I’ve made no attempts to hide my respect and appreciation for Timothy Baker’s written works. As luck would have it, I’ve been published in three anthologies with Timothy. (However, all three have recently gone out of print.) I’ve heard that we are again going to be printed together in an upcoming anthology named, That Hoodoo, Voodoo, That You Do.
Earlier this year, I’d read Timothy’s debut novel, Hungry Ghosts Path of the Dead. It was a fun read about what happened in Tibet on the same night as George Romano’s Night of the Living Dead is taking place in the mid-west U.S.
That review is linked here.
Monster Ink is Timothy Baker’s collection of three short stories—Monster Ink, Hell and Tarnation, and Front Lines, Big City. This is very quick read.
Monster Ink leads this collection and takes up half the book’s pages. I thought the story started with a short sense of disorientation, but it soon paints a picture of Johnny, a member of a motorcycle club, whose skin is rotting and falling off. He is in the backroom of a tattoo gallery, begging for help. Pony, the tattoo artist, is another member of the motorcycle club who promises to help Johnny ‘get himself together.’ To tell you how Pony helps Johnny is a huge spoiler. Not only is Monster Ink an enjoyable horror tale, but Timothy Baker has a true flair for dark humor. I felt the humor translated well in this kickoff story.
Hell and Tarnation also shows Timothy’s dark humor. This story serves as a strong bridge between the style of horror and urban fantasy. Leonard is a hell-spawned protagonist—a fallen angel who has come up to Earth seeking a psychotic escapee from Hell. Leonard arrives at a murder scene where he finds an abandoned baby (infant monkey,) a Goth girl (Infant Monkey’s babysitter,) and two horribly disfigured corpses. Somewhere, a psychotic demon waits for its chance to strike. Leonard turns out to be a fantastic protagonist. If Hell can produce a hero, Leonard made the grade.
Front Lines, Big City is top notch urban fantasy telling of an anonymous sorcerer who was a 1st Lieutenant for the winning side in the 2nd American Civil War. Warlocks were trained on both sides of the battlefield to rain hell upon the opposing troops, but now that the war is over, all mages are fugitives—their reward for military service is death. Our anonymous storyteller reveals how he’s hidden from the government for several years as a sales clerk in a convenience store. Outside, two rival gangs fight over their territory in front of the gas station. Inside, an embittered enemy shows up to kill the narrator. This is an action-packed urban fantasy ending with a pleasantly ambiguous surprise.
For the last couple of days, I’ve tried to think of movies, or other books I’ve read that could compare to Timothy Baker’s style, but had a hard time concluding which ones were best. I’d say ‘Return of the Living Dead’ and maybe the original ‘Evil Dead’ but Timothy’s work is better than both those examples. However, both those films do share in having independent personalities, and that might better define Timothy Baker’s work.