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Bewildering Stories

Tim Waggoner, Necropolis

reviewed by Danielle L. Parker

Author: Tim Waggoner
Publisher: Five Star Press, 2004
Paperback: $13.95 US
Length: 247 pages
ISBN: 1-4104-0215-0
I'm a sucker for tragic love stories. Anna and the King of Siam (the newer version with Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat, not the shrill original with bald-headed Yul Brynner) made me snuffle. Casablanca choked me up. I blubbered through Mimi's dying scene the first time I saw La Boheme, right along with the young man who kept sniffing suspiciously in the row behind me. Now we've got Necropolis, which features a lover in the most hopeless situation of all he's a zombie. Once upon a time he was a cop, but now he's a dead man trying to preserve his desiccated hide with regular pickling spells, and of course he's a prime candidate for Tragic Romance with capital letters and dripping tear adornment. He can't even feel a kiss, and the sort of people who'd even give him one, luckily, are not his cup of tea. He's a lump of gray-tinged meat that has to re-attach an arm or a finger now and then, but he's still got his soul. And you can't take the chivalrous knight out of the man on the white horse even if he's dead.

Tim Waggoner's book surely features one of the most unusual heroes in the detective genre. Matthew Adrion is the ex-cop who doggedly followed a perp into the shadowy realm of Necropolis. He got his man, but he fell afoul of a Darklord in the process, and now he hangs half in and half out of life, a decaying zombie. He can't go back to Earth, of course, but old habits die hard. Matthew's still doing what a cop does best, and Necropolis being what it is, there are plenty of folks who need a knight in shining armor, even if he's getting a little over-ripe and scabrous in the face.

One of those needy folks is a damsel in distress, a youthful seventy-three year old vampire who's too frightened to go to Daddy and tell him she's lost an artifact she was supposed to be looking after. Daddy's one of the Darklords, and he tends not to be forgiving of mistakes. So it's up to Matthew and his dame in deep doo-doo to find the missing artifact. The heat's on pretty quick, because they soon learn that Daddy's notorious wrath is the least of their worries. The missing object is the Dawnstone, and it has the potential for shedding unwelcome light upon a realm that depends upon shadow to survive. Only who's got the Falcon cum Dawnstone? We've got to check out a lot of very strange characters to find out.

Waggoner writes his story in the style of the old hard-boiled classics, which appealed to me as a rabid fan of Chandler and MacDonald (both Ross and John D.) and other great detective classics. There's the tough-but-tender hero, the slice-of-strange-life vignettes (given that this is Necropolis, very strange life indeed), the twisty plot and the red herrings to detour reader and detective up another crocodile-laden creek. The only thing that spoiled it for me was the unfortunate use of a certain horror cliché in the denouement. While I can't tell you what it is without spoiling the show, the ____ Done It is a classic of horror just about as much as the Butler Done It is in the old pulp mysteries. No wonder I hated the nasty little things so much when I was in my first infested college dorm.

So what can I say? It's a classic. If you're a fan of Simon R. Green, who does a series very much like this one, you'll especially enjoy Necropolis. It's a horror spoof done with a sense of wit and pulp detective done tongue-in-cheek. Sam Spade, watch out. There's a slow-footed zombie creeping up on you!

Copyright © 2005 by Danielle L. Parker

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