By Mat Thorne
“The Midnight Extra isn’t much of a tabloid, but that’s never really bothered Buck Vincent. He’s not much of a reporter. And in a paper notorious for Elvis sightings and celebrity sex gossip, Buck’s Can You Believe It?! section feels right at home. For twenty-nine years, he’s dreamt up stories about Bigfoot, aliens, ghouls, and monsters of every stripe, usually after a whiskey or four.
Problem is, Buck didn’t dream up his latest story. He’s seen the blood. And he’s met the strange, smiling woman haunted by something beastly in the night. Hell he’s seen the damn thing himself.
Good thing he’s teamed up with rookie photographer Betty Roy. She may be a loose cannon, but she’s got more spine than Buck ever had. Gumption too. And together they’ll chase a story that might just be chasing them back. Something with teeth. Let’s just hope the story is worth all the trouble. Things are getting a little spooky.” *
Dial M for Mutants, the latest novel by author Mat Thorne can safely be described as an oddity of guilty pleasure to be enjoyed by one and all. Brought to you by the fine folks at The Midnight Extra, Thorne’s depiction of mayhem, carnage and melee is a carnival for the unknown and readers gravitating to any horror subgenre will rejoice.
Ordinarily when a book is automatically billed as book one in a series, it irks me. I’ll refrain from indulging in exactly why. Yet it seems to truly work in this case. There are countless things that can be done with future volumes and editions under the Midnight Extra umbrella. And I for one simply cannot wait for it to rain.
Those unfamiliar with the Midnight Extra may be slightly privy to the publication without fully realizing. Perhaps the rag has seeped into your subconscious, wreaking havoc in the cerebral cortex as we speak. The tabloid in mention and several others such as The Enquirer, The Examiner, The Star etc. are often strategically placed in your local grocery store check out lane. In full disclosure who hasn’t fallen into the fray of headlines about Bigfoot, UFOs, demons, satanic cults, ghosts, just to scrape the surface?
Of course, their sheer level of absurdity is enough to offend some readers yet at the same time they’re never to be taken too seriously and truly have never beckoned one to do so. These newsstand rags celebrate a near childlike wonderment and imagination. Virtual vicarious escapes are unleashed all around. And after all, isn’t that what most horror readers are constantly looking for?
Author Mat Thorne has conjured a most effective unholy union in horror and tabloid intrigue. The plot development of a down and out, cynical columnist and a go to intern with spunk stumbling upon the golden goose of a story will render readers ravenous. I’m hard pressed to find any readers new or old resist the urge to tear through the pages and perhaps even begin once again.
The setting of 1994 is an unusual choice. But heck, what constitutes the norm under these circumstances? The author manages to breathe authenticity into the era. Excerpts including politics, fashion, music, values, etc. are spot on for the time frame. This is an indication Thorne paints a vivid picture and detail is everything.
Effective character development revolves all around. The pages shape larger than life players, Everyone from Buck, Betty and beyond we get a glimpse into what makes each tick. Subtleties lie among their motives, a certain finesse not every author can execute so flawlessly.
The rising tension between Buck and Betty works on numerous levels. She lights the much-needed fire beneath him. He restores her faith in something sacred. Each with a torrid past, the journey into exposition is brief, once again a mere whisper into the concerto of story telling. The author refrains from indulging in the past for long, realizing the necessity of a constant pace. The action is fierce and intense as a result never relenting until the final pages.
A heightened climax fit for reluctant heroes is uncaged in the final act. Dial M for Mutants is a guilty pleasure to be enjoyed time and again. This reader in particular will be anxiously awaiting the next arrival.
* Novel synopsis from back cover jacket Dial M for Mutants.