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.

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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.

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Working Stiff Review

I hope Kevin J. Anderson won’t be upset about this since he regularly tweets it to 12K+ people (but if he has an issue, I will gladly pull this part out).
But just to start off, you can get a free E copy of this book by signing up for his reading group right here.
It’s a great 1st taste of this series.
On to the review!

Dan Chambeaux is back from the dead and back on the case…all 7 of them.
But how do all of these short stories stack up against the full length novels?
Surprisingly, pretty damn well actually.

We’re about to go balls deep on this, so consider this your official ***SPOILER WARNING***, Gang.
And consider this your ***long winded warning*** as well.

The stories included are Stakeout At The Vampire Circus, Road Kill, Naughty & Nice, Locked Room, The Writing On The Wall, Role Model, Beware Of Dog, in that order.
Since I’ve already reviewed Naughty & Nice (read that right here), so I won’t be talking about that story in this piece.

Stakeout At The Vampire Circus is a pretty fun story that involves a band of klepto goblins ripping off everybody from a cross-dressing fortune teller to a neurotic vampire trapeze artist.
This one feels a lot like an ep of Scooby-Doo, and that alone makes it fun for me.

As I have said before, Road Kill didn’t do much for me because it wasn’t doing what I thought Shamble stories do best, which is balancing storylines.
After reading all of these, I’m not so sure that’s the case as a few of these have single threads and are great slices of Shamble.
In fact, one of my 2 favorite stories in here is, upon reflection, a razor thin story that mostly takes place in 1 room.

Locked Room reminds me a lot of Family Guy’s 150th Episode Brian & Stewie where 2 characters are locked in a vault.
In this story, Dan & Spooky are hired by a Harpy named Esther to test a cemetery vault she is having built to entomb her near death, pain in the ass sister…and make sure she can never escape!
Much like the Family Guy Ep, this story feels ballsy as hell.
Unlike that Ep, KJA does throw to scenes outside of the vault, but mostly just to fully explain why and how they got into this mess.
After a little bit of time locked in, Spooky really starts to panic which gives a tiny peek into her death and afterlife.
Once dead, you’d think fear would be a thing of the past, but obviously not for Sheyenne.
In a longer form this could be a real deep look at these characters…which maybe wouldn’t be great for a comedy book, but would help you better understand them.
The way they break out is rather ingenious too, playing on the vanity of some artists.

I did end up liking Road Kill a bit better the 2nd time around, but it’s still probably the weakest story in this book and of the Shamble series overall.
I’m not sure what it is about that story, but it just doesn’t click with me.
It’s a lot like Guardians Of The Galaxy, I’m really struggling to understand why I don’t love it and it’s bugging me.

The Writing On The Wall is where things get very deliberately popculture heavy, and it’s at this point that the collection really kicks into high gear.
Imagine Elvira gets tired of the public eye and wants folks to just remember her show from back in the day so she goes into seclusion.
Now imagine she died and came back as a ghost with poltergeist powers that were so weak that she had to try to control/possess some dullard Zombies to get a message to the outside world, that’s this story.
By the 3rd page of this story, I had a good idea what was going on.
Zombies all around the Unnatural Quarter have been writing letters in graffiti: “HE”, “LP”, “I’VE”, & “FA”.
Anybody that has watched late night TV knows that’s easy to put together.
Watching Dan’s business partner Robin Deyer fan girl over “Angina, Mistress Of Fright” and again having Spooky confront the meaning of afterlife, but in a different way than in Locked Room, are both highlights here.
More like she did in a bigger way in book 4, as I recall.
If something bigger comes from these books, Sheyenne is gonna be the character to watch.
She’ll definitely be the grounding dramatic force.

Role Model is hands down the best story here, so don’t be surprised if you hear an ep or 2 of The Nerd Blitz Book Club with this as the focus.
I was having flashbacks to Episode 39 the entire time as Dan and McGoo head to a Cosplay Convention to work security.
When a vampiric member of the 501st is staked, they have to chase down the killer and the journey is off and running.
If The Writing On The Wall started the pop culture lovefest, this is the moneyshot.
I know Google is the easy route to go, but I’m damn skippy KJA has a near encyclopedic knowledge of old TV Shows, Movies, and media.
There was an Episode of MONK called “Mr. Monk And The Actor” that was flashing through my mind when reading this that made me love this more than all of the nonstop references.
I’m almost convinced KJA has seen it, but if not…damn!
In the course of the investigation, Dan meets a dude cosplaying as him who is just as great a detective as Dan is…or is he?
KJA’s insight into nerddom and our squabbles about petty shit (canon, superior franchse debates, dumbass minor details) again leads me believe he is one of us, not just been dealing with us for 30+ years.
The ending is exactly how I felt at the end of Archon 41 too.
Going in I was thinking “what a bunch of weirdos” but at the end of the night I was ready for next year, same as Dan.

And finally Beware Of Dog.
This story centers on legendary UQPD Werewolf cop Hairy Harry, a damaged former officer, whose hellhound has been seemingly kidnapped.
At the same time, a giant, ferocious, furry Beast has been damaging property around the Quarter.
Are they connected?
Of course!
Yet another special interest group is introduced in this story, GETA (Gremlins for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), adding another layer of depth and comparison to the real world.
They’ve been breaking in and letting dogs loose from the animal shelter, staging protests outside of the pet clinic, and causing other incidents of havok/annoyance in town.
The obvious comparisons to Clint Eastwood and his assortment of grizzled characters are made, sometimes in subtle ways.
And Hairy Harry hunting down the GETA (not so) Secret Headquarters is kind of thrilling.
The idea that a Shamble series may be in the works makes me desperately want to see this story and that chase on screen!

So, in conclusion, this book/collection is the perfect way to introduce yourself to this universe.
I know now that KJA isn’t obsessive about chronology or continuity with these short stories, they are designed solely to catch your interest and pull you into the books.
And they do just that.
The variety of different types of stories in here flex all of the muscles of this series, and show you just what it can do.
The hints at what could be, the potential for other deeper stories makes it all the more intriguing for me.

Use the link above or (even better) show even greater support by buying it wherever you can, get in on this now, gang.
5 books in less than a year, and I’m still loving it.

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Slimy Underbelly Review

Including this one, I have read 4 of the 5 novels in this series and 3 of the numerous short stories.
So I feel that I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is the most batshit crazy story of the franchise thus far, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Just to be safe, consider this your official ***SPOILER WARNING***

As I said in my Naughty & Nice review (read it here), I think Shamble stories work best when multiple storylines are being juggled and, holy hell, does this have a bunch of stories being kept in the air.
This go round, Chambeaux’s cases involve an Ogre whose voice is stolen, a gang of Garden Gnomes getting greedy, an aspiring Supervillain/Junior Mad Scientist (with many patents pending) who gets booted from his sewer based lab space, a Weather Wizard in the middle of a campaign for President of his order, and an Aussie Accented half Elder God making a big splash under the Unnatural Quarter.
Another of my favorite threads is Sheyenne trying to culture Dan up a bit.
McGoo has a story that I have a feeling may pay off in the recently released 5th novel, Tastes Like Chicken, about his Ex-wife and a potential kid.
Lots of plates spinning and I loved every minute of it.

My 1 and only complaint about this book is less of a gripe specific to this story and more a bit of whining about the chronology of the entire series.
Maybe this would be better kept to my upcoming review of Working Stiff, but I really wish Kevin J. Anderson would have a list somewhere that shows specifically where these stories take place.
Because, at one point, Dan references 3 of the 7 Short Stories from Working Stiff, one of which is actually published in the back of my copy…but I didn’t read it before because I wasn’t sure where it fell.
It’s not super important and doesn’t hurt this reading experience a single bit, but it would be nice to know what to read and in which order.
So, if you read this book, and you care about continuity, be sure to read Stakeout At The Vampire Circus, Road Kill, and Naughty & Nice before this.

As I said above, this story is crazy!
The stakes have never been higher in this series, the ending specifically is a weird H.P. Lovecraft plot, mixed with an over the top Doctor Doom world domination story, sprinkled with Shrek, and a dash of Monk.
It’s ballsy as hell!
The way that EVERY SINGLE STORY converges in the sewer for a cultish blood sacrifice is masterful.
I feel I repeat myself a lot when I talk about this series, but KJA’s style is so easy to read.
Most authors, even ones I love, would have made this so fucking convoluted and hard to keep up with that you would almost feel it wasn’t worth it and give up.
But it’s written with just the right about of detail and humor to make it all work perfectly.
Every major character seems to have their moment to shine as well.

More so than the other books in the series, I feel like this one leaves the world in a different place than it started.
Not in a major way, but there are certain side characters that have been around since book 1 that have their worlds ended…but thanks to The Big Uneasy, death isn’t the end anymore.
Again, continuity is important, and I dig that.
Dan also seems to have figured out for sure just what his purpose in the afterlife is.

The more I read of this series the more I desperately want it to be turned into an animated series, man.
I say animated because the make-up budget alone would probably kill the series.
Just the 4 books and 3 Short Stories I’ve read would make for a great 4 Seasons of 10-15 Episodes.
It’s just so damn good, I need to see more from this universe.

That’s that, gang.
I’m struggling to come up with a ranking for all of the stories in this series.
It’s a lot like the MCU in that I really only know which is my least favorite and the rest are battling it out for 1st.
I truly love this series for it’s fun quirkiness.
Please check out this story or any of the others, it’s so worth it.

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Naughty & Nice Review

You’ve heard me talk about this series many many times on the pod recently, so ya know damn well going in that I probably loved this story.
Ahhh, but there is always a chance this could be the story to break the streak!

I’m reading this in the print version of the “Working Stiff” short story collection, which you can get a free digital copy of by signing up for Kevin J. Anderson‘s reading group at WordFire.com.

Enough suspense?
The streak continues.
I’ve mentioned on the pod that the story “Road Kill” (also featured in “Working Stiff“, which I’ll discuss in a future review) was a bit disappointing only because it felt too damn short, and I feared going into this that I may have a similar issue.
Not the case whatsoever.
And you can’t call the streak broken because you wanted more, can you?

I think the problem may be that Road Kill had just 1 story thread/case that Dan & Co were trying to work through.
Naughty & Nice has what all 3 novels that I’ve read so far have had, multiple storylines that culminate in the finale.
Reading this and comparing it to Road Kill has made me think plate spinning may be one of the key elements to this franchise.

The 2 storylines here are Santa’s Naughty & Nice list has been stolen and kids all around the Unnatural Quarter have begun to go missing.
We start off with Santa, a confirmed Unnatural (supernatural being brought to life by somebody playing with the Necronomicon), coming to the offices of Chambeaux & Deyer for Dan’s help finding the list.
Dan and Spooky (his ghost girlfriend) head out to brain storm where to begin the hunt for the list when they come across a new character on the scene trying to horn in on Santa’s action, Elfis.
Elfis is one of the perfect examples of why I love this series so much, gang.
It’s so pun and pop culture filled.
This is basically what I imagine an Ep of Family Guy would be like if it was written by Andy Mcelfresh, and this is a compliment!

I won’t spoil anything further, as I’m sure you know the ultimate conclusion of a mystery story, but the ending, set on Christmas day, is almost as sweet as Book 2, Unnatural Acts, but without the creepy sex doll (I say creepy, but it’s actually kinda hilarious, go read it).

The balance of characters is skillful.
Dan, Robin (Deyer, Dan’s business partner), Spooky, and McGoo (Toby McGoohan, Dan’s Best Human Friend, a beat cop in the Quarter) all get time in the spotlight and feel useful.
And the jokes all land, or don’t (McGoo’s trademark), as needed.
I’ve told you many times on the pod that I love KJA’s style, and this is a perfect example why.
So yeah, the streak is intact.

There you have it.
Well worth your time, and seasonally appropriate.
Find it where ever you can and enjoy a few monsters with your milk & cookies.
Enjoy your holiday, gang!