Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs
Recent World War II veteran Bull Ingram is working as muscle when a Memphis DJ hires him to find Ramblin’ John Hastur. The mysterious blues man’s dark, driving music – broadcast at ever-shifting frequencies by a phantom radio station – is said to make living men insane and dead men rise. Disturbed and enraged by the bootleg recording the DJ plays for him, Ingram follows Hastur’s trail into the strange, uncivilized backwoods of Arkansas, where he hears rumors the musician has sold his soul to the Devil. But as Ingram closes in on Hastur and those who have crossed his path, he’ll learn there are forces much more malevolent than the Devil and reckonings more painful than Hell…
In a masterful debut of Lovecraftian horror and Southern gothic menace, John Hornor Jacobs reveals the fragility of free will, the dangerous power of sacrifice, and the insidious strength of blood.
For about about the last year or so I have been hearing talk of this book from some of my favourite horror review sites, from reviewers who I reckon are among the most insightful and whose taste overlaps much of mine. These guys loved this novel, they raved about just how excellent it was. Now normally when things get hyped like this I tend to think yeah all right but it wasn’t that good. So when I finally got my hands on an ARC of Southern Gods, I was a bit apprehensive about starting it. Not only has it been hyped, but it was also John’s début novel. It can sometimes take one or two goes for me to get into a new author, sometimes never.
Thank the Gods that John has created one hell of a novel. Southern Gods is a wonderful mix of Southern Noir, and horror. Don’t go into this expecting a Jim Butcher type novel, this is well crafted novel that easily surpasses the sum of it’s parts. One of the major problems I have with Horror Noir, is that the vast majority of it reads as though it has been written for a young adult market. This is most definitely not the case here, Jacob’s has managed to keep the novel firmly rooted in the adult field, you’ll not find any slapstick sidekicks here. What you will find here is one hell of well crafted tale, Jacobs hasn’t wasted one single word in telling this story. From the very first page you are thrown into the hazy streets of the South, where you are drawn into the tale, a tale that is so tight it will will draw you in and twist you into knots of pure tension that John will then use to beat beat you about the head and body until the climax of the novel.
Jacob’s has not forgotten that the heart of a good novel is a good story, and the story presented here is one worthy of high praise indeed. Too often a good story is swamped by unnecessary writting, writing that is just trying to be literate for the sake of it. Jacob’s has struck the balance between strong assured, and powerful writting, and one hell of a good narrative.
Even though, I have never been to the South, hell I’ve never been to the US, the sub genre of Southern Horror has always been one of my favourite, authors such as Ron Kelly, and Scott Nicholson, have through their writing always ignited a passion for visiting the South. Jacob’s has managed to create a fully realised world that flows of the page and immerses the reader in a bygone age, Abliet an age of blues filled zombies, and here’s me saying I’ll never read another zombie novel again.
Southern Gods is a novel that you have to buy, based on this effort John Hornor Jacobs is a name to watch, has been blessed with a great gift, get on the band wagon, before it’s too late folks.