Review: Bloody Waters by Jason Franks

bloodywatersI have been telling people lately that I don’t think there are enough books in which rock and roll saves the world from monsters (which explains a recent project of my own: if there aren’t enough of ’em, I’ll just have to write one!). At the one day Oz Horror Con, I met Jason Franks, a comics writer whose first novel had just been published. Rock and Roll? Check. Monsters? Check. Saving the world? Well, only sort of, but still, it sounded like the very thing! I promptly bought  Bloody Waters for my Kindle.

Franks, on his website, says that Bloody Waters isn’t like other stories about rock and roll and the Devil that you may have heard. “The stories you know are about the price of selling out. Bloody Waters is about the price of keeping your integrity. Also, pop stars, demons, sorcerers, and mafia priests. Mostly, though, it’s about music.”

And what a little corker this story is! Fast-paced, funny, exciting and a smashing good read, Bloody Waters is all about rock legend in the making, Clarice Marnier. She’s focused, uncompromising, brilliant and totally badass. She goes around making hardcore rock music and offending people left, right and centre. It’s true, with the help of her laid-back boyfriend Johnny, who is a warlock, she had to make a deal with Satan in order to get a recording contract, but the talent and the drive are all hers. And she didn’t make a deal to give up her own soul, either. She’s not stupid. Of course, deals with the devil are never quite what you think they are. Come to that, though, the devil isn’t necessarily quite what you think he is either.

The story zooms along at a cracking pace, and the whole Satan, demons, souls and monsters business is very much at the periphery at the start, slowly building in frequency and intensity as the story continues. You have to wait to the last chapter to find out the whole of what the Devil is up to, and the answer is both a little surprising and very fitting.

The characterisation is terrific, especially Clarice’s complete hard-assery. I think I’d like to meet her, except that she frightens me a little. She’s smart, capable, in charge and absolutely will not put up with any of your bullshit. She’s not incapable of kindness, but she does seem incapable of tact. I wish I’d written her!

Franks’ description of music, the eponymous band Bloody Waters, Clarice’s band mates, the other bands, the humans and demons scattered throughout the music industry and all the supporting characteres are superbly yet sparingly described. Chapters are broken up into sub-chapters, almost like a series of albums and EPs, and the layout keeps the story barrelling along, even while the key underlying story takes its time to unfold. It’s a terrific balance to have achieved.

I had seriously good fun reading this book, with its earthy language, wicked humour, unexpected turns, guts-and-glory rock and the stupendous Clarice and her slightly terrifying, uncompromising integrity. Highly recommended!

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