Matt Forbeck is a talented guy–an author, a gamer, a game designer, and ghod only knows what other talents he has. In 2012 he set out to write a 12 novels in 12 months project, funded through Kickstarter. And he got his funding, and for all I know, he did actually write 12 novels in 12 months. When I think back on it, I’ve written about 3 novels in 66 years–let’s cut it down to 46 years, since I really only thought about writing novels since I was 20 or so. As a fiction writer, that makes him 184 times as prolific as I am. Sigh! He’s also younger than me, better looking than me, has more kids than me, and more games designed than me. I kinda hate him.
But I have to admire him. So a few weeks ago, I decided to buy a copy of his fantasy series: Shotguns and Sorcery. You can see the cover of the book I bought up above. I got it in the mail 2 weeks ago, and finished reading it while on my road trip last week. (Gonna talk about the road trip in the next blog.)
The book is called HARD TIMES IN DRAGON CITY. It’s a hardboiled crime noir story of an ex-adventurer who has become a private investigator in a fantasy milieu. The place is called Dragon City because the place is ruled by a dragon. It’s very much my kind of world–a world where elves, dwarves, humans, goblins, orcs and others intermingle in one society. The protagonist is Max Gibson, a low-level wizard–he would be a rogue in Tunnels and Trolls–he knows a few spells, but magic isn’t really his bread and butter. He has a familiar but antagonistic relationship with the cops that we’ve all seen before in various private eye tv shows and movies. The story starts when some of Max’s friends get killed in a gruesome and bloody manner, and he decides to investigate. Then an old (elfin) girlfriend looks him up, and complications ensue.
I’m not going to tell you the plot or the story. The style is a lot like Glen Cook in his Garrett fantasy detective series that started with SWEET SILVER BLUES in 1987. That series is still going with a 14th novel scheduled for July of 2013. Forbeck also apes Mike Hammer, Phillip Marlowe, and every other American style tough guy with a heart of gold detective you’ve ever read. He does it well. The writing is smooth, entertaining, and he keeps the story moving right along. It also reads a bit like Jim Butcher’s Dresden files books. Harry Dresden is a wizard/detective in a modern world where elves, vampires, trolls, and all the old bogey-men of fantasy are alive and well.
It’s hard to tell what the tech level of Dragon City is. It is obviously a high magic world–with magic used for all kinds of things we’d use technology for. But they have guns, and very modern effective ones that fire magical bullets. I didn’t see any sign of electricity, or modern conveniences like cell phones or television, but nothing in the story seems to rule such things out. Matt’s main gimmick is that his hero does his light shooting with spells from a wand, carried like a pistol in a shoulder holster, and his heavy work with a shotgun.
I liked it. I recommend it. I’m planning to get the next two books in the series and read them too. I have one niggling criticism and that is only a matter of style. I prefer books with illustrations. My own recent fantasy novel, ROSE OF STORMGAARD, is profusely illustrated. Matt has no illustrations at all. Perhaps that didn’t seem important to him, or he prefers to let the reader create their own mental pictures of what’s going on, or he just consider illos unnecessary. Getting them would slow down his writing–all good and valid reasons for leaving them out. But it isn’t like he doesn’t know fantasy artists who would be delighted to illustrate his books–Matt knows everybody. And I like my fantasy with illustrations.
4.5 stars out of 5 possible for HARD TIMES IN DRAGON CITY.
If you’ve read anything by Matt Forbeck, or if you just want to comment on having private eyes in fantasy settings, why not leave a comment?