Saturday, February 4, 2012

BLOODLINES : Serial Horror in Fiction #8 : Andrew Mayhem by Jeff Strand

by Bill Lindblad

Mayhem is an atypical hero for a horror tale. He bears more in common with characters like George MacDonald Frasier's Flashman or Robert Lynn Asprin's Skeeve than he does Repairman Jack or John the Balladeer. He's not incompetent; he's merely a fairly normal person who continues to find himself in abnormal situations.

Unfortunately for him, these aren't the sort of abnormal situations that might find you dressed in a Halloween costume at 2 in the morning, buying pet shampoo at an all-night pharmacy (we've all been there.) Instead, these are the sort of abnormal situations that find him in a room full of decapitated people, or trying to escape from a forest full of deadly booby-traps. Andrew doesn't go seeking out these types of situations, but he finds himself swept along by fate and a series of decisions which seem not only reasonable but the best possible options at the time.

The Mayhem books are thus written, like the Flashman or Myth series, with an eye toward humor. Strand delivers on this note, producing books which are consistently funny. Unlike other humor series of this type, Strand also includes horror elements - not merely an occasional use of a trope, but major aspects of horror stories which play strongly into the plot. There are, in each of his books, gruesome deaths, innocent victims, slow torture and building tension. The result is a strange combination of humor and horror that is typically reserved for the short story, and almost never in a novel. Strand consistently succeeds magnificently in maintaining the balance throughout the stories.

The series to date:
Graverobbers Wanted, No Experience Necessary (2001)
Single White Psychopath Seeks Dame (2003)
Casket for Sale: Only Used Once (2004)
Suckers (w/J.A. Konrath) (2009)
Lost Homicidal Maniac (Answers to "Shirley") (2011)

--Bill Lindblad