Heavy Metal Meets Hellblazer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Mike Chinakos has written a diabolically fun ride in Hollywood Cowboys, an adventure that follows the exploits of an 80′s metal band of the same name that combats the forces of evil.
It’s the 80′s and the Cowboys are at the top of their game in the music scene, touring the world and rubbing shoulders with heavy metal royalty. Still, even among the parties, booze and girls they find time for their other calling as profesional monster hunters. With silver bullets, stakes, enchanted samaurai swords and holy water filled hollow point .357 rounds, they make it their mission to dispatch vampires, werewolves and anything else that goes bump in the night.
A tip leads the band back to their home town of Portland, Oregon where they pick up the trail of a serious bad guy that has tragic history with the drummer and has eluded them for years. Not only is J.J. Jezreel a world class dusche bag record promoter of death metal and goth bands, he’s a supernatural creature of ancient origins whose wicked designs are far more consequentual than just polluting the airwaves with lame music and polluting the blood streams of naive groupies with a vampire connected drug called “D”.
With the aid of their roadies, a doctor with a past, and a rock’n roll journalist they track down Jezreel and his menagerie of freaks for a confrontation of Biblical proportions. Emphasis on Biblical, because if the Cowboys can’t stop the bad guys the world is going to end up looking like the cover of a Slayer album.
This may all sound very tongue-in-cheek, and author Mike Chinakos has said as much, but the novel is very dark and gritty, with enough detail that readers don’t need to entirely suspend belief to enjoy the supernatural element. The writing flows vividly and the character dialogue is snappy, reminescent of our younger days when we were hanging around the boom-box with our own crew, passing the bottle around.
Lovers of metal, especially 80′s metal, will wax nastalgic over the cameo apearances of both rock icons and their tunes playing in the background (the chapter titles read like a Headbanger’s Ball playlist).
Lovers of horror will enjoy the suspense and admire Chinakos’ diverse knowledge of the supernatural in history: Everything from Golgotha, to Pictish druids, to Japanese folklore to even vampires roaming the trenches of WWI.
Residents of Portland will see that the music scene and local landmarks were faithfully represented, and it’s refreshing to see that a rock ‘n roll horror doesn’t need to take place in LA or New York. Portland’s dark, rainy streets and rich history offers a more than appropriate stage.
The only remote drawback to this rock ‘n roll horror is that you want to see more rock ‘n roll…specifically from the protagonists. You want to see them in action, laying down some riffs and rockin’ the house. Plus, only half of them are featured in this adventure. Aside from the drummer and bassist, the other Cowboys are MIA for most of the novel. Also, when we meet the Hollywood Cowboys for the first time they’ve already been monster hunters, leaving us curious how that came about.
Well, despite Chinakos needing to do some ‘splainin, you know a book is good when you can’t put it down. You’re torn between rushing to the finish to find how it ends, and wanting it to never end. That’s the dilemna Hollywood Cowbys puts you in. Fortunately, the end sets you up for a sequel that promises answers and more adventure.
If Metallica is the “Thinking Man’s” metal band, then Hollywood Cowboys is the Thinking Man’s metal horror novel.