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Title: Scouse Gothic
Author: Ian McKinney
Publisher: YouCaxton Publications
Release Date: September 1 2015
Synopsis: Melville wakes with a pounding headache – there had been too many hangovers recently, but this one felt different. What had he been drinking last night? Then he remembered – it was blood. Enter the bizarre world of Scouse Gothic where a reluctant vampire mourns a lost love and his past lives, where a retired ‘hit man’ plans one more killing and dreams of food, and a mother sets out to avenge her son’s murder, and, meanwhile, a grieving husband is visited by an angry angel. Set in present day Liverpool, vampires and mortals co-exist, unaware of each others’ secrets and that their past and present are inextricably linked. But as their lives converge, who will be expected to atone for past sins?
“He was a professional as much as any surgeon, only he used a gun with a silencer rather than a scalpel…”
A vampire who pays rent, a hitman antique salesmen, a PhD student with a talking pigeon. Just your average day in Liverpool.
Whatever readers may take away from reading Scouse Gothic, one cannot deny it’s quite an ambitious project. A collective of perspectives shifting genre and tone, introducing character upon character, each at the forefront of their own fresh narrative, simultaneously weaving towards a collaborative, single stream story, it seems quite a feat.
McKinney tackles such genre blending with an established confidence right from the get-go, following the tale of Melville, a vampire who’s seen the world change around him, yet he feels as though he’s standing still. An ancient being in a modern world, he adjusts as best he can, but always has grim reminders of memories and souls of those lost. This is until, he meets someone, someone who might relate to him more than he might expect.
This then bleeds into other people’s lives, each segment of this tale a fresh perspective from someone new, always keeping readers guessing as to who the next person could be and where they fit in this odd alternate take on Liverpool. Supernatural or natural? Mortal or immortal? Scouse Gothic has a very diverse cast of characters in terms of their roles and the events their own stories revolve around. This of course is no easy job.
With as many stories happening at once and with such a short length, Scouse Gothic becomes very selective with the level of detail in which it tells its tales. Some stories have fully fleshed out narratives with their own miniature climaxes and conclusions, while others tend only to serve as introductions to the characters as if to establish them, so they can be brought up again once any character convergence occurs. These meager introductions are often fraught with expository dialogue in an attempt to provide depth and emotional weight to these protagonists, but instead come off as rather superficial additions to the overall world McKinney creates. Some fail to truly have a deeply rooted conflict and are instead peppered with bits of tension and mystery, only serving as brief setup for a rather formulaic and cluttered climax.
McKinney has set up a rather daunting task and for the vast majority of the book, establishes characters with intrigue. The genre hopping (while occasionally jarring) keeps a rather steady pace and refreshing outlook during the book’s brief stay. It’s only until that fated convergence of characters where the pace becomes an issue. With so many characters to balance in only so many pages, the end does appear rather rushed in terms of how it chooses to close everyone’s story.
This is not the end, however, as McKinney has written two more entries to this anthological series to continue these narratives and lead them down several other pathways. Don’t let the lack of conventional horror or the multiple storylines concern you, McKinney’s take on monsters in a modern world is a rather interesting one, choosing to explore characters and their dynamics rather than the age-old monster tale, Scouse Gothic can offer many readers a fresh perspective (or perspectives) on the modern monster, both human and otherwise.
You can pick up a copy of Scouse Gothic on Amazon.