Posts Tagged ‘noir’

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from R.S. Belcher, who just released the second book in the Nightwise series through Tor Books. The Night Dahlia is an urban fantasy with noir elements and has been described as “Supernatural meets L.A. Confidential“. The Night Dahlia continues the story of Laytham Ballard, a once member of the Nightwise, a group of mages tasked with protecting the world from evil supernatural forces. R.S. Belcher decided to stop by and share his inspiration on creating the main protagonist of Laytham Ballard and some of the things that inspired him while crafting the world the series takes place in. 

I would like to thank Rod for stopping by The Horror Bookshelf and Anna at Tor Publicity for helping set everything up!


“The Knave’s Knigdom: Laytham Ballard and the world of the Night Dahlia” by R.S. Belcher

My new novel, The Night Dahlia, being released by Tor Books on April 3rd, is the second book in the Nightwise series, the first being 2015’s Nightwise.  The Nightwise universe is built on the foundations of my favorite kind of fantasy, the contemporary genre, where the supernatural and the mythic rub shoulders with the world we live in, and the Noir genre of fatalistic, flawed heroes prowling worlds where the odds are stacked against them, criminals, and street hustlers working angles and plotting capers.  

I wanted my protagonist, Laytham Ballard, to be a kind of occult “rock star” after the VH1 “Where Are They Now” episode.  He had immense power, and he could have been this great world-changing person, but he fell to arrogance, selfishness, pride and self-aggrandizement.  I wanted Laytham to be someone the reader would probably not like, but probably knew and probably understood.

It’s quite a dance to make a character an asshole and still want the reader to follow them in their story, and root for them.  There is a line in Nightwise that Ballard says that all my beta readers and my editor didn’t like, and for good reason.  It implied all the worst aspects of the character and confirmed for the reader what a lying S.O.B Ballard was.  I’ve had several people tell me they threw the book and cussed my character out when he said this thing. But as far as I know, everyone picked the book back up.  If you didn’t, please do, you may be pleasantly surprised.

I try to present the world we live in as much as I can in the series.  For example, I include stuff like Pokemon Go, kids in Black Panther T-shirts, a wizard that crafts spells through Twitter, social media data mining, and real world individuals, some of them pretty nefarious (one of which died on me in the time between finishing the Night Dahlia and publication, good riddance by the way).  

It can be challenging to include stuff that’s topical and current when you’re writing several years out from publication.  Part of it is trying to forecast things you don’t expect to be flashes in the pan, and part of it is listening to your instinct about what’s going to bounce around for a bit in the societal echo chamber.  Some are hits, some are misses, but I’m pretty happy with how many of my little Easter eggs remain at least a little relevant.

The end result for the Nightwise series is, hopefully, to create an urban fantasy world that is markedly unique from what readers may be used to.  You can judge for yourself by checking out the Night Dahlia on April 3rd.  I wanted to thank Rich and the Horror Bookshelf for giving me the privilege of posting today.


R.S. Belcher’s Official Website

Tor Books’ Official Website

Purchase Darkest Hours: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

About R.S. Belcher

Photo Credit: David Hungate of Dominion Images

R.S. (Rod) Belcher is an award-winning newspaper and magazine editor and reporter.

Rod has been a private investigator, a DJ, a comic book store owner and has degrees in criminal law, psychology and justice and risk administration, from Virginia Commonwealth University. He’s done Masters work in Forensic Science at The George Washington University, and worked with the Occult Crime Taskforce for the Virginia General Assembly.

The Grand Prize winner of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Anthology contest, Rod’s short story “Orphans” was published in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 9 published by Simon and Schuster in 2006. It was his first professional fiction sale.

Rod’s first novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, was published by Tor Books in 2013. The sequel, The Shotgun Arcana, was published in 2014 and the third book in the Golgotha series, The Queen of Swords was published in 2017. He is currently at work on the fourth book in the series.

His novel, Nightwise, was released in August, 2015, and was reissued with additional material in January of 2018. The sequel to Nightwise, The Night Dahlia, will be released in April of 2018.

Rod’s novel, The Brotherhood of the Wheel was published by Tor in March of 2016. It was a Locus Awards finalist for Horror in 2017, and is currently in development as a television series. The sequel to Brotherhood, The King of the Road, is scheduled for publication by Tor in December 2018.

He lives in Roanoke, Virginia with his children, Jonathan and Emily.




Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Length: 234 Pages

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

I am a huge fan of all things zombies – books, TV shows, movies, you name it. However, with the huge popularity of the zombie genre from The Walking Dead’s stranglehold on popular culture to the slew of movies and books dedicated to the undead, it sometimes seems that the zombie genre is in danger of being over-saturated. However, Stephen Kozeniewski’s novel Braineater Jones manages to bring something new and exciting to the table.

The novel kicks off with the very simple sentence: “I woke up dead this morning.” A man wakes up dead face down in the pool of a mansion. He discovers he is not breathing and that his blood is seeping into the water of the pool with no idea of how he ended up in this predicament. He enters a mansion in search of clues about his identity and murder and quickly finds himself trapped when two men enter the premise seeking to rob the home. After being discovered and narrowly escaping re-death, he finds himself in The Welcome Mat – a slum located in Ganesh City that is home to the undead. Armed with little more than a notebook, a list of nagging questions and booze, he must begin piecing together the details of his identity.

He winds up in a tenement where the man lists a possible list of names, aliases, that its clients use. The man uses the term “braineater” – which he hears after being attacked by a gang of homeless people under a bridge – with one of these aliases to become Braineater Jones. While staying at the hotel, a mysterious man known only as Mr. Lazar kicks in Jones’ door and gives him the first true hints as to what he is and what it will take to survive. He learns that amnesia is part of the re-animation process, but that it normally only lasts a short while. Based of the information he gathers, he realizes his memories should be coming back, but for some reason he is still not able to recall anything about his past life. He gets brief flashes of what may be his old life, but they are fleeting and he is unable to make any sense of these visions that often accompany a violent migraine.

After accepting a job as a private investigator from Mr. Lazar in exchange for booze, Braineater Jones takes on a few simple cases to help out the residents of the Welcome Mat, but quickly finds himself in numerous dangerous situations that ranges from run-ins with a gang known as The Infected and a voodoo priest all the way to stumbling across a vast conspiracy surrounding the source of control over the Welcome Mat. As Braineater Jones begins unraveling the conspiracy, he learns the shocking truth of who he really was and who was responsible for his murder.

Braineater Jones may not be a straightforward horror novel, but there is a lot to enjoy for fans of the genre as Kozeniewski takes the zombie mythology and morphs it into something wildly imaginative. The novel is a mix of horror and noir with just enough humor that makes for an extremely entertaining read that is hard to put down. Braineater Jones doesn’t just succeed on its originality, but also its extremely rich world-building and unique and vibrant characters that help the Welcome Mat come to life.

I have read a lot of books this year after launching The Horror Bookshelf and Braineater Jones easily ranks as one of the most enjoyable novels I have read. Kozeniewski’s novel is clever, full of fun and for zombie fans looking for something new and exciting, Braineater Jones is an absolute must read. While Braineater Jones works well as a stand alone novel and Kozeniewski has plenty of other projects going on, I can’t help but hope that this is only the first of many books featuring zombie private investigator Braineater Jones!

Rating: 5/5


Stephen Kozeniewski’s Official Website

Red Adept Publishing’s Official Website

Purchase Braineater Jones on Amazon