Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Author Steven L. Shrewsbury (Hawg, Thoroughbred) has long been compared to Robert E. Howard, who is best know for creating Conan the Barbarian, although he wrote in practically every paying field in the 20s and 30s. This comparison comes closer, in my opinion, in his new novel Tormentor, than any of his other work. Tormentor is the book Robert E. Howard would have written had he been born seventy years later.

Battlin’ John Kern is a former boxer, a one-time top contender. He gives up the ring after a man dies from his fists, and joins the Marines. After being wounded in a blast in Iraq, Kern begins seeing unworldly visions, which persist after he is sent to Germany. There, the visions lead him into a battle with a transsexual alchemist*, a group of necrophiliacs, and a cult dedicated to bringing a legendary torturer (the titular Tormentor) back from Hell to ravage the Earth. Kern is never one to back away from a fight, but he’ll face long (and weird) odds here.

There is also a story-within-the-story, an adventure of Shrewsbury’s barbarian creation, Erik Bedlam, a Conan-esque berserker with a shard of metal stuck in his skull. Bedlam stories are always a treat, and here you learn the ultimate fate of the character. The story is integral to the main plot, so it is not added just to make the book longer.

One of the best adjectives used to describe Howard’s work (though mostly out of use today) is “two-fisted”. It denotes a rugged action oriented approach to story-telling. I’m happy to say Shrewsbury’s work, including this novel is very two-fisted. Characters are direct, and the action sequences come along quickly. Battlin’ John Kern is a hero writ large, and his opponents are of the type seldom seen.

As always, Shrewsbury pulls no punches. The sex and violence is graphic, and if you occasionally have to pause in reading you Murder, She Wrote novel tie-in because it makes your heart race too much, his work is probably not for you. But anyone who appreciates a good story well told, and an adventuresome style rarely seen these days, should be reading Shrewsbury’s work, and should definitely pick up Tormentor. It is published by Lachesis Publishing, and may be ordered on line or wherever fine books are sold.

My 300th post on this site. Yay me. I need to get a real life.

* As a running gag on some message boards, I’ve teased Shrewsbury about scenes in his work where a male character suffers a traumatic loss of his genitals. In this book, Shrewsbury has reversed that trend, and added a penis to a woman, so I guess there is a type of cosmic balance at work here.

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