Charlie Huston’s Already Dead has got to be hands-down the hardest boiled vampire novel I have ever read. His character Joe Pitt would stand up alongside Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, and the current crop of tough guy private eyes like Spenser and Elvis Cole. Except that Pitt works the darkest part of the street and the deepest part of the gutter. And he’s usually facing things that come from the grave.
Pitt is 45-years old but looks half that because he’s got a vampire virus that requires him to feed on human blood but also makes him relatively unkillable. You can take his head off or snap his neck to end his unlife, but anything less than that guarantees that he’s going to stay on the case and catch whoever he’s after.
Like these quintessential private eyes, though, Pitt has to operate between agencies that could kill him in an instant if he steps too far out of line. He doesn’t allay himself with the other vampire organizations in New York City, and he can’t quite stay off their radar. All of these groups find some use for Pitt along the way, work too dirty for their own hands, or too risky.
I love the way the character is constantly walking a tightrope throughout this series (so far four books, although the author is currently planning to write one more), and I love the mythology Huston has created in New York’s Alphabet City. Although the prose is terse and pared down, from Pitt’s New Yorker first-person voiceover littered with f-bombs, I got a real sense of this other world.
Pitt, like his other fictional counterparts, plays the game by his own rules, but he’s struggling for survival more than Spade or Marlowe ever did against forces stronger and bigger than he is. I like that underdog aspect, and Huston plays it like a virtuoso.
At first, Pitt’s current case looks like a relatively simple one of little girl lost. Amanda Horde has run away from home and her mother wants her returned as soon as possible. However, her wealthy husband, who is also allied with powerful vampire families, doesn’t care for Pitt’s involvement and makes it clear that he’s taking his life in his own hands by following through on the case.
Pitt was picked for a purpose, though. He was once a child of the streets too, and he knows what’s waiting on Amanda Horde. So he goes searching for her despite the danger. Problems get worse when all of the vampire clans get involved to one degree or another.
Then there are the zombies.
Already Dead was my first Joe Pitt book, but I intend to read them all. I listened to this one on audio book, and Scott Brick delivers a stunning vocalization of the characters, the mood, and the city that just draws you in. I’m really torn between reading the next one or listening to it. I read much faster than an audio book, but I loved the feeling that Pitt was sitting down telling me this story himself.