Sam leaped back as the dead body reached for him. The rope around the man’s neck strained and swayed as two bruise and swollen arms swipe through the air. Eyes that were all white save the black pinpricks of pupils stared at him. A toothless mouth moaned and then snarled. “You stay here now, Truman,” The corpse said. “You belong here.”
The Pale Man by Nate Southard is the latest addition to the Sam Truman Mysteries series from Abattoir Press. The series features a different author each time out; Southard brings us a fun read that blends hard boiled pulp with a good shot of horror.
Sam Truman is a former private eye who lost his license after shooting an unarmed man—but that doesn’t stop him from plying his trade. Truman takes the jobs he can get and the latest job comes from a beautiful woman who approaches him at his favorite watering hole—classic pulp! Her name is Clarice Crenshaw and she has a job for Truman: recover a family heirloom by the name of The Pale Man from her gambling, drinking, and womanizing brother Freddy. Crenshaw explains that Freddy stole the heirloom from his wealthy family and they are willing to pay a pretty price to get it back. Crenshaw is a bit put off by Truman’s disheveled appearance; when we first met Truman he is on the losing end of a punch and receives a nasty concussion as a result. But that doesn’t stop Truman from taking the much needed job.
Truman is directed to check the notorious Phillips-Rogers Project for Freddy. The project is a dangerous place to venture to, so run down and crime ridden that it is slated to be demolished in a week. Truman grabs a .38 and heads to the projects.
Truman’s entrance into the projects begins the novel’s jump into horror. The projects are a mess indeed; something evil is going on and Truman walks right into the middle of it. Folks in the PRP are changing. What is The Pale Man and how does it wield such terrible power?
The Pale Man is a quick read—perhaps too quick. It would be nice to spend a little more time with Truman as he explores the projects. Truman is a simple cut and dry character that helps the story move along well. We are given only a taste of the other characters and it would have been nice to spend some more time with them. The story does feel rushed at certain points and the end is sudden and not entirely satisfying. That being said, this is still a good read and has some genuinely creepy moments: zombie like sex fiends, hands clutching out from the dark, rotting creatures, and other treats that horror readers will enjoy. The Philip-Rogers Project is every bit as downtrodden as you’d expect and makes a great setting for a horror book. Its atmosphere is at times reminiscent of the film Candyman; the book piles on the supernatural horror over the realistic horror of an impoverished urban environment. It is an excellent back drop for a horror story.
My only other slight criticism of The Pale Man involves the focus on the concussion that Truman is stricken with in the beginning. The possibility of someone going through what Truman goes through with a full on concussion is tough to believe. Granted this is a work of fiction but this aspect of the story felt clumsy and unnecessary. Luckily this isn’t that big of a deal and doesn’t detract from the quality of the book. At the end of the day it is a lot of fun to join Truman and his .38 on his journey
The Pale Man is a good read that any fan of pulpy noir and horror will enjoy. A series that features new writers each time out is always fun and I’m sure those that enjoy this book will want to visit the previous four offerings. The Pale Man is available for just $1.99 on Amazon. Check out www.samtruman.com for more info.
Book Review: The Pale Man (Sam Truman Mysteries #5) – Author Nate Southard