“…I have no name
and I know where to find you”
The above line is the end of the opening line of the Ghosts of Manhattan and sets the tone of the novel quite well invoking the pulp age hero The Shadow. George Mann’s first novel set 25 years later then his Newbury & Hobbes series ventures into pulp age superhero action. Its a combination of genres that for me really checks all the boxes; golden age/ pulp era superhero, police procedural, steampunk with more then a few nods to Lovecraft and finer literature. If F Scott Fitzgerald were to have been a fan of wierd tales this is the world he might have envisioned in an alternate universe version of The Great Gadsby.
Ghosts of Manhattan takes us on a decidedly different spin in the now much in vogue Steampunk Genre. Ghosts is set in the 1920’s removed from the prim and proper Victorian Age of steam and consulting detectives by 25 years and the Atlantic Ocean. The book is steampunk in atmosphere but is something new in substance; maybe pulppunk.
The story is set in the roaring 20’s New York with all the usual trappings; prohibition, mob bosses, tommy gun toting thugs, jazz club speakeasies, torch singers, swank parties, lots of illicit booze and cigarettes; add to these things coal fired steam driven autos, rocket assisted biplanes and the odd steam or tesla gadget and you get the picture. The Ghost, our hero, is the product of the battlefields first world war and his brush with death therein. The opening chapter gives you a taste of his brand of vigilante justice and the tools of his trade; flechette guns, ankle rockets and the requisite goggles.
The Ghosts of Manhattan is a slim book at 240 pages in this day of doorstop volumes being the norm. I read slow so this book took me two days of sporadic reading but I think it could be an afternoon read for some. Given that it is a book I would gladly shell out dosh for and may get a real copy when I get back to the US. Sure its a “superhero” tale, yeah its got lots of cinematic action scenes just you wait for those biplanes to make a showing. The characters may be archetypes on the surface but they have depth; they make decisions based on their own moral codes, choices that make them realer people. Me, I cant wait for the next installment there are not so subtle clues that there is more to come.
Watch out for those gear driven thugs mad from mud and moss and don’t assume all artifacts are without a curse. Its a time of larger then life heroes, mobsters and cops with a little spicing of HPL. Check out George Mann’s website here and get a free taste of the his Newbury & Hobbes series. Oh he is a great editor too - look for the original short fiction collections from Solaris press.
Pyr books has made the first six chapters of Ghosts available to read online here for your reading pleasure...