Helford (From a Killer’s Mind, 2013) offers a satirical tale of hell and damnation.
Nathaniel “Ate” Blovey is a failed writer of lurid Wild West stories. After his first and only book is a total failure and his girlfriend leaves him, things get even worse: His crude, low-quality writing is a big hit in Hell, so the Devil has him killed to write more hackwork for the damned. The outraged Ate refuses to fulfill the Devil’s wishes and goes on the run, making his way across a Hell that the world of the living never warned him about. Instead of confronting fire, brimstone and medieval imps, he struggles across a perdition that resembles America—specifically, the Old West. The Devil opted to give human souls free rein to build a civilization in Hell’s harsh, alien frontier, and things haven’t gone well. While Ate desperately tries to dodge Hell’s pitfalls, he deals with a cavalcade of absurd, damned souls who all have their own agendas—and some of them are his fans. He moves from misery to fear to fury and back again, facing calamity after calamity on the road to his own eternal destiny. The entire narrative is irreverent fun, with mild overtones of Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins. The pacing is fast and breezy, and the author does an admirable job of designing and describing his version of Hell and the fantastic rules that shape it. His clever, funny tale slyly points fingers at American outlooks and attitudes, although readers who are sensitive to profanity may not find this book to their liking. The characterization and dialogue are outlandishly over-the-top, in an amusing way; no human being has ever had a speech pattern quite like this book’s pompous protagonist (“Little did I know, it was much better received down here, and is surprisingly quite popular amongst the august personages of Hell”). Other supporting characters have equally theatrical personalities, and although most readers will hardly demand a purely naturalistic style in a satire, they may find it a little distracting at times.
An entertaining, inventive and occasionally over-the-top fantasy novel.