Catching up with Andrew: Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary)

I’ve been a fan of Jeff Strand’s work for a few years now, but I’ve never picked up his earlier work (hop in the ole time machine and read about my first exposure to Strand right here. Why was I underlining titles back then? Was it my 5th grade book report?). More specifically I’ve never read his Andrew Mayhem series of horror/comedy/thrillers. Last month saw the re-release of the first three Mayhem books in spiffy* new digital editions (that are intended to prepare readers for the forth), so I decided to give the first title a whirl.

I really had no idea what to expect with Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary). I’m not much a fan of ongoing series, so would it feel too TV-ish to me? Would Strand’s prose be as funny and dry as his later work? How would I be able to fear for a character’s safety when I know they’ll be around for at least three more books?

The answer: those were all stupid questions and I should stop being a doubting Thomas.

Graverobbers is a ghoulish rocket that runs on the propulsive combination of its ludicrous plot and the likeably doofy voice of its narrator. Andrew’s first adventure is as enjoyable as he is inept.

The book is labeled as an “Andrew Mayhem Thriller” but I think “Mystery” would give perspective readers a better idea what to expect. Andrew may be a schmuck, but he’s still a detective in the tradition of Sherlock, Marlowe, Spade and Lew Archer. The clue elements may not be as integral to the overall success of the book as its humor and gore are, but there’s a mystery going on here nonetheless.

If we need further evidence to prove that Strand’s playing around with the genre of Chandler and Hammett, there’s also that great hardboiled cliché of the protagonist getting knocked around. Andrew is pummeled, shot and stabbed for our amusement, so even if he can’t detect, he’s got that in common with his forebearers.

Even if when all this violence that is perpetrated on poor Andrew, we don’t feel that the stakes are quite high enough, Strand ratchets up the tension by throwing some innocents into the fold. Where the aforementioned detectives are all aloof lone-wolves, Andrew’s got a family to protect and we can’t help but fear for them.

Graverobbers Wanted
is three bucks, you should check it out.
If the sign of a good series can be measured in the amount of time it takes a reader to purchase the next book, then let it be known that I finished the transaction for Single White Psychopath Seeks Same a minute after reaching “The End.” If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

*With striking covers by Strand’s wife, author Lynne Hansen.

Gross-out Laughs and Chills: Benjamin’s Parasite by Jeff Strand

Genre books that are laugh-out-loud funny are few and far between.

Well, horror lit to tickle your funny bone has found a new champion with the arrival of Jeff Strand’s new book from Delirium. Benjamin’s Parasite tells the story of a high school English teacher who becomes the unwilling carrier of a top secret experiment: a giant intestinal parasite that spurs-on uncontrollable fits of gluttony, horniness and violence. Oh, and it is slowly transforming its host into a mound of weeping sores.

Aided by an impulsive female bounty hunter, Benjamin must escape bumbling mobsters, bumbling mad scientists, and even bumbling Deliverance-esque hillbillies while racing to have the parasite removed before it kills him.

“Intestinal parasite” and “weeping sores” don’t sound particularly funny, but believe me the novel is. Absurdity is the word of the day where Strand is concerned. He lay’s the funny on thick in the dialogue and makes the action set-pieces big, big, big. The closest parallel to the novel would have to be on the screen (the early work of Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi, maybe even a dash of later-day Troma), not the written word.

It’s hard to imagine this kind of splat-shtick working on the page, but Strand pulls it off beautifully. One of the keys to the book’s success is its steady escalation into absurdist territory. To provide example, but trying not to ruin anything: the final act of the book involves a parachute escape (PARACHUTES!).

A lesser writer really would have struggled with such an oddball premise, but after the first chapter it becomes apparent that Stoker nominee Strand is the real deal. If one could level any criticism at the book there are jokes that go on for maybe a tiny bit too long. Full disclosure: this could be attributed to my own squeamishness about losing teeth (Benjamin has his knocked out, I wont say how, but boy did it seem like it went on forever).

I can’t recommend this book enough. You should pick it up.
I will be definitely keeping my eye out for more Strand, his novel Pressure comes out from Leisure Books this June….I already have mine pre-ordered.