Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Guest Blog by Justin Gustainis - Why I Like Occult Detectives - February 5, 2014

Please welcome Justin Gustainis back to The Qwillery. Justin is the author of the Occult Crimes Unit Investigation series from Angry Robot Books and the Morris and Chastain Investigation series from Solaris Books. His most recent novel is Known Devil (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation 3) which was published on January 28, 2014.

Why I Like Occult Detectives

     Am I the only one who wished the animal that, um, dogged Sir Henry Baskerville turned out to be a genuine hound from Hell? And I can’t be the only Sherlock Holmes fan who wishes that the Sussex vampire was a real specimen of the undead, instead of a [spoilers ahead] maid trying to rescue a baby from being poisoned. I wanted to see Sherlock Holmes advancing toward the fanged creature, crucifix extended: “Begone, foul creature of the night – trouble this household no more.” Now how cool would that be?
     Of course these days you can find exactly that, if you look for it. Pitting the Great Detective against supernatural evil is a sub-genre of the Sherlock Holmes pastiche industry these days, although it started as far back as 1978, with Loren D. Estleman’s book, “Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula.”
     Occult detectives are common in today’s fiction, whether they go by that title or not – and I love it. There’s something about the investigator who has to bring his tried and true methods (whether they involve analyzing cigar ash, checking through old records, or beating the crap out of an informant) to bear on the capture of a criminal who is not of this world. To me it just seems so … natural (in a supernatural kind of way). Someone once said that “urban fantasy is the child of mystery and fantasy.” If that’s the case, then the occult detective story is the bastard stepchild of crime and horror. I like to think that I’ve done my part to perpetuate the genre by the creation of Detective Sergeant Stan Markowski, who cases down supernatural lawbreakers in an “alternate universe” Scranton, PA.
     Feature films featuring occult detectives aren’t very common, give or take “Hellboy”, “Constantine,” “Van Helsing,” and, most recently, the Warrens in “The Conjuring” (a film in which absolutely zero conjuring took place). But they’ve long been a staple of TV, starting with made-for-television films in the Seventies, most courtesy of Dan Curtis, who was also the mad genius behind “Dark Shadows.” The most successful of Curtis’s one-shots involved a reporter named Carl Kolchak hunting down a vampire in Las Vegas. “The Night Stalker” TV movie begat “Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” a series so awful that even Darren McGavin hated it. But it influenced a young surfer named Chris Carter, who twenty years later, gave us “The X-Files,” a long-running series that in time gave rise to the short-lived “Dresden Files,” then “Supernatural,” then “Grimm” and, arguably, the Canadian production, “Lost Girl.”
     I understand that the character of John Constantine (aka Hellblazer) is about to get his own TV series for next season. If you should hear screams of “No! No!” emanating from upstate New York, it’ll be because they gave the starring role to Keanu Reeves.

Stan Markowski's Badge

Occult Crimes Unit Investigation

Known Devil
Occult Crimes Unit Investigation 3
Angry Robot Books, January 28, 2014 (US/Canada/eBook)
February 6, 2014 (UK)
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages

Meet Stan Markowski or the Scranton PD’s Occult Crimes Unit.

“My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge. Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.

“A new supernatural gang is intent on invading Scranton and it looks like I’m going to have to work with the current mob to prevent a demonic gang war.

“If there’s one thing I hate more than living with supernatural scumbags, it’s working with them! But you know that they say, better the devil you know…”

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Fang Warfare | Invading Forces | Uneasy Alliances | The Devil You Know ]

Evil Dark
Occult Crimes Unit Investigation 2
Angry Robot Books, April 24, 2012 (US/Canada/eBook)
May 3rd, 2012 (UK)
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

“My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge. Also a crucifix, some wooden stakes, big vial of holy water and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.”

A series of seemingly motiveless murders of supernatural creatures points to a vigilante targeting the supe community of Scranton.

Markowski wouldn’t normally have much of a problem with that, but his daughter may be next on the killer’s list…

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Unnatural Law | Thicker Than Water | The Bite Stuff | Duty Calls ]

Hard Spell
Occult Crimes Unit Investigation 1
Angry Robot Books, July 26, 2011 (US/Canada)
July 7, 2011 (UK and eBook)
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

Meet Stan Markowski of the Scranton PD’s Occult Crimes Unit

Like the rest of America, Scranton’s got an uneasy ‘live and let unlive’ relationship with the supernatural. But when a vamp puts the bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that’s when they call me.

My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge.

Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.

File Under: Urban Fantasy

Cover art by Timothy Lantz.

About Justin

Justin Gustainis was born in Northeast Pennsylvania in 1951. He attended college at the University of Scranton, a Jesuit university that figures prominently in several of his writings.

After earning both Bachelor's and Master's degrees, he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the U. S. Army.

Following military service, he held a variety of jobs, including speechwriter and professional bodyguard, before earning a Ph.D. at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

He was married to Patricia A. Grogan of Toledo, Ohio, from 1977 until her death in 2007. He misses her a lot.

Mr. Gustainis currently lives in Plattsburgh, New York. He is a Professor of Communication at Plattsburgh State University, where he earned the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2002.

His academic publications include the book American Rhetoric and the Vietnam War, published in 1993, and a number of scholarly articles that hardly anybody has ever read. In the Summer of 2008, he attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop.

Website  ~  Facebook

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What:  One entrant will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of Known Devil (Occult Crimes Investigation Unit 3) from The Qwillery.

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  1. I might be among the minority but I loved Hellboy :) especially b/c of the matter of fact way the occult/mysticism was worked into the everyday :) Thanks for sharing and congrats to Justin on the newest release!

  2. My fav is Harry Dresden, and on television it's Nick Burkhardt from Grimm.

  3. Books - Harry Dresden, John Taylor, Diana Tregard, Anita Blake, Dirk Gently, & Charley Davidson...
    TV - Sam & Dean Winchester, Micki & Ryan, Mycka / Pete / Artie / Claudia / Jinxi...
    All terrific!

  4. Well it's hard to pick just one. There have been so many good ones throughout the years and I have enjoyed all of them. So I would say that any good occult detective is my favorite :D