Monday, July 28, 2014

John Hartness: Back in Black

John Hartness is another North Carolina writer, whom I met a few years ago at a writer's conference, and let me tell you--he is a hilarious writer.

Back in Black is book #2 in his "Black Knight Chronicles" featuring the two kind-of-vegetarian vampire detectives, Jimmy Black and Greg Knightwood.  While trying to hide their true identities, this couple tries to solve mysteries at night, often running into crazy supernatural adventures.

I bought one of the original editions from when the author self-published this series.  Thus I had to wade through a few typos and a couple of instances of awkward writing.  I'll just assume these got fixed in the currently available edition and move on.

This book contains the same humor that existed in the first one.  The story is interesting and engaging.  The ending is satisfying.  We get to learn more about Hartness's world of vampires.  I particularly loved how both Jimmy and Greg struggled to be "vegetarian" as much as possible.  The fight scenes are hilarious.  The whole world is just plain imaginative and different.

I found myself distracted by only one weakness in the plot.  The case our vampire friends pursue is a series of brutal beatings of gay males.  Several times in the book, the plot freezes as one (or two, or more) of the main characters delivers a soliloquy about how we should accept gay people and allow gay marriage.  This is good for the author--letting us know what side he's on, even though he's from conservative North Carolina.  But I found the delivery to be flat, derivative, and preaching to the choir. It basically stopped the flow of the plot while not really adding anything.

In my opinion, Hartness missed a golden opportunity to have at least one of his main characters originally opposed to gay marriage, but then by the end of the book coming to learn that gay people are alright after all ... such as in the movie Philadelphia.  Such a sub-plotline would have had more convincing power to readers who happen to be more conservatively oriented.

Despite the one minor flaw, I highly recommend the first two books in this series.  They're funny with rich characters in a rich environment.  And dag nab it ... now I'm going to have to get the next book in the series.

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