The first in a new series by Gregory Lamberson, Personal Demons: The Jake Helman Files is often reminiscent of old pulp detective and horror fiction novels. It's interesting that the author is known mainly for his background in indie gore-fest movies and much of that visual style and flair translates to the storytelling here. Yet you quickly appreciate how fantasy and horror scenes that can seem low budget and exploitational on film can come alive on the page and here in narration. It allows the author to paint rich scenes, and also allows the reader or listener to fill in their own blanks and direct their own internal movies. Personal Demons tells the story of a dirty cop and tortured soul tough guy, Jake Helman, who's trying to solve a series of murders that's taken a very personal turn. The story is part crime drama and part supernatural thriller, but also throws in such diverse elements as power-hungry corporate despots, soul snatchers, genetically engineered mutants, and demonic/angelic interventions.
Narrator Chris Hurt plays right into the retro detective and pulp fiction feel with his deep smoky vibrato. Jake's painted as a man of the shadows and dive bars. Hurt plays Jake Helman as a likeable sympathetic character, yet one who's all too human with very real weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Jake considers himself a good cop though maybe he's seen a bit too much, become a bit too world weary. He's also not above turning to drugs to help soften the considerable sharp edges in his life. Yet despite his failings, you always feel there's an elusive core of a personal code if you dig down deep enough. Despite the wild ride, Chris Hurt always manages to keep the character anchored.
Personal Demons will serve Lamberson's army of cult movie fans well, but should also expand that base to those of us who love just good visual storytelling, whether it's screenplay, novel, or audiobook. It's entertaining, and makes for a good enjoyable listen. It's an interesting study, too, for a generation whose references are no longer short stories and novels, but almost a purely visual world of television and film. Cleo Creech