The Forth Reich: Head of the Snake by Gary Compton (Tickety Boo Press)

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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This is the long mooted and anticipated first novel by Gary Compton, not only a writer but the founder of Tickety Boo Press, and man with the heart the size of a planet – but does his writing match up with his publishing acumen, or indeed to the size of said heart?

Well the Head of the Snake is something a lot different to anything else I have read from TBP so far, which is a good thing, it gives the book a strong identity of its own and a feel that is unique. Compton delivers his prose in a terse punchy style, complimented by short chapters that together with a strong story make the pages turn quickly. The fact that book is a relatively short one too, adds to the breakneck pace.

The story itself could have been a stereotypical one, but it is given enough of a fresh spin to make it work. Detective Freddy Bartlett is coming off the end of a harsh case, as the trial ends he feels it is more than time for him to relax, especially considering his shooting and near-death experience in his relative recent past. Unfortunately for him, rest is the last thing he is going to get as he is almost forced back into the investigation of the death of a man with strong CIA connections. What could have been a murder rapidly starts unwinding something Earth shattering events; events that tie into real world happenings, secret societies, hidden legacies and the feeling that anyone might turn out to be untrustworthy.

For me the story worked best as a thriller. The main protagonists were solid, relatable and as the story develops and they might start to feel a little out of their depth then all the more drama. Compton makes the characters work well, there are some that you recognise as likeable from the word go, some who are not, and there are one or two that just seem to be ‘slimy’ and it is up to the reader to decide whether this is just their character, or if they really are untrustworthy.

The book does come with its element of fantasy, the subtle – but growing psychic abilities that Bartlett is growing into. These work quite well, especially as he begins to discover them. In some ways they were reminiscent of the characters in Brian Lumley’s Necroscope books, which is by no means a bad things.

The stronger elements are more visceral, very much in the face touching on demonic possession and blood magic of the most disturbing proportions. The first chapter, particularly is hard going, but it does show the reader that there are huge stakes in play and that they are evil in nature. Very evil.

Although I have to admit that these supernatural elements were not my favourite parts of the book, they were some of the most descriptive, and show that should Compton wish it, he could turn in some pretty spectacular horror novels.

Of course, the most important part of the book is whether it leaves you with the desire to read the next in the series and with it amply forming a connection with the characters and a dramatic and gripping storyline, the answer is a resounding yes.
 

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