Blood & Sawdust by Jason Ridler

Jason Ridler takes a bite out of the vampire genre with his action-packed, fast-paced novel, Blood and Sawdust.

blood & sawdust, Jason Ridler
Blood & Sawdust by Jason Ridler

B&S reads like a backroom MMA bout with vampires, or Fight Club with a supernatural twist. B&S has its origins in movies like Bloodsport and Street Fighter as much as it does the novels of Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson. There’s a noir feel to B&S. Damsels in distress, double crossing gangsters, bone-breaking goons — its all here, along with genuinely snappy dialogue and strong pacing which elevates this novel.

Milkwood and Malcolm are lovable losers, and Ridler does a fine job revealing backstory while keeping the tale moving forward. Malcolm is a 13-year-old hustler, living in the shadow of an abusive brother. Malcolm wants to avenge his mother’s murder. Milkwood is a vampire who wants to avenge his late father’s reputation as a “jobber” — the perpetual loser in the professional wrestling ring. Both find what they’re looking for on the fringe fight circuit, where brutal death-matches are held in clandestine locations, away from the eyes of police and regulatory commissions.

Ridler’s fight scenes are savage and engaging, inviting readers into the poetry of violence. There are a couple of groan-worthy twists and turns in Blood and Sawdust, but overall Ridler keeps it humming along nicely, building toward a satisfying conclusion.

I look forward to more tales of Milkwood and Malcolm!

A fast-paced, neo noir mix of MMA, vampires, ancient evil, and gangsters!

Desperation by Stephen King and The Regulators by Richard Bachman

Sifting through old computer files, I found this November 1996 review of Stephen King’s Desperation and Richard Bachman’s The Regulators. Enjoy! — R

en King Desperation review
Desperation by Stephen King.
Richard Bachman The Regulators review
The Regulators by Richard Bachman.

Stephen King’s Desperation, and The Regulators — penned by King’s alter ego, Richard Bachman — feature the same cast of  characters in polar opposite roles.

In Desperation, the Carver family of Wentworth, Ohio — father Ralph, mother Ellen, son David and daughter Pie — encounter an evil spirit named Tak while crossing the Nevada desert.

In The Regulators, the Carver family — Father David, mother Pie, son Ralphie, and daughter Ellen — are going about their daily routine in suburban Wentworth, Ohio, when their simple existence is turned into a surreal child’s nightmare by (you guessed it) the evil spirit, Tak.

King doesn’t really tell us what Tak is. Evidently, it’s an ancient Lovecraftian spirit trapped beneath the earth’s surface, waiting to be set free. Why? Again, King doesn’t really provide a solid motivation for Tak in Desperation.

Things aren’t much different in The Regulators, though Tak does reveal a few of his favorite earthly pleasures: watching TV, drinking chocolate milk, and feeding off the pain and suffering of humans.

The villainy that is Tak has more holes than Swiss cheese, but Tak isn’t what carries these stories along. That responsibly falls on the shoulders of  King’s compelling characters. Allowing the family members to assume different roles over the course of two novels adds a depth to their characters that no single book could illuminate alone.

One of the more interesting characters is Johnny Marinville, the character most closely identified with the author himself. Marinville is a “literary lion” in both books, and in Desperation, Marinville is making a cross-country trek by motorcycle, much like King himself did on a promotional tour for 1993’s Insomnia.

Desperation is the weightier of the two books, and not just because it’s 300 pages longer. King tries to tackle some larger-than-usual themes in this book, like God’s propensity for “cruel refinement.”

The Regulators is faster-paced and plot driven, leaner and meaner than Desperation. King doesn’t tackle any major issues here, just tells a whirlwind story. Maybe writing under the Bachman pseudonym allows King a certain “non-artistic” freedom. The Regulators is packed with lots of  delightfully fun blood, guts, and gunplay.