I don’t know. There are parts of this book I really liked. And it is odd how I came across it. On the Goodreads Urban Fantasy discussion group Dennis brought up the topic, “Dresden Files without the fairy dust” and I thought it was interesting, as did several others. We came up with several possibilities, Green, Del Franco, Henderson, Anderson, and others. Then, that same day, I came across an advertisement for a series by Robert J. Crane, an author I haven’t read before. “Called” is the first in the Southern Watch Series.
The beginning told me that this might be something that Dennis would find interesting. “A drifter, a broken-down hitchhiker blown through Midian (TN) on the prevailing winds. . . and Hendricks is carrying a sword.” Of course, it excited me also, as I am a huge Dresden Files fan as well. I passed the info along, and then discovered that the story is part of the four book anthology, “Sinners & Sorcerers: Four Urban Fantasy Thrillers”. I eagerly picked it up, as it has not only Crane, but also the amazing S.M. Reine, Daniel Arensen, Scott Nicholson, and the astounding J.R. Rain. And it is only 99 cents, so what a deal!
After reading “Called”, I am, again, of two minds. The concept is good. Demon hunter Lafayette Jackson Hendricks strolls into town and immediately runs into his first demon. And things go downhill from there. Archibald “Arch” Stan, ex-football hero and now a deputy sheriff, lives a quiet, boring and ultimately unfulfilling, and yet goodhearted, life – until he runs across Hendricks slaughtering a demon on the town square. Arch’s life will never be the same. Things are different now, in more ways than having the blinders ripped off. For where once only a single flare might show up on the map around the world, there are currently fourteen flares, more than ever before, hot-spots which “pull in demons like the light on a bugzapper – but without the zapper. . .” which as often as not leave whole cities ghost towns, no bodies to be found. And where Hendricks would once have had multiple demon hunters to back him up, suddenly there is only him – well, and Arch.
This is all good. And yet, what drove me NUTS about the story is the pure stupidity that Hendricks shows. It is to be expected from Arch. He really doesn’t have any idea what is going on, if demons are real, or if Hendricks is just some whack-job running around with a sword and a 1911 revolver. I can’t give Hendricks the same grace. Knowing that things are bad, that demons are overrunning the tiny town, and things are really, really not right in the world, he still follows the head between his legs and not the one between his ears, more interested in getting drunk and getting into the pants of the police dispatcher than paying attention to business. And of course, said mindless horndoggedness (yes, I made up that word) nearly costs them everything . . . getting drunk and chasing tail doesn’t really make sense under the circumstances. Between that and unnecessary usage of trash language, I was disappointed. I am no prude about language, but I am much of Earnest Borgnine’s way of thinking “Writers used to make such wonderful pictures without all that swearing, all that cursing. And now it seems that you can’t say three words without cursing. And I don’t think that’s right.”
I suppose it could be that this is a more “male-centric” story, which these days seems to include much more violent, sexual, and foul speaking lifestyle and expectations than I find acceptable. Who knows? I am a true proponent of kindness over what is considered “moral”, and the power of intellect over violence and ignorance. Whichever one prefers, there are things to recommend in Called, and others to abjure. Crane makes a point that I find most appropriate, though I am by no means religious. Arch says, “Side of the angels, huh? I haven’t seen any of them show up to help me yet.” Hollywood, the demon: “And they won’t. Because they don’t get involved, not anymore.” And I wonder whose fault that is?
But that is my opinion; yours may not be the same.