Dresden in Teeside: Book review: Brennan and Rix…

I have an unfortunate habit…

Okay, I have lots of unfortunates habits, starting blog posts off with irrelevant tangents before I even get in the vague vicinity of the point being one of them. But if you’re not a regular read bear with me, and if you’re a regular reader, well you should be used to this by now…

As I was saying, I have an unfortunate habit, this particular unfortunate habit is I tend to happen upon, fall in love with, and utterly devour the wrong American TV shows. When I say the wrong American TV shows it isn’t because the TV shows are wrong, it just due to the irritating way American channels make tv shows only a few weeks ahead of broadcasts they have a habit of been cancelled mid-season, often with a big mid-season cliffhanger just to add insult to injury, and if there is a show that I discovered early, looks good and really gets me drawn in, you can put money on it getting cancelled on me mid-season. Apart from the obvious one, Firefly, there has in recent times been the excellent  Constantine (which started a tad ropey but really got into it stride after a few episodes, slow burners that start to really hit their stride a few episodes in never seem to last) and a fair few others. And the reason I bring this up is due to another of those short-lived gems cancelled due to the travesties of American network executives lack of vision. This particular cancelled gem which partly inspired the post is The Dresden Files…

 

Based on Jim Butcher’s books, Harry Dresden was an itinerate Magician for hire in Chicago, a sort of noir style private detective with a supernatural twist. He uses an ice hockey stick for a magic staff, his best ‘friend’ or perhaps just closest ally is the ghost of a long-dead magician that lives in a skull, is perpetually broke, has a not entirely amicable relationship with the Chicago PD and an abrasive, confrontational relationship with the ‘powers’ that govern the unseen world. It was far from perfect and would have probably benefited from a quirky teenage sidekick in the eyes of TV executives. But it was fun and left you feeling there was a long going on in the background and much to explore.

The Butcher books, of which I have read a few, are far more fleshed out that the TV series ever got to be, but I never quite got the same vibe from them as I did from the TV series. All the same, they are well worth a read, and I always suspected from the books that if you came from Chicago, you would get more even more from them, because they use the Chicago landscape backdrop a lot. Unlike LA, Boston or New York, I don’t really know a great deal about the windy city. Boston, for example, I could probably find my way around easily, having walked those streets so often…

When I say walked those streets, it was the nuked to hell version of Boston in Fallout 4, but still, I know which side of the river to find Cambridge on and the direction to take from downtown to the port and so on…

Still, both the TV series and the books are entertaining, interesting and draw you in. But I have on occasion wondered if you could take the basic idea of a down at the heels supernatural investigator and transplant him to somewhere I am more familiar with than America. Why couldn’t he be based in Loughborough, or  Bristol, or even Teeside? After all, while I was not born around the banks of the Tees (I’m from the heart of gods own county) I have lived here for a few years now, why not take that germ of a character idea and set him down in the industrial landscape of northern Britain? I even toyed with the idea of writing a teen vampire novel ( not my cup of tea but hey there is a market for teenage vampires, and I occasionally aspire to make my living with words so maybe it would be worth trying…) and setting the vampire down in North Yorkshire… I haven’t btw, it was merely a passing thought. But the noir style detective supernatural, well that’s such a fun idea to play with…

Like many a good idea, you’re often not the first to have it. If you don’t write the tale yourself, someone else will. At which point all you can hope is that they write a good tale and having beaten you to an idea they do it well. If they do, well all good and well. Sit back read the stories and admire the craft…

Enter Brennan and Rix. An unlikly pair, for a start one of them is a talking rat and the other is a down at the heels supernatural troubleshooter, private detective, problem solver, living out of his car at the moment as he is a bit light on funds and hoping the next job pays off, or for that matter just pays. And where is this car parked, what fabulously exotic location is this collection of tales set. Why yes, the smoggy banks of the Tees, cooling towers, industrial buildings, and the mean streets of Stockton.

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Rix, the rodent side of this partnership, is, well, he’s a bit of an arsehole. Brennan, on the other hand, is long-suffering of his ‘friend’ and for the most part, is always trying to do the right thing in difficult circumstances. Be that by helping a not entirely unfriendly ghost move on, or trying to prevent the bad thing that lay in the darkness stepping into the light, and then eating the light… These tales follow a pattern you might be familiar with, particularly if you watch a few monsters of the week style tv series. Each tale has its own story, its own point of resolution, its own little moralities and each has its own bit of fall out. They don’t always get paid, they don’t always end up helping the person who hired them exactly, though Rix may complain about this as that’s generally when they don’t get paid, its generally because Brennan is trying to stay on the side of the angels and do what’s right, rather than what’s convenient at the time.

There are also other tv show tropes, there is much that is eluded to, a world beyond each individual tale, a larger tale happening around them, there are recurring guest stars who pop up on one story than come back a few stories later. (one of them is particularly fun, and a somewhat more competent supernatural investigator… who by about season 3 would be a love interest of the main character if this was actually a TV show… there are ‘powers that be’ who are hovering the in the background. And the main pair have their own backstories being gradually eluded to. Rix is more than just a talking rat, he is older than you would think and (this is a pure guess on my part) may not of always had a tale… Brennan childhood was not exactly happy, and some things have happened that, well, let’s just say there is a fair degree of darkness in his past…

If this was a TV show, I have no doubt it would get cancelled by the American TV executive hit squad around about episode 14. All those dark hints and little threads in the background of these tales that run as a connecting thread through them would remain forever unresolved. But luckily for us, it isn’t an American TV show. All those enticing little tidbits that draw you along may remain far from resolved, but there will be more adventures to come, and the stories will only grow. These are fun, funny (the interplay between the main characters never ceases to raise a smile, and does nothing but pull you into the strange world of a man and his rat, which has such a sense of place about it as it is set in the very real world around you. That’s not to say that if you’re not a resident of  Teeside you’ll be missing out in anyway when you read these stories, the sense of the real world and the other world running parallel with it is still there. If you are from the Tees valley however you’ll just get a little bit more…

On the tentacle scale, it’s a very solid five ( unless your form Teeside when it’s a six (which if your unfamiliar with tentacles is as good as it gets) And if you need any more inducement here is the Amazon link and the usual preview pages, I encourage you to have a read…

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Strange-Tales-Brennan-Riz/dp/1729119190

As an aside, the weekend before I read the story set at Halloween in Preston Park museum I was at Preston Park walking the exact little path through the woods that is described in the book… So when I read that passage, I was just a little haunted by the whole thing. Which was frankly marvellous… and a testament to Peter’s writing as it managed to creep me out just a little bit, as he did not just make it feel real, but having been there so recently it was all the more real for it…

 

This entry was posted in amreading, book reviews, books, errol the bookcase dragon, fiction, goodreads, horror, humour, opinion, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, rites, sci-fi, supernatural and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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