July, 2009 - The Satan Factory
Dark Horse Books has just released the first book in what I am hoping is a series of Lobster Johnson novels. Tom Sniegoski has written a tightly crafted thriller that places the Lobster into the heart of prohibition era New York.
The story starts off a bit roughly, mixing past and present tense and coming off a little clunky. But read on, because that passes quickly and there is so much to love in this book and the writing really smooths itself out. That, or I just got used to it.
There are three main characters in the book; Dr. Jonas Chapel, a mob surgeon, on the lam, Jake Hurley, a disgraced former cop with a heart of gold whose life ruined by corrupt cops, and the Lobster, who invited Hurley to join his crew. Hurley really is the focal character of the book as the Lobster remains a man of mystery.
Gangland tensions have reached a crescendo when the doctor introduces a new element to the inter-mob warfare. Demons. There are strange things going on in this New York and the Lobster with his crew of assistants, snitches, and look-outs are determined to make it better.
In one scene, when he is offered great power and influence, "the Lobster had no interest in anything more than the total eradication of evil from the world."
There are little bits of many classic pulp characters in the Lobster. In one scene he is riding outside the car on the running board, ala Doc Savage. But the Lobster is far more savage than Savage, mercilessly killing his enemies in a number of bloodbaths. He blasts villains with a Colt .45 like the Shadow. He is a ruthless killer of evil like the Spider. But he is a fully enjoyable character as well. I would have like to have gotten a couple of little hints into his back story, but no such luck in this novel. The Lobster is already going strong, with his assistants and his secret lair and his grenades and night vision goggles. And I better not forget the Lobster's claw. It plays an unexpected and important role here.
The Satan Factory is a bit gory, a bit blood-thirsty, and very much pulpy fun. It starts off slow, but once Sniegoski gets the plot going and the Lobster take center stage, it is a real page turner. I give The Satan Factory an 8 out of 10.
Congratulations to Tom Sniegoski and Mike Mignola. I look forward to reading more of the Lobster.
For this review I read the Dark Horse Trade Paperback, First Edition, July, 2009.
The cover is by Gregory Manchess. The book is © 2009 Mike Mignola.
© 2009 W. Peter Miller