Bull Ingram is a very big fellow. He’s a former Marine who is still a little raw from the war like most men in the early 1950s. Bull works as paid muscle and his primary job is finding people who owe his employers money. When he finds them, he “convinces” them to pay back their debts. He is very good at his job. A folk music dealer wants Bull to locate a mysterious blues man by the name of Ramblin’ John Hastur. Hastur’s music has strange effects on those who listen to it, and Bull’s new employer wants him found. The job leads Bull down a strange and violent path through the underbelly of the 1950’s American South.
John Hornor Jacobs sets a furious pace in Southern Gods. It doesn’t let up till you hit the epilogue. I was sent an audio copy of this from Brilliance Audio, and I was so desperate to keep reading the story that I actually purchased the Kindle version to read on my phone when I was not able to listen to the audio. While reading this book I ran a gamut of emotions. I was excited, amused, scared, and also totally disturbed. I’ve read some messed-up stuff, and Southern Gods was the first to give me serious nightmares.
The heroes of the story battle evil foes and make the occasional bad joke in classic urban fantasy style. The story also contains some truly horrific scenes of violence. Some of it was hard for me to handle — and I’m an avid Joe Abercrombie fan. The frightening and disturbing parts fall well within the horror category of fiction, but the campy urban fantasy moments didn’t always mesh with the disturbing horror, thus creating a kind of identity crisis.
I recommend Southern Gods to fans of both horror and dark fantasy. At 300 pages it is a bit short. With some more space I believe Jacobs would have made the story flow even more smoothly. I would also recommend the audiobook version published by Brilliance Audio. The story is read by Eric Dove, and he is amazing. A voice actor can make or break a story, and Eric made this book a thrill to listen to. I will certainly look into other books he’s voiced.