Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey

It’s not a pretty read, but it’s a damn fun one.  I stumbled across Richard Kadrey in Half Price Books, but they weren’t living up to their name with their price, so I held off and got a couple of  his books through the library. I couldn’t get into Sandman Slim. Every time I picked it up and tried to wade into it, the thing just wasn’t working. I tried from the beginning, I tried from some random page towards the middle, it didn’t matter.  No matter what I did, Sandman Slim just wasn’t clicking. I thought of cancelling the hold I had on Kill the Dead, but laziness got the better of me. I just didn’t get around to it. Instead, it was one of a handful of books I grabbed the other day. Figuring I would read a few lines, become bored, start flipping pages, and then quickly just toss the thing on the shelf, it was the library book I decided to give a twirl first.  This had everything to do with my taking far too many books out of the library right now and just wanting to winnow the stack down a bit, and get to the good stuff.

To my surprise, Kill the Dead turned out to be some good stuff.

The readiest comparison would be to Mario Acevedo, someone else who is doing the hardboiled, horror PI thing. Acevedo’s stuff is a fun read. I’ve bought some of Acevedo’s books, I’ve read them, I’ve enjoyed them, and if you like such things, I’d fully encourage you to buy them, too. That said, they’re also not the best written things in the world. I know that sounds rough, I don’t want it to, but there are times where his character will lean on a crutch, like his vampire hypnotic gaze, a bit too often. Kadrey has the same hardboiled, almost pulpishness, feel and pacing to it, but it’s polished.  Of Sandman Slim, William Gibson said it was the best B movie he’s read in 20 years, and I’m not sure I could find a better way of referring to Kill the Dead.    Going off two hours of sleep in the past 36 hours, coming up with comparisons is a bit difficult, but if you’ve seen a gangster movie with Edward G. Robinson and liked it, I think you’ll probably enjoy this. Or maybe a much harder Dresden Files (the show from scifi that was cancelled far far before it’s time, and not the books).

One area that I think is a particular strong suit is Kadrey’s refusing to linger over details that are largely unimportant. Hell is constantly in the background of the novel, and it stays there. we get the occasional detail, but we’re never over burdened with a lot of information we don’t need. Even when characters who have played significant roles in the main character’s past are brought up,  their appearances aren’t given an over abundance of weight. They are parceled out as necessary morsels we need to know to flesh out the story or our protagonist’s place in his world. With a hardboiled, horror PI  novel, Kadrey’s restraint is one of the most powerful forces in the shaping of the novel.

So, go out and read the thing, and I think I’ll give Sandman Slim another look, too.

By the way, if you want to read some of Kadrey’s short fiction, check out his homepage. He has linked a number of his shor

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