John Hornor Jacobs’ Southern GodsAugust 15, 2011
Recent World War II veteran Bull Ingram is working as muscle when a Memphis DJ hires him to find Ramblin’ John Hastur. The mysterious blues man’s dark, driving music – broadcast at ever-shifting frequencies by a phantom radio station – is said to make living men insane and dead men rise. Disturbed and enraged by the bootleg recording the DJ plays for him, Ingram follows Hastur’s trail into the strange, uncivilized backwoods of Arkansas, where he hears rumors the musician has sold his soul to the Devil. But as Ingram closes in on Hastur and those who have crossed his path, he’ll learn there are forces much more malevolent than the Devil and reckonings more painful than Hell… In a masterful debut of Lovecraftian horror and Southern gothic menace, John Hornor Jacobs reveals the fragility of free will, the dangerous power of sacrifice, and the insidious strength of blood.
It’s not the sort of book I’d normally read on my own — I have a stack of stuff I’m compelled to read, and my own tastes run away from the supernaturally spooky, but it’s one of the best written books from a new author I’ve read in awhile. (I almost said “best written works of genre fiction” there but I realized I’d be damining it with faint praise. And I don’t want to do that. John Hornor Jacobs can flat out write — no qualifiers needed. And it seems like I’ve read a lot of books lately by writers who can’t, or at least didn’t. )
And his story is clever, and highly entertaining, as it plays with the myths that attend Robert Johnson and Sam Phillips and Sun Records. I got a kick out of his portrayal of 1951 Arkansas.