James Stark returns to LA after 11 years in Hell with a mission of vengeance. The first thing he does is mug a rich coke head, steal his clothes, taser and wallet. Stark, known to the denizens of Hell as Sandman Slim, the monster other monsters are afraid of, is a classic anti-hero. He’s sarcastic, not nice, self destructive and he’s hard to kill. Sandman Slim is sarcastic, not nice, manic, and darkly funny. My first encounter with Sandman Slim was hearing an audio clip of MacLeod Andrews’ wry sarcastic voice narrating as Stark (you can listen to a clip by clicking on the link to Amazon). I used sarcastic three times in this paragraph. It’s a clue that Sandman Slim hits all my grown-up adolescent bad boy fantasies.
Sandman Slim is LA noir meets urban fantasy. Stark was a member of magic circle that sold him out and sent him to Hell. Against all odds, he survived, fought in the hellion arena, and became Lucifer’s second favorite general’s hitmen. God and the Devil are real, as are angel’s and demons. And yes, there is a war going on between Heaven and Hell, but it isn’t what you think. As Stark says, “God is a fuck-up and the Devil is irrelevant.” As Azazel’s hitman, Stark has acquired some tools that allow him to do things a normal person can’t do. He stayed in Hell though until he found out his arch enemy had his girlfriend, Alice, murdered. Alice’s murder drives him to vengeance.
Once back in LA, Stark collects a small group of friends and a large group of enemies. He has no respect for angels or homeland security. The only thing he’s harder on than his friends is his laundry. And other people’s cars. This is the first in a series, so there’s no neat ending. Stark wreaks havoc on LA, but not so much directly on his intended targets. It slowly dawns on him that there’s something bigger going on and he might be a pawn not a player.
This is not an early work for Richard Kadrey. Kadrey is a writer in his prime. There is so much going on and the plot is moving so fast it often feels like it’s all about to go off the rails. And the language. The language is amazing. Every sentence is evocative and the dialogue tells you everything you need to know about the characters
Try not to sing too many sad songs for yourself. The universe already hates you. Self pity isn’t going to help.
I’m trying very hard not to think about anything I’m doing. Of all the iffy things I’ve ever done in my life, I’ve never had to ditch a body before. While it’s giving me a migraine right now, I think the fact that I’m not an expert on corpse disposal says a lot of good things about me and my life choices.
“Thanks for treating me like, you know, a person through all this shit. I know that isn’t always easy.”
“You do have a habit of pissing on other people’s welcome mats. But, when a gentleman gives you a booty call to a massacre, it’s easy to forgive. Ciao.”
Sandman Slim is going to make you want some hard liquor and a cigarette. And a burrito. The good news is, there are 5 more Sandman Slim books out, plus a novella and a seventh book due this year.