Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gil's All Fright Diner

Gil’s All Fright Diner is A. Lee Martinez’s debut novel and what an enjoyable entry into the field it is, too. If the title doesn’t give it away the book sits comfortably in the subgenre termed Urban Fantasy.
Duke and Earl are two good ol’ boys with a difference. Duke is a werewolf and Earl is a vampire. They spend their largely immortal lives (Duke is virtually unkillable and Earl is effectively undead) cruising around North America in Duke’s battered old pickup truck. One night they drop into Gil’s; a seedy looking roadside diner on the outskirts of the one horse town of Rockwood, (it’s never actually stated where Rockwood is, the middle of nowhere is a pretty good guess) for a bite to eat. Before they can finish their meal the diner is attacked by a pack of zombies from the small graveyard situated across the road. Having taken a liking to Gil’s owner; a plucky, plus size woman named Loretta, Duke and Earl decide to stick around to help her out. They find true love (in Earl’s case at least), face death many times and help avert the end of the world in the course of their adventure.
Gil’s All Fright Diner is best described as huge fun. The most succinct and accurate description I can come up with is: think of the first Tremors movie, make Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward (coincidentally Fred Ward’s character in that film is named Earl) into a vampire and a werewolf, and change the ‘graboids’ into zombies. There’s a lot more to it than that, but this is a good start. The continual good-natured bickering between Duke and Earl and the situation they found themselves in (which seemed pretty normal to them) reminded me a lot of the genetically-blessed Winchester brothers from the TV show Supernatural, and most of what happened in the book would not have been out of place in an episode of that particular show. There were pop culture references scattered liberally throughout the narrative, and the dialogue was also reminiscent of another supernatural TV cult favourite: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Aside from Duke, Earl and Loretta, readers are also introduced to Rockwood’s laconic law enforcer; Marshall Kopp, who takes putting down zombie cows and capturing animated scarecrows as all part of a day’s work, he also barely blinks when finding out that the two drifters who just rolled into his town are living embodiments of beings best known from old horror films. Tammy or Mistress Lilith, as she prefers to be known; a nubile high school nymphet who is using an old copy of the Necronomicon and pig latin incantations to bring about the end of the world as we know it (check page 134 for an explanation of how some dreadful actors land syndicated TV shows and multi-picture deals. I knew there had to be something evil at work behind that). Tammy’s moronic follower and boyfriend Chad. The cute guardian of the local graveyard; Cathy and her spectral best friend, the feisty terrier Napoleon.
In a field that is littered with pistol packing slayers (inevitably female and ‘hot’) and lustful vampires, Gil’s All Fright Diner is a welcome change of pace, it picks up a lot of the current concepts in Urban Fantasy, throws them to the ground and then gives them a severe kicking. Just like the evil-chasing brothers they reminded me of, Duke and Earl put everything to rights in Rockwood and then roll off into the sunset; given Earl’s natural aversion to sunlight, they actually roll off into the starlit night, but it just doesn’t sound as good. There was plenty of scope left for further adventures, but as yet the author has preferred to devote himself to writing standalones. Gil’s has encouraged me to seek out the further unrelated works of Mr Martinez, but I live in hope that we will see the further adventures of Duke and Earl sometime in the future.

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