A murderous, thieving werewolf gets tripped up plying his trade when he’s co-opted by a shadowy cabal.
Tattoo artist, musician, and writer Johnson chronicled his colorful life in a memoir, Tattoo Machine (2009), and here makes his first foray into fiction with a nasty, snarling bit of supernatural noir that’s reminiscent of the more gruesome novels of Chuck Wendig or Joe Hill. The protagonist of this Portland-based crime novel is Gelson Verber, a century-plus-old half-breed werewolf who’s learned a few tricks in his day but who's kind of having a bad run. “The Experiment wasn’t working,” he confesses as the book opens. That particular treatment involved damping down his furry ferocity by downing fistfuls of tranquilizers, gallons of scotch, and the not-so-occasional roofie. Gelson plies his trade by hunting down local scumbags and selling their belongings to his fence, Lemont. Things go awry when he encounters one Linda Morgan, aka “Miss Misery,” an employee of the mysterious Salt Street Development company. There, he learns that not only do they know who he is, but they also know what he is—and they intend to blackmail him into doing their dirty work for them. It’s here that Gelson finally meets another of his kind, Christophe, a werewolf who is faster, stronger, and far more dangerous. But it turns out there’s more to Gelson Verber than meets the eye. As the hard man of this particular slice of genre, the guy is a fantastic character: ruthless but not without humor, a master grifter who’s been doing this a very long time, and a stone-cold killer whose methods can be shocking even within the pages of this horror/crime fusion. Along the way, Johnson throws in Gelson’s target, a communications magnate who has gotten on Christophe’s bad side; Izelle Tatum, a savvy transsexual who’s only hustling to make the bread for sex-reassignment surgery; and a pair of plot reversals that are likely to leave readers with their jaws on the floor.
A briskly paced, splatter-filled crime novel to delight fans of directors Tarantino and Rodriguez.