Title: Occult Detective Magazine #6 (December 2019)
Publisher: Cathaven Press
Editors: John Linwood Grant and Dave Brzeski
Contributors: Melanie Atherton Allen, Autumn Barlow, Tase Thompson, Matthew Willis, Cliff Biggers, I.A. Watson, Kelly M. Hudson, Bob Freeman, Bryce Beattie, Alexis Ames, S.L. Edwards, John Paul Fitch, Ian Hunter, James A. Moore, Charles R. Rutledge, Russell Smeaton, Craig Stanton, Michael Keller
Occult Detective Quarterly was a happy find: a magazine dedicated to fiction, essays, and reviews centered on the character of the “occult detective.” As such, the stories in the first few issues ran the gamut from urban fantasy to dark fantasy to horror, but all contained a strong element of mystery.
Sadly, Sam Gafford, the founder of ODQ, died unexpectedly in mid-2019, leaving the future of the magazine in question. Old friends and fellow enthusiasts John Linwood Grant and Dave Brzeski stepped forward to take up the mantel. While they renamed the journal Occult Detective Magazine, they retained those qualities which made ODQ so enjoyable: quality stories, in-depth essays, and detailed reviews.
This sixth issue features two tributes to Gafford; an appreciation of The Feng Shui Detective series by Nuru Vittachi; an interview with author Jonathan Raab; reviews by Michael Keller and Brzeski (which seriously added to my To Read list); and short fiction by a wide and talented pool of authors.
While I enjoyed every story in this issue, the stand-outs for me were —
Allen’s highly amusing “The Rending Veil,” which features two wealthy playboys/amateur adventurers who find themselves coming to the aid of an old acquaintance whom they thought had been lost in the realm of the fae. Only now he is back with dire warnings about the possible end of the world, unless they help him with a little problem. (If this is ever adapted to film, I could totally see Martin Freeman and Simon Pegg running around the woods, being chased by headless Celtic demi-gods.)
Thompson’s African-based “Komolafe,” the only poem in the collection, features rich language, murder, monsters in the night, and an all-consuming, supernatural love. I would love to see more atmospheric, mythological pieces like this.
Watson’s entertaining “Vinnie de Soth and the Phantom Skeptic” finds our eponymous occultist stuck trying to solve a murder and stop a rapidly evolving curse. Unfortunately, the ghost of his murder victim refuses to admit that he is dead or that he is a ghost; the resulting conversation is a heck of a lot of fun for the reader, if frustrating for de Soth himself. I really like the idea Watson introduced, that there are a number of powerful Families who keep the general public ignorant about the existence of the supernatural; even going so far, de Soth speculates, as to push books which “disprove” the reality of magic to the top of the bestseller list.
“In Perpetuity” by Ames is a rare science fiction/fantasy. On a station in orbit over Mars, where humans and vampires and werewolves all make their home, a science experiment gone horribly wrong has ripped a hole in reality. Now a demon is hunting the crew, and only Detective Basil Sinclair —with a wizard or two somewhere back in his family tree — can stop it. This story was a lot of fun, with just a touch of romance, and I would love to know more about this society (like, what sort of precautions do vampires have to take in space? how does being outside the influence of the moon effect a werewolf’s shifting? and so on). Here’s hoping for a follow-up story in the next issue.
Finally, there is “Angelus” by Fitch, set in modern day London. When angels suddenly appear all over the city, Anna and her ghost sidekick/roommate Turk decide to investigate. They have to figure out what the angels are doing before they cause more damage and, probably, cause a massive religious panic. Anna is a great character, and I love her interactions with Turk. Even better is the presentation of the angels: these are not fluffy-winged cherubs plucking away at golden harps. These are utterly alien, supremely powerful and frightening beings who have a Mission and will not allow any puny little human to stand in their way. Again, I’d really like to see more stories with Anna and Turk.
While there were a few typographical errors scattered through the text (such as missing quotation marks or misuse of a period in place of a comma), ODM #6 is still highly entertaining. The variety of settings and writing styles keep the reader engaged, and the reviews and essays offer up even more potential stories to be enjoyed.
Highly recommended to fans of the occult detective genre, especially fans of Algernon Blackwood, J.L Bryan, Jim Butcher, Harry Connolly, Simon Green, Nina Milton, E.E. Richardson, and E.J. Stevens.
[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. Check there for a complete list of her publications.]