Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Lobster Johnson: The Satan Factory. Thomas E. Sniegoski. Dark Horse Books (2009)
This is a very enjoyable pulp style thriller. Jonas Chapel was a doctor whose taste for drink and gambling left him in the grip of one of New York's most fearsome gangsters. Fleeing Rocco Fazzina after a botched medical job, Chapel goes to Mexico where he stumbles upon a skeleton with very unusual properties. Seizing the opportunity Chapel returns to New York and sets in motion a plot by a evil creature to return to life and dominance in the human world. Opposing Chapel is Lobster Johnson, a mysterious vigilante. The plot races along at great speed, the supernatural elements are nicely integrated with the Depression era underworld New York aspects. The action is very well set and the conclusion is thoroughly satisfying.
This is a very nice updating of pulp stories, it has the essential flavour without feeling forced or self-consciously retro. Lobster Johnson is given enough exposure to be a significant character, his essential mystery is retained. There is no explanation for who or why he is, he simply exists and carries out his mission with credible single minded ruthlessness. The surrounding cast are well developed, they carry the weight of the story easily and in a very engaging fashion. The context of the mass unemployment of the Depression and the power of the rising tide of gangsters is well done, it provides a solid base for the supernatural elements.
Thomas E. Sniegoski manages to align the supernatural elements very closely to the activities of the gangsters so that they reinforce each other rather than intrude on each other. The steady matter of fact way that the rising threat is dealt with means that the action escalates in a natural and credible fashion. This book is very well crafted, thrills and spills and the smokey flavour of the period abound, great fun.