Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: The Case of the Syphilitic Sister by James Hutchings

This is one of my infrequent book reviews.  In fact, the other one I did was for The New Death and other stories, also by James Hutchings.  James ask me to take a look at his newest project, a piece of serial fiction he is releasing through Jukepop Serials, a literary website providing serialized fiction in a variety of genres.  James described it as 1930's era pulp superhero action and then some other words, but, really, he had me at "1930's pulp superhero action".  Plus, I REALLY liked The New Death and other stories, so I wanted to read more of his work.  (I'd link to New Death, but I'm not certain which link he'd prefer.  I'll add it later when I get confirmation.) (See Update at the bottom of this post.)

The Case of the Syphilitic Sister
First, let me fess up: I want you to go read this and up-vote it so James will publish the next chapter sooner.  I WANT to know what happens next and I'm terribly impatient.

Chapter 1 starts with a trope and subverts it immediately.  The classy dame meets the detective in his office.  Except the office is neat and orderly and has clean and polite man at the desk fronting for the actual "detectives".  I put detectives in quotes as they are actually the superheros.  It being the 1930's, these are the people in costumes using their brains, brawn, and gadgets kind of heros.  To make their organization seem larger and more powerful, they take turns acting as each others followers, which is a pretty neat trick.

I won't get too deep into the plot as A) I want you to go and read it, and B) it's only one chapter long so far and just gets the ball rolling, not deep into plot.  Suffice to say, there is a mystery and the heros are on the case.

Heros shown so far are Green Dragon, who is the client contact, wearing a dark green suit with pistols that can act as flamethrowers.  He is also good with people, which is why he talks with the clients.  Next introduced is Princess Iron Fan.  I'm guessing she's a martial artist, but that's a guess as she her abilities are not discussed.  Once on the job, The Kabbalist is at work, with the other heros dressed as his sidekicks, The Golems.  I'd like to say I really like this method of force multiplication.

While on the job, the heros run across thugs after the same thing they are.  This interaction is very entertaining in how the thugs react.  One pees himself when the Kabalist and the Golems "appear", one throws a punch into some body armor (hurting his hand), and one decides to go for a switch-blade.  The one with the wounded hand quietly tells the third thug to put away the knife and then has a whispered negotiation with the Kabalist to avoid the fight.  Both agree and the Kabalist loudly orders the thugs to begone and, on cue, the thugs run away screaming and everyone saves face.

I really like this part.  Being a 1930's superhero is dangerous to both sides and the fact that both sides are willing to publicly play their parts while quietly negotiating what those parts are going to be is believable.  Neither side wants to push things too far, but neither side can afford to lose face and the cops give both a sideways look when they get involved.

The only downside I'm seeing is one of some anachronistic language.  The most noticeable (for me) is a reference to "suicide by cop", a term that was not coined until the 1990's.  I am a stickler for things like this, so it was jarring.

As I said at the top, I really want to see where this story goes and I'm eagerly awaiting the next chapter, which I hear will be released on the 22nd of this month.  He has material for several chapters, so perhaps you could go, give it a read, and up-vote to get him to publish a little more often that monthly.  It's worth the time to read and I think you too will want to find out what happens next.

UPDATE:The New Death and other stories can be found here: 
Barnes and Noble

UPDATE 2: Chapter 2 is now published.  Go read it! (You'll need to log in to read it.  It's worth it.)


  1. Thanks for the review. I'm hoping to put chapters up monthly. The next one should be up around the 22nd.


    1. And I am eagerly looking forward to it.

  2. PS JukePop Serials doesn't seem to have the capacity to edit chapters once they're up, so I can't fix the thing about 'suicide by cop' unfortunately. But I've noted it in my own copy of the story, for future versions.

    1. D'oh! I meant to meantion that JukePop doesn't allow editing after posting, so that that issue is on them, not the authors.

      This is something they should seriously look at allowing, possibly with a rivision notation, just so people will know a revision happened, but still get to see the corrected text. Wikipedia has a tab that shows revisions on an entry and something like that would be useful.

      OTOH, I can see why they might not want that, as they may want it clear whose work is solid and who tends to have typos. Plus, changes would play havoc on the voting side if readers do not like the changes, but the votes are aleady adjustible, so that shouldn't be an issue. And trying to treat the material as if it were printed material seems backwards.