be known far amd wide that this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

In the tradition of most detective novels I’ve stumbled across, this story is told from a first person perspective of somebody who just so happened to witness it all as the helper of the incredibly savvy detective.
This story begins with our former slop boy and quarter halfling narrator, Jasper, recounting the story of how he came to be in the service of a retired war wizard, Benelaius.
Having broken into Benelaius’s cabin on a drunken dare, Jasper agreed to be his servant, at half his current pay, for a year to keep his soon to be employer from reporting his crime to the local law force, the Purple Dragons.
Yes, gang, this book isn’t afraid to go full nerd!

Nearly a year passes, with Benelaius teaching Jasper ways to broaden his future beyond petty burglary.
In the year that has gone by, a ghost has started appearing in the Vast Swamp near town and the citizens are starting to get worried.
They get even more alarmed when bodies start dropping just before the merchant’s guild is scheduled to hold their annual meeting in the normally quiet town of Ghars.

Before I got a copy of this, like with most books I get, I did a ton of research and only found a couple of reviews from around the time of release.
After I finished reading it the other day I searched them out again just to compare.
The only conclusion I can come to is one of the following: either Chet Williamson wronged this reviewer in the worst possible way and the reviewer got his revenge in review form, your ol pal Doom might be simple in the head and is easy to please, or this reviewer read a totally different book cause I had a shit ton of fun with this one.

Williamson infused this with an incredibly pulpy vibe, while still juggling the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy aspects of it all.
Which is fascinating considering my research (which could just be internet horseshit) says that when he wrote this he had less D&D experience than I currently do.
Had I not read that, I would have thought he was a seasoned veteran when it comes to slinging polyhedrals.
He paints as good a picture of the world and its monsters as the DMs on most actual play podcasts I’ve heard.

The mystery of the murderer is interwoven with the ghost and political upheaval storythreads damn well.
All have enough satisfying twists and shocks to keep you more than interested until the end.
The Monk-like “here’s what happened” scene even has a twist that is explained the following day to add an unexpected bit of business to make this story have a freshness all it’s own.

Bottom line: If you always wanted to read a tale of a slightly more sedentary Gandalf or Dumbledore playing gumshoe with Frodo or Harry doing their legwork, look no further.
The biggest thing I can piss and moan about is that the ending seems to suggest more adventures with Beneliaus & Jasper that sadly never happen.
This book was perfectly made for me, and I’m glad I found it.
Hopefully you’ll feel the same and pick it up yourself.

Let us know what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem Review

With a name like Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem, you are sending a very clear mission statement to the world.
You best sack up and deliver on all 3, or you’re gonna have big problems, man.
I wanna see some variety in crazy critters, talk of the movin’ pictures, and some chaos and/or pandemonium!
Does this collection of creepy creatures and calamitous carnage come through?
Let’s find out, gang!

As is always the case in these reviews, this here is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

The first thing I have to point out, or confirm rather, is something KJA specifically told me in our interview in Part 1 of Ep 100 (find it Here or where ever you get your podcasts), and that is that this collection has a healthy mix of all types of monsters, there’s really no chasing of trends or attempts to cash in on any current horror fads that I can detect.
There’s Dragons, and Zombies, and Ghosts, OH MY!
But also Vampires, Werewolves, Demons, Aliens, weird beings that exist outside of our known laws of physics and logic, and more.
So on one of the three points I mentioned in the intro, the editorial team of assemblers on this compilation were indeed successful.

But what about the stories themselves, you may wonder?
All that hard work to offer a good selection doesn’t mean jack if the stories are boring as hell.
Well, thankfully, they aren’t.
Now, I will fully admit, there are a few stories in here that, as soon as I finished them, made me plop the book down a bit unsure if I liked them or not.
But, far more often than not, a few minutes of kicking them around in my ol head part brought me around to likin’ on them.

To get specific, Hyde Park by Shannon Fox, a modern day Jack The Ripper tale with a dark twist.
This one felt like it was all wrapped up a little too quickly, but upon reflection I did find it impressive how economic Fox was.
While snappy, there’s absolutely no wasted space.
Whoever Writes Monsters by Sam Knight, the story of a writer who lost his spouse and muse.
The jarringly quick tonal shift in this one had my head spinning a bit as it goes batshit crazy bloodlust 0 to 60 in no time flat, but after chewing it over I found it to be pretty ballsy and I quickly started to admire how bombastically crazy it ended up going.
And finally there was Motivating A Monster by Irene Radford, a story of a thespian dragon that has let himself go.
The issue I had with this one again ended up being a major part of the reason I dug it, the absurdity of a dragon that has made a career, and fortune, doing Kaiju flicks while living in a cave near the studio with an internet connection is so goofy, but fun to think about.

There are plenty of stories in here that I loved immediately (more on them in a bit), but one really stood out with its wonderfully Twilight Zonian flair for karma and I have to point it out.
Vinegar Symdrome by Ben Monroe features one of those stereotypical overappreciators of the art, history, and craft of *turns nose up haughtily* Cinema.
One night after closing up his arthouse theatre, he gets a call from a contact he’s made in town while pursuing his quest to snap up rare or vintage film memorabilia.
While reading a collection of stories like this, you should know what comes next, and the road there is satisfying as fuck, man.
After screwing the contact over for a long lost, and thought destroyed, piece of movie history, our main character gets what he has coming in a beautifully twisted and throughly just way.

Other highlights include Steve Rasnic Tem‘s Z Is for Zombie, which is the story of an old time Zombie performer from way back that feels oddly like a Night Of The Living Dead tribute to me, in the best possible way.
Linda Maye Adams‘s Alien Pizza about a gluten-free LA pizza joint that nobody expects to last long, given the *ahem* strange clientele that has brought down every other restaurant to call that building home.
David Gerrold‘s flash fiction ghost story Michael Thinks The House Is Haunted that packs a quick and funny punch to break some of the tension the book was building.
Julie Frost‘s When The Shift Hits The Fan, an incredibly fun story of an actress werewolf that has a cost cutting director ask too much of her on set.
The button at the end of this one is particularly good!
And the last one I want to make sure I mention, though I really dug so many more, is David Boop‘s supernatural western Progress Grows Out Of Motion.
When a grizzled and recently retired bounty hunter makes his way to the most haunted town in the Arizona territory, shit goes as sideways as you’d expect.
Just the concept of a supernatural western does it for me (why in the hell aren’t there more!?), but this is a thrilling ride on top of it.

Each of the stories I mentioned do an impressive job of filling one of the titular criteria, often times ticking off more than one.
There is straight horror, humor, heartbreak, Sci-Fi of many sorts, mystery, and more.
The curation of this collection is top notch for damn sure.
And now knowing and understanding the backstory of how this book came together makes it all even better.

I’ve only mentioned nine of the tales here, meaning you have fourteen more to discover yourself.
If you dig the short story format, this is one you shouldn’t miss, gang.

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

Daphne And Velma: The Vanishing Girl Review

Seemingly since the Scrappy era (more modernly with Get A Clue) there has been this weird notion to break off the gang into different pairings, for whatever reason.
More recently, there’s been an uptick in telling origin stories of the gang (The Mystery Begins, the incredibly cringe inducing Daphne & Velma movie, & the upcoming SCOOB!), to varying degrees of success.
So, how does this novel that combines those two very things fare?
Well, gang, it looks like we have a mystery to solve!

As always, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

First and foremost, this book is earnest as hell.
This is most definitely not a story of 4 fun loving teens traveling the country solving mysteries with a big, goofy, loveable talking dog in tow.
This is the most serious treatment of the characters to date, and that’s both a good and bad thing.
Good because, like Mystery Incorporated, it gives me exactly what I always wanted to see from this franchise, a slightly less goofy and more serious series of mysteries.
The down side to all that earnestness being that the main attraction to the franchise, the aforementioned loveable and goofy talking dog, is declawed and dull down to almost being a footnote.
That’s right, gang, Scooby doesn’t talk at all, he’s just a normal dog.
Which works for this iteration, but does take away a big piece of the puzzle.

Let’s get this out of the way now so we can move onto the fun shit, my only major issue with this book/continuity would be the personalities and characterizations of the gang and their backgrounds.
For one, they all seem like rich, or formerly rich, kids with inattentive, dismissive dickhead parents.
But also, Shaggy throws the best parties in town, but really has no interest in them.
Fred is an aloof hippy dippy yoga lover.
The only ones that actually feel right are Daphne as a bit of a bratty child of divorce, whose mother is a multi-millionaire game designer, and Velma, in that she’s a lonely social outcast who feels like she’s probably the smartest person in any room she may enter…in the vein of what the incomparable Mindy Cohn was doing in Mystery Incorporated, just without the controlling psycho attitude.
Fred and Shaggy feel like they were dumbed down and swapped, for no real reason other then they just aren’t the focus of the story.
It’s a little frustrating, but through the comicbook “Multiverse” filter, I can deal with it.
Onto the good stuff!

The thing I enjoy the most is that this is clearly influenced by my absolute favorite Scooby series, Mystery Incorporated!
And it goes beyond just the town using the Crystal Cove name, the darkness and spooky edge to all of the mysterious goings on are just magnificent.
This version of Crystal Cove has its own founding curse that the town uses to wrangle in a tourist trade.
The curse of Crystal Cove is that generations before, every member of the town just up and disappeared without a trace.
Every year the town holds a festival to mark the day, and the ghosts of the missing still haunt the town to this day.

In my view, I think it’s pretty clear that author Josephine Ruby (a mysterious pseudonym for someone whom not much is known about, that nods to Scoob’s creation) loves Velma, because she’s the most fleshed out and faithful.
And bonus, unlike Mystery Inc, Velma is so damn likeable from start to finish that if you didn’t love her before, you probably will by the end.
Velma is that lonely kid that everybody fucked over and likes to push around, make eat shit until they need her and then they come a-callin’.
Daphne and Velma were once the best of friends, and it all changed once Velma saw something she wasn’t meant to see and told Daph, the reaction was less than ideal, and Daphne turned on her in a big bad way.
The plot forces them to put aside their differences for a common good, but the oldest wounds have the deepest scars.

To start wrapping up, I truly did love this book far more than I expected I ever would.
There is some of the anticipated “boys are trash & girls are perfect” type of tripe you get in these types of novels, but not overwhelmingly so.
This new continuity is familiar and interesting, Ruby is building her own world and it works well enough to keep me interested and welcoming future installments.
The cliffhanger left me wanting the next book now!
I so hope that these sell well, because this is the first step on the path to one of the last two pieces of Scooby I crave most: Serious, full length, Scooby novels!
I need somebody, potentially even Ruby herself, to write serious novels about the whole gang, in the same way Mystery Incorporated did, but in prose.
The best books ignite your imagination, and this did in so many ways.
Check it out, gang.

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Hair Raising Review

I’m writing this with a sizable amount of sadness.
You may think I’m kidding, but I’m dead serious…no pun intended, but hopefully noted and appreciated nonetheless.
My sadness is prompted by this being the final Dan Shamble novel/story I have to review, for now, and it has been one hell of a journey so far.
This was also the first Shamble that I read way back in December 2016, this is what hooked me into the series.

So knowing in context, and knowing where it goes, the question that I’ve got to answer kind of needs to be “how does this stand up to the second go round, the test of time, and the rest of the series?”
Let’s try and find the answer to all that.

As always, gang, this is your standard issue ***SPOILER ALERT***

Dan, Robin, Sheyenne, McGoo, and all of the things that go bump in the night are back for more scary and extra hairy action.
An organ harvesting operation is killing vampires and other homeless monsters, a vindictive ex-wife is desperately trying to screw the zombified father of her son out of child support and visitation, a crematorium claiming to burn the remains of the recently departed…the only problem is that the recently departed are still physically around to prove they’re running a scam, an all out war is brewing between the full moon werewolves and the full timers, and a voodoo tattoo shop, a zombie mobster and his bad luck stricken harpy girlfriend are all among the cases we have the pleasure of watching unfold in this visit to the Unnatural Quarter.
With a case load that heavy, it’s a damn good thing zombies don’t need much sleep!

While you absolutely do not need to read these novels or stories in order, it does make it a far more enjoyable experience.
You get all the info you need, but if you have actually read what Dan is referencing then the tiny throw away mentions to continuity that seem like incidental jokes are exactly what nerd wet dreams are made of.
I think I’ve mentioned a few times in these reviews that Kevin J. Anderson is definitely one of us minutiae loving nerd types, and that alone proves it.

Another nerdery attribute that is a strength of KJA’s is the seemingly endless and effortless ability to not only juggle, but service, weave, and solve multiple storylines in logical and satisfying ways.
I mentioned a shit ton of the plot lines above in my summary, right?
Yeah, well, there are at least two or three more that I didn’t even mention, and not a one feels rushed or forgotten at any point.
The dude spins more story plates than a season of Game Of Thrones, and, if the outcry is any indication, to a far more satisfying conclusion as well.

This, if only for sentimentally sake, may be my favorite book in this series.
And the Scooby-Doo shout out has nothing to do with it.
Book 1 was a great introduction to the world, Book 2 expanded and made it bigger, Book 3 settles in and plays with what has been established in the best ways.
While this is only the third book, Anderson clearly understands this world and every aspect of the biases, histories, and lore of it.

I’ve long described this series as The Rockford Files meets The Munsters or The Addams Family, and that still rings true.
But I feel I have to add that it’s seasoned with a dash of Monk at the end to bring it all home and make it sing.
The attention to detail makes it perfect for us comic book fans, but again I need to stress that those references absolutely do not make this a difficult entry point for new readers.
It was mine, and I’m damn glad it was.
So if you’ve been waiting to check out this series but you haven’t been sure where to dive in at, take it from my first hand experience that this is as good a spot as any.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go try not to be all depressed and whatnot while I patiently await some of that sweet sweet Shamble news dropping like manna from above.

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks go to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.