THE SANTA HEIST and other Christmas stories

TITLE: THE SANTA HEIST and other Christmas stories
ISBN: 9781689023665

Christmas came early this year for me and other fans of urban fantasy, especially those who like John L. French and Patrick Thomas. “The Santa Heist and other Christmas stories” is a collection of stories about Christmas, written in the irreverent, smart-alecky style of our boy Patrick, and his colleague John L. French, whose stories have a more serious tone and are much darker. His past as a crime scene supervisor shows in the way he depicts the dark side of humanity without flinching. Both of them collaborated on the cover story, “The Santa Heist”, about a gang of henchmen who decide to sleigh-jack Santa so the poor kids in Harbor City can have a happy Christmas for once, without having to settle for the cheap, knockoff toys. The rest of the stories run the gamut from sad to glad.

In French’s “All I Want for Christmas”, an abusive husband and father gets his just deserts after his young son’s letter to Santa is delivered to Satan by mistake, because of an innocent spelling error by the child. Bianca Jones, French’s badass detective who took on the Devil and won, meets him once again as a confidential informant in “A Gift Freely Given”, as he lets her know about a plot to steal certain religious relics from the local museum, particularly one that may have been in the stable the night Jesus was born. Speaking of that night, a French story that moved me to tears, “The Inner Light”, is about the angel who guarded Mary through her pregnancy and single-backhandedly defeated the five demons sent to destroy the Christ child on that blessed night. You wouldn’t think a sweet, black angel with ash gray wings was a match for five powerful demons, but the inner light of her faith was enough to help her route them all, though it left her badly wounded.

Thomas’s stories provide a more light-hearted contrast, with the exception of one that sent shivers down my spine at the conclusion; “Out of Bethlehem”, which tells us what happened to the babies left in Bethlehem after the Holy Family escaped to Egypt. Every Christian knows about the slaughter of the innocents, when King Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill every baby boy under the age of two, to rid himself of the newborn King of the Jews. One baby boy escapes the slaughter thanks to an angel of the Lord who rescues the mother from the Roman soldiers pursuing her. He tells the mother that her son has “a great destiny to complete”, but when I found out who her son was, I wondered whether this was the Angel of Death. Two of Patrick’s Christmas stories from his Murphy’s Lore series are reprinted here, “Pining Away” starring Agent Karver and his partner Mandy Cobb from the Department of Mystic Affairs, where they take on a dryad who murdered a suburban family after they unknowingly chopped down her tree to decorate it for Christmas, and “Hell’s Covenant”, with the gang from Bulfinche’s Pub fighting to protect Toni, their waitress, from the demon she unknowingly made a bargain with for shelter, in exchange for her unborn baby.

These two gentlemen alternate between serious and humorous stories, even the serious ones frequently containing a note of humor, like Patrick’s puns and French’s reference to Rocky and Bullwinkle in “Joy to the World”, where the angel who saved Baby Jesus makes an encore appearance. I enjoyed every story, even the ones that made me sad, because Christmas is about joy and sorrow and life and death, something people frequently forget in their greed for gifts and their desire to one-up everyone else in the giving and receiving of gifts. So if you’re looking for a good read for Christmas, get a copy of “The Santa Heist” for yourself or for someone you love who loves Christmas. It’s dedicated to “all those who honor Christmas in their hearts and who try to keep it all the year”, a quote from Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”, which is represented here by “Saving Marley”, a story by John French. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good read!

Book Review: The Mug Life

ISBN: 978-1-890096-84-7

It’s been a while since I wrote a review of any of Patrick Thomas’ works. The closest I came was my review for “Release The Virgins” on June 10th, an anthology by Michael Ventrella to which Patrick contributed a short story, “The Running of The Drones”. That was done with his usual flair. Now here comes another volume in the Murphy’s Lore After Hours series, in which we learn of the misadventures of Murphy’s motley crew of gods and monsters, along with pixies, demons, immortals and just plain folks along for the ride.

Our man John Murphy tells us two tales in this assortment of stories about the mug life (whether he’s referring to the mugs he fills at Bulfinche’s Pub or the mugs who work and drink there is anyone’s guess). The first one is about an angry man who shows up at Bulfinche’s with his two kids and a gun, determined to repay his ex-wife for taking his kids, the house and half his pension. Murphy manages to defuse the situation with the help of his co-workers and the Mayan death goddess Ixtab, who specializes in suicide, and was there to counsel another customer suffering from terminal cancer. The second story takes place on one of Murphy’s rare days off, when he goes to a mall and runs into Jason Cervantes the cross-dressing cop and Bubba Sue the gremlin, who are now dating. The three of them end up at a lingerie shop, where they have to defuse another bad situation between an angry young woman with a bomb strapped to her chest and one on her ex-boyfriend’s. Don’t waste your time feeling sorry for the guy; he screwed her over badly and even got her deported to Mexico to end their relationship, and she doesn’t even speak Spanish. Two prime examples of love’s labors lost.
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Release The Virgins

Title: Release The Virgins
By: Michael A. Ventrella, editor
Published by: Fantastic Books
Isbn: 1-5151-2384-0/978-1-5154-2384-3
Review copy sent by Publisher
Review by Ida Vega-Landow

This is the second best book I’ve ever read that was written on a dare. The first was “Frankenstein” by 18-year-old Mary Shelley, after she and her future husband, the poet Percy Shelley, spent a wet summer at the Villa Diodati in Switzerland with their friend Lord Byron, where it wouldn’t stop raining. They spent most of their time reading ghost stories in front of the fireplace during all those dark and stormy nights, which inspired Byron to suggest that they all write a ghost story of their own. Poor Mary spent many sleepless nights wracking her brain to come up with a scary story, until she had a nightmare about “a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made; her dream later evolved into the novel’s story.”[Wikipedia, “Frankenstein”]. I think we all agree that Mary Shelley won that competition.
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