I’ll admit to a certain amount of envy of authors Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin for the entire concept of The Dead Man series of books. Like them, I grew up reading pulp series. Among my favorites were The Executioner series by Don Pendleton and the Richard Blade series by Jeffrey Lord. Goldberg and Rabkin have captured that spirit with Matt Cahill and The Dead Man books. Each volume contains three stories by three different authors. Matt, killed in an avalanche, discovered alive after months buried beneath the snow. He returns with impressive healing ability as well as an ability to spot evil in others, which appears as both visual and olfactory rotting from the inside out. With his trusty axe he must stop the evil and battle a mysterious evil clown he refers to as Mister Dark, who can exploit anger or despair in others and make it blossom into homicidal rage.
Volume Six of The Dead Man features stories by Anthony Neil Smith, Lisa Klink and Barry Napier. All are very talented writers and to their credit, the character of Matt Cahill seems consistent across all three stories.
In Colder Than Hell, something other than the typical work of Mr. Dark is in play as stranded motorists in a severe blizzard are possessed by a mysterious impulse that leads to bizarre, occasionally homicidal behavior that frightens even the evil Dark. The story moves a little slowly through the first half, but gains momentum and intensity as it moves along.
Evil to Burn finds Matt on a bus to the opening of lodge on Native American grounds where he anticipates trouble when an incident waylays him and his fellow passengers. Piecing together the mystery of his fellow passengers helps him figure out a way to get to his destination with only minutes to spare. Leaving him to search for a way to stop the evil that is still waiting to be unleashed.
Streets of Blood, the final and strongest story of the three, leads Matt to a retirement home in rural Virginia and a town with a streak of unusual and unexplained violent outbursts. Matt is also beset by odd dreams featuring five young girls and the ever-present Mr. Dark. Unraveling the cause of the disturbances as well as the meaning of the dreams becomes a race against time as the outbreaks of violence increase and ultimately threaten to engulf the town.
All three stories are entertaining and each story is a little better than the last. Each suffers from a few narrative flaws, but they remain a lot of fun. The series as a whole is a great throwback to pulp series of the past, and Volume Six is a fine addition. If you like a good horror story with the right mix of shock, suspense, mystery and action, then you will enjoy these books. Recommended read.
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.