Book Review–Echoes of the Past

I’d read Tim Marquitz’s novel, Echoes of the Past, in late spring 2012. It was an advance review copy for trusted reviewers only. I’d posted a review on Goodreads, but not here. It has bugged me for six months now. Tim has become one of my professional allies in this twisted business of books. The early reviews I’d done of the Demon Squad series were written as a fan, but that line has crossed closer to friend. I can still be honest.

Echoes of the Past is the fourth installment of the Demon Squad series. The greatest challenge is writing a review without giving too much back-story of the previous books and ruining the awesome revelations for those who have yet to read all three. So, here is a very elementary synopsis of the first three books so as to give scope to protagonist Frank’s twisted life.

Armageddon Bound was ground-breaking horror/comedy/urban fantasy. It was raw and flawed, and that is what made it all the more endearing to underdog author, Jake Elliot. The idea and world Tim has created is tremendous. Frank ‘Trig’ is a half-demon who lives with the rest of us sad-sacks here on earth, and he’s been quietly living in the city of El Paseo for a very long time.

Unlike the rest of us, Frank is privileged to know that Lucifer and God have abandoned the known universe to try and patch their own misgivings and hopefully avert the promised battle of Armageddon. Well, some demons and some angels aren’t too cool with the change of plans and think Armageddon should still happen. Poor Frank is stuck in the middle and might just be humanity’s greatest hope.

Resurrection was the second book. It is a story about shambling zombies and the necromancer who controls them. Sexy Lilith, mother of all Succubae, becomes a naughty fly in Frank’s ointment. The necromancer seeks to raise an early model for the Antichrist from the dead —that is of course, if Lilith is capable of telling the truth. Should I mention she is also Frank’s ex-mother-in-law?

At the Gates is the third in series. Heaven is besieged by an army of nephilim (mutant half-angels rejected by the Angelic Host) and a large group of werewolves led by Grawl the werebear. Inside the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life is wounded by the violence that has disrupted the tranquility of Heaven, and reacts by causing death storms raining acid on the earth. The end of At the Gates captured deeper emotion than I thought Tim Marquitz being capable of delivering. This book really amazed me.

Whew….we made it. Now for Echoes of the Past.

Over the course of the last couple books, Frank has captured the interest of a foxy demonic girlfriend. High-five Frank! Her dad is the strongest potential Antichrist, for whom Lucifer deceived two-thousand years earlier. Frank, I’d suggest keeping your hands away from where your girlfriend’s swimming suit covers. Daddy might develop a bit of a grudge from somewhere in his demon-spawned soul.

Speaking of classic devilish deceptions, Frank also learns that Uncle Lou has pulled a fast one over him as well. It looks like Lucifer was getting a little back-door lovin’ from Frank’s mom, which turns out to be a direct reason why Frank’s mom died violently so many years ago.

Not knowing about Frank’s new found secret, Lucifer has sent message to Frank, the only half-demon Satan believes he can trust. The message is about extra-dimensional terrorists who are coming to lay waste to all of God’s creations. With God and Lucifer’s relationship mended, together they fight a new war, this time for the sake of all existence. Back on Earth stands a resentful Frank, now expected to save creation on the words of the world’s greatest liar.

There are many great things in this book.

The #1 great thing––the main villain can use the words of famous authors to manifest objects into real life; my particular favorite was the scene with Moby Dick. I still chuckle with the memory. ––Girls, get your minds out of the gutter, I’m talking literature, not fantasy––Sheesh.

Great thing #2––the new involvement of the US Government was also worth a deep laugh. Truly, they are as incompetent as most cities’ DMVs, but Uncle Sam is now fighting supernatural crime. Thank you, Team America. Frank screws up big time and becomes the enemy of the state. Government spooks wait at random places in El Paseo with sniper rifles, Frank is their target.

#3––Frank is truly alone to fix this extra-dimensional problem. Almost all his buddies, (save Katon and Rahim) have turned their backs on Frank. Even Falcor and Baalth have shunned him. (These are both demons, who in past books have indirectly given Frank a hand.)

This episode was the most imaginative and tightest writing I’ve seen in the series. However, I thought the punch-line was a little too predictable. Don’t take my word on it though, I am a writer and it is hard to trick writers with writing. The big punch-line, the title reason for Echoes of the Past was something I’d suspected since Resurrection. In defense of the story, I read very slowly and I’m a perceptive reader. The true mastery of Tim Marquitz is shown in his delicate plotting.

I eagerly await the next installment of his series. My greatest hope is that he takes his time and does it right––bring it like a baseball bat against the world’s head, just like he’s done with each book so far.

 

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Seven Questions with Tim Marquitz

[This was my first interview, cool huh? My we’ve come a long way, and Tim Marquitz was a good sport to be my Guinea Pig.]

 

I’m a fan of Tim’s Demon Squad series and his third in series, At the Gates, is to be released tomorrow, Dec 1st. Coincidentally, my first novel, The Wrong Way Down, will be sitting on the virtual bookshelf right next to his.  Having the opportunity to interview an author as vividly imaginative as Tim Marquitz has been a real honor.

 

JE: Who were your early author influences? What have you read that convinced you to seek writing your own story?

 TM: There have been a ton of authors who’ve influenced my writing, from Michael Moorcock to Anne McCaffrey and Stephen King, but I’d have to say Clive Barker was the most influential in making me want to write. His dark perversity wrapped up in such gorgeous prose was something I initially wanted to emulate, but lacked the poetry to properly pay tribute to.

 Jim Butcher is a more recent influence. He is the most responsible for my creation of the Demon Squad series. He showed me with the Dresden Files that you can write a great, emotionally impactful story without having to prettify the language.

JE: You’ve got a few other books out, how many is the total count, including your latest, At the Gates?  On the topic of your other works, what is the Sepulchral Earth series about?

 TM: As of December, when the third book in the Demon Squad series comes out from Damnation Books, I’ll have seven releases.

 Sepulchral Earth is my attempt at writing in the zombie genre while trying to create my own little niche. The story focuses on a necromancer, Harlan, who has lost his family to the undead. He wants nothing more than to free their spirits so they can rest in peace. Along the way, Harlan encounters the undead in all their forms and worst still, the living, most of whom want nothing more than to see Harlan dead.

JE: How many books do you foresee in telling the Demon Squad series?

 TM: I’ll write the Demon Squad books until I feel I’ve jumped the shark or they become boring to me. I like the idea of a flagship series that I can keep going back to, and the DS world is so wide open that I can’t picture myself running out of fresh ideas for books.

JE: One of the things that drew me to reading Armageddon Bound was that on the Damnation Books Author Page it said you have a background in grave-digging. That is a unique job, how much did it contribute to your dark, yet very funny sense of humor?

TM: Grave digging has certainly enhanced my descriptive skills when it comes to the smell and sight of dead bodies. As for my sense of humor, I’m not sure it did much. I was already a twisted, sarcastic asshole before I started digging graves. If anything, it may have added to my irreverent attitude toward death. It’s hard to worry too much about it when you see it so often it becomes mundane.

JE: What inspired such a grim tale of modern day wizards, angels and demons?

TM: Short answer, the Dresden Files. After reading Jim’s books, it really inspired me to be more honest with my skillset and leanings. As much as I love Clive Barker’s writing, I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to match his grace when it comes to storytelling. Jim showed me you can write great stories without having to dress the language up in a tux.

 Once I had the framework for what I wanted to do, the story that would become the Demon Squad just spilled out of me.

JE: Frank is a very complex character, being half-angel, half-devil, he has shown a great display of paradox. It is one Freudian conundrum. What spurned the idea to tell this tale from the twisted and very-split perspective of Frank Trigg?

TM: Frank is actually half-devil, half-human. Scarlett is the mix of both angel and demon. As for the enigma that is Frank, he is definitely a spawn of the weird, perversely violent, and extravagant world he was raised in. He just fit the role.

 I wanted a character that had the inside track to what was going on, but I needed a flawed character who was still some measure of an outcast. The role didn’t call for a character who was a super badass, but one who would be challenged by the changes in the world. I very much wanted a Died Hard (Bruce Willis) type MC who won through on heart more than he ever did on skill. There’s a primitive satisfaction in seeing the underdog rise up against the odds and succeed.

JE: You really did your homework on religion to put this series together. Is religion a lifestyle for you, or is it a hobby? Or both, maybe neither…

TM: Neither really. I did some research as to the relationships of certain angels to one another, and studied some of the Christian mythos, but I didn’t do much else. I wanted a framework people could grasp immediately, but I also wanted enough freedom to smudge the lines. Growing up in today’s world, you can’t help but have a passing familiarity with the world I’m working in, regardless of your religious background. That was what I was counting on when I did my world building.

JE: What scenes have you written that you are very proud of? Which ones were the hardest to get right?

 TM: I’m proud of everything I’ve written, to a degree. The worst, and also the best, part of being a writer is that I grow with every story I tell. While I can find something I like in every story I tell, each new piece brings with it new challenges and new opportunities to learn, as well as the growth from the last piece. As such, every new story I write is the best in my eyes.

 I think the hardest stories to write are the ones where I step away from my experiences. When I create a character whose experience is different from mine, I have to dig deeper to flesh that character out and make it real. It’s a challenge where I’m stuck relying on the media I’ve absorbed in my life or on the social consciousness of the world.

JE: Thanks Tim, this interview was fun. Within the next couple months, (mid-January to early February) I plan to read Greg Chapman’s The Noctuary, a tale of a tormented writer and his dark muse. Then I’ll see if he wants to do an interview. (It is far easier to interview after I’m familiar with the author’s work.)