John Hartness: A Tag-Team Novella review

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of John Hartness as an author and person. It amazes me that his work hasn’t broken bigger,because the guy works his stories like a NoDa hooker. He’s a regular at cons and is always working. He pulls no punches, in both his writing and advice. Go look at and tell me I’m wrong.

John’s latest creation is a series of novellas starring a fellow by the name of Quincy Harker. He’s the son of Mina Murray and Jonathan Harker from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He’s long lived, heals quick,and Vlad calls him nephew.

The first novella,Raising Hell, starts off with the exorcism of a teenager pregnant with a demon, and barrels through the next 106 pages like that last Mad Max movie. The body count is high, but the action never lets up. Our hero has a foil in one Detective Rebecca Flynn, who tends to show up every time things go south for Quincy. Which happens a lot with tracking down the man behind the attempted demon birthing. Villains are stopped, plans are halted, and lots of people die.

This is modern urban fantasy/pulp at its finest. I’m a fan of the Andrew Vachss school of minimal expression in favor action, and this initial outing provides it in spades. Hartness writes with fluid action sequences, and sharp dialogue.If I have any complaint at all about the novella, is that it’s a little too similar in spots to Hartness’s other series, Bubba the Monster Hunter.

That notion was immediately destroyed upon reading the next novella, Straight to Hell. If the first book suffered from similarity to other Hartness works, this one steps the game up at least two notches. It’s nearly twice as long, and the extra length gives Hartness time to really show his stuff. What starts off as a simple babysitting assignment turns into a race to save the world. Hartness takes a simple concept, the Lion of Judah, and extrapolates it into a end of the world scenario and our heroes are trying to beat the clock before everything falls apart.

The extra length also allows Hartness to develop the characters, and not just Flynn and Quincy. The dialogue is even better, and background characters such as Dracula’s current Renfield and a mysterious MIB type are fully fleshed out. Hartness is firing on all cylinders, and amidst the action, found time to place scenes that actually moved me.

Both these books are fun,fun reads. But with the quick pace of publishing these(two in six months), it’s interesting to see how both the writing and the characters develop.If I had to to put it in musical terms, Raising Hell would be a track from Metallica’s Kill’em All, and Straight would be from Ride the Lightning. If that means the next is from Master of Puppets, bring it on. Just nothing from St. Anger, Ok?

It’s safe to assume that I like both of these a lot..Hartness’s work has always been entertaining, and sometimes thought provoking. These two continue the trend, and leave me wanting more. Go get them,and tell them Trevor sent you.

Raising Hell:  three and a half Stone Cold Stunners

Straight to Hell:  Four Paul Heyman Promos