The Joe Pitt Casebooks (#1-5) are a must for fans of neo-noir and vampires. I remember speeding through these years ago, and then a second time not so many years ago, and I’m frequently on the verge of doing so again. They’re that good.
Author Charlie Huston has bled all the boot-leather tough and streetwise style of Richard Stark’s Parker and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, transfused the concoction into the veins of the eponymous Joe Pitt, and set him loose to shoot, slash, bite and splash more of that sweet, sweet blood all over a Manhattan secretly-controlled by an underworld of vampyre factions. But this control is tenuous. Even vampyres are political and organised, and while the various rival parties have their own personal agendas, cultures and beefs to be squashed, the one thing that unites them all is their hunger for a steady supply of the red stuff (with the ascetic Enclave being the exception that proves the rule. Those guys are enlightened. And nuts!).
But this isn’t a world of overt vampyre rule, instead, the controlling players of the fanged ranks are content to operate from the shadows, leaving the human feedbags to run the show. This means that feeding (and the propagation of the Vyrus) has to be carefully regulated, and the vamp factions having to play nice to ensure their clandestine networks continue undetected to avoid a global-scale Helsing shit storm battering their houses. At the top of this political food chain is the wealthy and influential Coalition, a conservative force with enough muscle and industrial connections (including blood banks) to impose hegemonic rule over the other factions. Existing under the Coalition’s table are the Society, a socially-minded radical bunch; the spiritual and meditative monks of the Enclave; the Chinese faction of the Wall; the Italian-led Family; the Bronx-based Hood; and the Dusters biker gang.
Enter Joe Pitt. Vampyre. Outsider. Enforcer. P.I. General jaded and moody asshole. Pitt is pale as Switzerland and just as neutral. He’s been around the block enough times to have bumped into most shades of nasty the vamp clans have to offer, and has generally pissed most of them off, or formed some tepid relationships at best.Maybe it was his former life as a ‘70s snot nosed, street trash punk, or perhaps it’s the hard-earned wisdom that vampyres suck just as much as people, but Pitt prefers to remain a one-man show, pledging no allegiance to any one group. All he really wants to do is get through the day, drink some blood, maybe some booze, and take care of his casual girlfriend Evie, a HIV positive bartender.But even as a barely trusted rogue, he still needs to feed, and so doing various odd jobs for the clans is a sure fire way to earn a blood bag or two.
It’s not a glamorous life for Joe, and Huston really breathes life into every seedy bar, subway, and boardroom Pitt navigates in his escapades. The series is also filled with snappy prose, excellent dialogue, memorable characters and enjoyable relationships.
Full of twists, turns, bruised knuckles and severed arteries, anybody who enjoys a snarky tough guy who can take a bullet and fire off a quip need to check this series out.
Daniel James is an author of dark fantasy, thrillers, and horror, from Liverpool, England. His character-driven, action-packed urban fantasy novel, Hourglass, received a Kirkus Star from Kirkus Reviews, and was voted one of their Best 100 Indie novels of 2021.