Our Man Stark is a Really Bad Mofo who might perhaps have been Saved By The Love Of A Good Woman, only she died and he Went Downtown but now he’s Back On The Streets Of LA and his Mind’s On Murder, except for They’re Out To Get Him First.
Well yeah, if you think this sounds a little derivative, clichéd even, you’d be right, because it is. But Stark is interesting and a lot of fun to follow around, the plot doesn’t give you much time to think, the stage is crowded with deeply strange and oddly believable characters, even if Stark often kills them before you really get to know them.
Every page drips atmosphere, always dark and some not for the squeamish. The dialog is full of well-turned Chandlerisms, you have to smile. It’s big, so you get a lot of ambience for your money.
So what’s not to like? Well, I mentioned that Our Man was Sent Downtown. In this case, “Downtown” means Hell, as in really, with Lucifer and Azazel and Beelzebub and yep, Fallen Angels; the citizens are called Hellions. Where he becomes a hit-man and, like it says at the top of the column, a gladiator. The theological difficulties seem extreme to me, but let’s not strain at gnats.
Fortunately, that silliness is kept (almost) entirely off the present pages, but each back-story anecdote’s sheer ridiculousness wrenched my suspension of disbelief.
And you do get a scene, worth the price of admission, where Our Man Stark advises Lucifer himself on which vintage horror movies, in a disorganized video-store clutter, he’ll enjoy, and which are disposable.
Recommended, I guess.