Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Unnatural Acts Review

Second books can be tough, they often make or break a series.
Obviously, Book One always has the tough task of setting up a world and its inhabitants.
But the second installment of a series should always expand and build on all the work that was put into that world during that first outing.
Yes, this is a review of a Dan Shamble book, so you know I like it.
But as I said last time, I’m trying to look at these with fresh eyes, and this is also my first chronological read through.
So does it do a good job expanding upon what the first book brought to the table?
Let’s find out!

As per usual, this is your requisite official ***SPOILER WARNING***
And I mean it this time!

Back in the Unnatural Quarter, things are moving along normally.
Businesses are thriving, including the local brothel.
Yes, you read that right, there are monster whores in this book.
Now if you read that particular sentence and it doesn’t cause you to buy this, pull the ripcord now, cause you clearly have no discernible sense of humor at all.
MONSTER WHORES, MAN!!!
Of all shapes, sizes, races, breeds, and levels of physical contact.
We have Zombies, and Ghosts, and Vampires (oh my!), Werewolves, Suscubuses (if you get that joke, 10 points to your house), and even a Mummy Cathouse wrangler.
Something so ridiculous and hilarious wouldn’t even cross my mind to think about, I’d figure werewolves would just rub their lipstick and move on.
But the fact that monster hookers are included in this would goes to show the depth of thought that KJA put into this.

The other new cases and concerns this go round include a clay golem fighting for emancipation, the ghost of a notorious bank robber that’s trying to figure out his after life, an unnatural hating senator with a deep secret, a long written off brother, a mixed monster couple fighting to move into the neighborhood they want, a mob like company taking over the Quarter bit by bit, and “Shakespeare’s” ghost’s acting troupe facing harassment.
To put it in more succinct terms, Dan & Co are swamped with way more problems and headaches than last time.

Probably the most interesting of these story lines for me would be the brother.
Sheyenne, Dan’s ghostly girlfriend, is confronted by her deadbeat brother, Travis, who comes to town and stirs up a shit storm and a half.
We all know somebody like this dillhole, the scumbag family member that gets mixed up in multiple shady schemes and somehow always comes out smelling like roses.
The dude that will sell out his sister just to get ahead, which is exactly what Travis does…twice!
Once when he sells the last family heirlooms that Sheyenne has to cover old debts and once when he goes to the Full Moon brothel and tries to get down with the resident succubus…then joins the crazy senator in his crusade against unnaturals.
It’s pretty heartbreaking for Spooky, and leaves her in an incredibly vulnerable spot, compounded by Dan having so many problems that cause him to head to Full Moon himself.

***HEADS UP, SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH TO AVOID SPOILING THE END OF THE BOOK***
And that breakdown in communication between Dan and Sheyenne leads to one of the most heart warming, yet disturbing and, some how, also hilarious things I have ever read in my entire life.
The closing pages of the book, after they mostly work things out and are back on more steady ground, sees Spooky trying to go the extra mile and do something special for Dan.
Being a ghost, they can’t do the horizontal hula because she can’t physically touch Dan.
But she can move inanimate objects.
So she gets Dan up to his (often unused or visited) apartment above the office, takes him to his bedroom, and, in an attempt to give him the entire experience of a fully functional romantic partnership, she dons a sex doll suit as a skin so they can re-engage the physical aspects of their relationship that were lost with her own death.
Gang, it is the most fucked up and romantic thing ever!
Also, it’s an utterly original concept!

In my introduction I asked a very specific question (again, we all know at this point if I’m talking about a Dan Shamble book I thoroughly enjoyed it), so does this expand on the first book?
Yes, it does.
The monster brothel isn’t the only critter run business we learn about, we hit up one of the most mundane types of businesses I can think of, a Pawn Shop.
But the twist here is this one is run by a goblin who tends to horde all of the stuff that comes in, especially if it’s shiny.
Something like this really goes to show how deep KJA gets this time, trying to expand and show that life really has gone back to normal and that monsters are fully integrated into society.
They own businesses, they engage in providing entertainment, they’ve made the Unnatural Quarter a tourist stop and lightning rod for controversy.

Without getting too deep on the controversy, I will say this: KJA is a prophet!
He totally called the era of politicians regularly vilifying people and trying to legislate against shit that they and their families have done or taken part in.
I remember when I first read this, I was stunned by the parallels to what was happening in the realm of politics at the time.
Here we see a senator who’s disgusted by the monsters who just want to live, work, and play without catching hell for, ya know, existing…kinda spooky, right?

To wrap up, one of my favorite things about this series is the continuity (and you can hear KJA bust my balls a bit about it in my interview with him from Book Club 5 Ep 2 HERE) and attention to detail that he painstakingly crafts.
Minor bit characters pass through, giving this world the depth we nerds CRAVE.
Reading in order makes this series feels like one of those fancy pants French meals you hear about that take hours to enjoy.
Book 1 was a great simple entree to get you warmed up, Book 2 feels like a 1st course with a few more complexities and flavors to keep you interested.
With that in mind, I can’t wait to revisit Book 3 and savory the experience.

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

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Services Rendered Review

Back to the offices of Chambeaux & Deyer we go for more fun & spooky cases in this collection of 9 new stories.
The whole gang is along for the ride too!
Dan Chambeaux: Detective extraordinaire & Zombie.
Robin Deyer: Precedent-setting lawyer for all unnaturals & all around sweetheart.
Sheyenne “Spooky”: Receptionist & Dan’s ghost girlfriend.
Officer Toby “McGoo” McGoohan: Beat Cop & Dan’s BFF, emphasis on the 2nd F.
Let’s see what kind of trouble is about to go down in the UQ, shall we?

For the 20th time, this your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

Let’s get this out of the way right here at the top, just so we’re all clear.
This a Dan Shamble book so we really don’t need to pretend that I may not like it.
There is a 95% chance that I was going to love it and I damn well did.
With that all out in the open I have to say the worst part of this book is that it ended so quickly, and it’s getting sadder and sadder when the adventures in the Unnatural Quarter come to an end.
I just can’t get enough of this oddball family, their interactions, and this entire universe.
Flat out, I fuckin’ love this world and these characters.
It’s creeping dangerously close to Scooby & Star Wars levels of love.

Before we get too deep, go read my review of High Midnight, the 4th story in this collection.
I go a bit more in-depth on that than I may on some of the others.
Anywho, let’s get started on the other stories in here.

There are 2 entries in this collection that I was 100% fascinated by, 1st and foremost would be Paperwork.
This is the shortest of the 9, at about 8 pages long, and it’s basically a short way to get you introduced to this universe & this collection.
An Unnatural divorce sees the spurned husband, a poltergeist, tearing up the office and slinging case files all over the place.
The main cast comes together to reminiscence about the cases as they straighten up.
It feels like pure sitcom clip show set up fun, only without recycling old content.

I hesitate to call the following an issue, because I don’t really feel it’s a complaint as much as it is a hope/suggestion.
But having gotten used to how @TheKJA has done the intros to each story with his Selected Stories series, I would’ve loved to see this one story be multi-part intros to each of the following stories to give us a little bit more fun and help us learn more about these characters.
It really would have brought home the sitcom feel.
It works as is though, and we do learn about these characters and their personalities through the other 8 stories.

The other story that I was fascinated by would be Wishful Thinking.
As KJA said when I interviewed him in Series 5, Ep 2 of TNB Book Club, keen observers will realize that this is the Shamble half of the Kolchak crossover comic that he wrote (hear both Fitz and I review the comic in Episode 43).
The second he told me that I started wondering “now how the hell is that gonna work?”, and to answer that question…pretty damn well!
Obviously while reading this, I could see the changes clear as day, but even more interesting than that is seeing the switch from a visual story to pure prose.
I love comics, but the theater of the mind that simple words on a page can prompt can not be beat.
That alone makes this the better version of this story for me.
Not to mention the singular focus on Dan and this world gives it a less disjointed feel.

I only want to mention 2 other stories in this review, and part of me wanted to rip out 1 of them and make it a special review of its own as it’s seasonally appropriate.
Cold Dead Turkey gives us a story that must be an anthropologist’s wet dream!
Set at Christmas (you know, to take advantage of the extra magic), an Aztec Mummy and an Egyptian Mummy are at odds over a sacrifical turkey being specifically raised to fulfill a centuries long wish.
This one perfectly encapsulates why I love this series.
It is unabashedly and unapologetically ridiculous.
This is what I’m talking about when I say that this series feels like a mix of The Munsters & The Rockford Files.
It’s the perfect balance of humor, monsters, & detective footwork.
It’s up there with Role Model, Hair Raising, & Death Warmed Over as one of my favorite stories in the franchise.

Another one up there would be Game Night.
There’s really no mystery here at all, this is one of those stories that helps us learn a bit more about who these characters are.
This is pure horror, a new spin on this world.
After a rough day in the office for both Dan & Robin, Spooky decides they all need a break, invites McGoo over, and organizes a family game night.
McGoo, hot off of a case of his own, and due to some confusion, rushes over before heading back to UQPD Headquarters to catalogue a vial of evidence.
Contained in the vial is a wish substance a genie tried bribing him with.
They start playing a Zombie Outbreak board game and due to a mishap and some poor wording, the entire crew gets transported into the world of the game.
Seeing the entire gang thrown into a dire situation and how they handle it throws this up there with the stories I mentioned above!

Normally, in a collection this short, I would break down every story and give you reasons why I love each, but I think I’d rather leave some of them for you to discover.
Kevin J. Anderson’s love for this series is clear, the sly world building skills are razor sharp.
A few characters from previous books and stories come back for small cameos that go a long way.
And on a more personal note, as a fan of KJA, I absolutely loved the throwaway mention of the librarian who looks like she “suffers from chronic hemorrhoids”.
If you don’t get that reference, watch this and join the cool kids club.

I want you all to check this out, half because I’m greedy and great sales means I’ll get more.
And half because I genuinely think if you like me, my YouTube channel, Fitz, the Pod, and our collective sense of humor, you will love this series.
It’s so damn good and deserves your attention gang.

Share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

TNB Book Club 5.02: Role Model

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Welcome back to The Nerd Blitz Book Club! In this 2nd & final installment of a 2 part series, we are celebrating the recently released Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. short story collection, Services Rendered, by reading and discussing the final 3 chapters of the short story Role Model written by Kevin J. Anderson.

We dissect the detail that only a true fan of all things nerd could understand and nail, monsters and their rules are debated, jokes are made, and fun is had, gang.

So grab a copy of this story, available in the Working Stiff short story collection, and join us in the Unnatural Quarter for this fun read.

Also, right near the top, we were lucky enough to get an interview with the man himself, so enjoy Doom’s near hour long chat with Kevin J. Anderson!

URL: TNB Book Club 5.02: Role Model
Direct Download: tnbbc005002.mp3

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Services Rendered is available now!

Good news, everyone, the new Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. short story collection is out now!

That’s right, Services Rendered is available for purchase in all of your favorite formats, including Paperback and Hardcover.
Get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, where ever else you buy your books.
You can find your favorite digital type stuff right here.

It features 9 stories, 2 of which have never appeared in print.
Earlier this year I reviewed 1 of the stories featured, High Midnight, and next week I’ll review the other 8, just in case you want to know what’s going on before you buy it.

Also next week, keep your eyes peeled for Series 5 Episode 2 of The Nerd Blitz Book Club where we finish reading Role Model and I Interview Kevin J. Anderson.

I hope you’ll all get this book, if only as a thank you to a friend of the show.
But I know if you are a fan of monsters, detectives, and quirky comedy, you are going to love this series as much as I do.

Monsterland Review

From time to time this book has popped up on Twitter in the last year or so since WordFire Press published it, and I have to admit that every time it pissed me off just a little bit.
This is such a great concept that it made me constantly wonder angrily why it took this long for somebody to think of this, hell why didn’t I think of it!?
The idea, at its most simple, is Jurassic Park meets the Universal Monsters, with a touch of political allegory.
But concept and execution are 2 vastly different things.
Can it live up to the genius concept?

As always, this is your ***Official Spoiler Warning***

Wyatt Baldwin and his monster obsessed friends are in their senior year.
But an obsession with monsters in this universe doesn’t mean you never miss an episode of Walking Dead or Supernatural, it means if you go to the seedier parts of town you could possibly run across a starving vampire or find a rotting corpse searching for a fleshy meal.
A pandemic broke out 2 years ago and now a billionaire, Dr. Vincent Konrad, has swooped in to try to save the world from the blight of these assorted beasts with 7 Monsterland theme parks on 6 continents.
Wyatt is in awe of Dr. Konrad and his philanthropic ways, but his newly christened step-dad isn’t impressed.

The worst thing I can say about this novel is that it moves a little too fast.
The vast majority of it takes place in the single night that the park opens, which makes sense, but it speeds along too quickly.
I would’ve loved to have lived in this world for a longer period.
Yes, Okon has said this is the 1st of a series (book 2 is out, he’s in the process of writing 3 & 4), but I wanted this introductory installment to last longer.
Like I’ve said time and again about Shamble, I really want to know more about this world.
The teases of future expansions to the park add to that wondering.
Now, if “this bastard left me wanting more” is the worst thing I can say, is that really a bad thing?

There is a fun sense of unease once they get into the park and you see the 3 different Monsters in their “natural habitat”.
Seeing the layout, the background, and the bullshit Konrad is spinning about the park is incredibly interesting, especially once it all starts unraveling.
And that’s key, when all hell breaks loose, it really hits its stride.

There are a couple moments that feel predictable early on, but he pulls a swerve in the end and doesn’t follow what feels like the obvious path and the book benefits from that.
For instance, early on a few too many mentions of Wyatt’s allegedly dead biological father telegraph that something is coming on that front.
He’s described as being a rather distant and cold lawyer that died and left his money to some “hole-in-the-wall charity”, so my guess was that he would be one of the masterminds behind the park.
Yeah, that isn’t the case…not by a long shot.
It was such a surprise and leads to a pretty impactful development with Wyatt’s stepdad that’s sure to come back around in the next book.

Like any good coming of age story, Wyatt has his eye on a seemingly unattainable girl, it follows the path of the 1st Sam Raimi Spider-Man in that respect.
This nerdy kid, who has more friends than Peter Parker, pines for the girlfriend of the school football star, Jade.
I really think her arc is probably my favorite.
In the earlier chapters, Jade comes off as that super cute girl next door.
But by the end of the book a history of darkness is revealed and she gets to have one of the most kick ass moments in the story.
I hope the sequel picks that thread up and runs with it.

Bottom line, it does live up to its concept and takes it interesting places, executing and elevating.
It’s shorter than you’d hope, but I wonder if that’s purposefully done to make you want to dive into the sequel even faster.
For a book I keep calling short and fast, I’ve barely scratched the surface on the many storylines, but I’ll leave those for you to discover.
Half of me wants to say run out and grab this now, but the other half of me wants to tell you to hold off until book 3 comes out.
I think you’ll devour these 1st 2 fast and immediately be hungry for more.

Share this lost on Twitter with the hashtag #TNBBookReview

Special thanks to @acferrell1976 for her editorial help.

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: High Midnight Review

Originally published in the Straight Outta Tombstone supernatural western short story collection from Baen Books, The Chambeaux & Deyer Investigations crew are back and heading for a shootout in the Unnatural Quarter at High Midnight.
Does this story deserve to hang its hat next to the rest of the Shamble canon?
Let’s find out!

Consider this your official ***SPOILER ALERT***, gang.

Knowing how much I love this series, this character, and this world, it would take a lot for me to say it doesn’t deserve its place in the overall tapestry.
At this point, Shamble is like Scooby for me, KJA would have to really go off the rails and go in a ridiculous Get A Clue-esque direction to lose my interest.

As the story goes Robin (Deyer, Dan’s business partner) has helped work out the contracts to bring an old west show to the UQ, the main attraction being the ghost of a gunslinger named Deadeye One-Eye.
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that one of the things that makes this series so much fun is figuring out the rules and just how this world works and, once again, he adds another spoke or two to the wheel.
In Book 2, Unnatural Acts, we find out that there are ways to destroy ghosts.
In this story we find out a whole new way that they can get hurt and die…again!

After a display of his gunslinging abilities, Deadeye One-Eye gives Dan a vague threat about his Great-Great-Umpty-Ump Grandpappy, Dirk Chambeaux.
Says he’ll see Dan at High Midnight and pimps away…only to have gunfire ring out!
The promoter of the event, Mild Bill (the alleged ghost of Wild Bill), gets caught in the crossfire and is fatally shot with ghost bullets, which I know sounds hokey as shit but trust me, it works.
As he dies and fades away, he clues Dan & Co in on ol Dirk in a pretty cool way.
There is another cool world rule for ghosts that I don’t want to spoil, but it was so unexpected and I loved it.

KJA’s style is still colorful, but not overly detailed which makes it easy to devour.
You can tell he loves these characters, the warmth between the mains makes that obvious.
My way to sell this series for quite a while now has been to say that it’s like The Rockford Files meets the Universal Monsters, but the more accurate description would be The Rockford Files meets The Munsters with a pinch of The Addams Family.
It also helps scratch a long lasting itch I’ve had for some solid supernatural Western action.
It’s full of so much wacky fun, it’s punny, it’s clever, and there’s just not enough Dan Shamble in the world to satisfy my insatiable hunger.

I’m damn skippy this will be in the new Dan Shamble short story collection KJA has said is coming this fall.
If this is any indication of the quality of the other DSZPI shorts he’s written lately, we are in for some great shit when it drops.

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Tastes Like Chicken Review

The Unnatural Quarter was changing, that was certain.
But the more it changed, the more it stayed the same.
I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

Those are the last 3 sentences of this book, and they ring true for this universe in a big bad way.

Let’s get this out of the way at the top, this is gonna be a suckfest.
I’m not quite sure if I mean in the Vampire sense or…anywhooo…uh, where was I?
Oh yeah!
My love for this series, these characters, and this world has been made crystal clear over the last 13 months and 4 days (yes, I keep track and looked) that it has taken me to read all 6 books and the comic.
I have not hated a single installment in the tales of Dan, Robin, Sheyenne, and McGoo that I’ve gotten my hands on.
I’ll even go a step further and say that at this point I’m damn skippy this is my favorite book series I have read.
It is that damn GOOD!

This is your official ***SPOILER WARNING*** as we dive in deep on this newest chapter in the adventures of Dan and Co.

The action starts early as Dan and McGoo are chasing down a murderous demon from the 5th pit of hell, and though that sounds like a world ending plot, this book reigns it in after the cataclysmic story that was Slimy Underbelly.
This is a more personal outing, a true buddy cop story, of 2 friends forced into fatherhood.

Sheyenne swoops in with a demon busting spell from a flyer and all seems well in the UQ…except for those damn feral chickens and Vamps starting to go apeshit after drinking overpriced, high sugar, extra foam, triple shot, hoity toity blood lattes and the like.
Not long after busting the demon, the plot thread I was hoping in my Slimy Underbelly review would be picked up in this book is reintroduced.
McGoo’s ex-wife, Rhonda, calls and tells him to get to the bus stop just as Spooky calls and tells Dan the same woman called the Chambeaux & Deyer offices with a similar message.

And this is when we start unburying the heart of this particular book.
Dan throughout the series has shown how much he loves and cares for Robin and Spooky, but this little Vampire girl, Alvina, that is forced on him and McGoo by Rhonda (who Dan had a short affair with after the split), is different.
The love we see Dan, McGoo, Spooky, and Robin shower this poor little girl with is something new for the series.
It adds a whole new dimension that I never would have thought to ask for, but I’m glad we got.
And she isn’t the pain in the ass little brat that a once great TV show brings in to try and rebound after the ratings have dipped a bit too low.
She comes off cutesy, but confident.
Smart, but not in a way that suddenly diminishes everybody else to drooling idiots that can’t do anything without her.
And it’s not out of the blue, as I said, the groundwork was laid last book for this to happen.

Alvina is a social media/blog/brand obsessed girl sharing her experiences as a young Vampire stuck in puberty who may be Dan or McGoo’s daughter.
They aren’t sure whose kid she biologically is and, since she was turned DNA tests are now unreliable, they probably never will.
This is another one of the things I love about this series, learning and trying to figure out the rules of it.
I wonder how well KJA has thought this series and its rules out?
To use a TV term, if he has a series bible for it?
Either way, it is damn impressive.

When a nefarious and bloody plot against Unnaturals puts Alvina in a coma, shit gets real for Dan and co.
From that point on, Robin and Spooky sort of take a back seat to these 2 Dads trying to save their girl.
It works so well.

Sadly, the one thing all of KJA’s books seem to have in common is that they go by far too quickly.
Like Hair Raising (book 3 in the DSZPI Series, for those keeping track) I finished this in 4 days.
In my experience, he writes short, easy to read, potato chip like chapters that make you think “well, maybe just one more” until you’re sitting there with an empty bag (or a finished book) hating yourself for being a hog and not making the goodness last.

Trust me, gang, there is far more to this book that I haven’t even touched on yet, but I feel like I’ve rambled and slobbered enough, and I don’t want to spoil it all for you.
I can’t say for certain if this is my favorite book in the series or not, but it is battling hard and holding its own in the fight.
I implore you all to give this series a chance, buy one or more of the books, because money talks and I want many many more full length stories with these characters.
Until next time, thanks for reading.