At first, I wasn't quite sure I understood Roman Dalton – Werewolf P.I. at first, a collection of six linked short stories by crime scribe Paul D. Brazill. The gist of the book seemed simple enough: Roman Dalton was a police detective until a chance encounter with a grisly group of gangsters give him a sickness he couldn't shake -- lycanthropy. Hard to hold down a regular job when you transform into a giant canine once a month, so Dalton went private, sussing out bad sorts with the help of his former partner, one Detective Ivan Walker, and Duffy, the owner of the aforementioned drinking establishment where all the trouble started. And there are plenty of rough types to go around in The City. Ton Ton Philippe, for instance, a Haitian crime boss so cruel some think he's only a myth. Or Count Otto Rhino, an ambitious businessman with a militaristic posse that likes to throw around its weight. Yes, The City has never lacked for scum, and at least that means Dalton has a measure of job security.
See that name of Dalton's metropolis in the previous sentence? Note the capitals. That should've been my first hint that Brazill was doing something with Roman Dalton – Werewolf P.I. other than creating a hardboiled thriller with a supernatural gloss. The only story that comes close to doing that is "Before the Moon Falls (A Prequel)," during we learn the conniving steps the otherwise friendly Duffy took to gain ownership of his self-named bar. That tale contains real character development and pacing, something I thought the others lacked. You might that's a critique of the rest of the book, but it's not. See, the further I read, the more I understood that Roman Dalton – Werewolf P.I. is a comic in prose form.
Abrupt. Intense. Splashy. Those three adjectives best describe the remainder of the collection. "Drunk on the Moon" introduces us to Dalton using familiar hardboiled tropes garnished with over-the-top fantasy, such as a seductive chanteuse who can mesmerize with her voice and an angry crime boss with a gang of zombie henchmen. Others offer noirish twists, such as a serial killer whom Dalton deals with in an -- ahem -- ingenious way ("The Brain Salad Murders") and a mysterious assassin whose easy apprehension belies his true goals ("The Missionary"). "She's My Witch" goes for the full sensory overload approach. A murderous carnival. A dual-wielding executioner. An apocalyptic confrontation between two bloodthirsty mobs. It's got it all -- and "it all" is the point. First and foremost, Roman Dalton – Werewolf P.I. wants to indulge in visceral, violent fun, and Brazill understands that part of having fun means not taking yourself too seriously.
(Picture: CC 2006 by jah~)