Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Guest Blogger: Justin Gustainis

And the winner of Justin's book is: Gabriella Hewitt! Send me your snail mail info, Gabriella, and I'll pass it along to Justin. Thanks so much to everyone for participating!!

Occult Detectives Rock!

My first exposure to the “occult detective” genre (although nobody was calling it that back then) was in 1977, when I stumbled upon a made-for-TV movie called “Spectre.” It features a criminologist (played by Robert Culp) and his physician friend/assistant, who are called in to investigate a case of possible demonic possession in England. My reaction, when it was over: “This is sooo cool!”

I’d always been a voracious reader, and my diet was heavy on mystery, with some leavening provided by both fantasy and horror. It had never occurred to me that you could combine these genres. And since I usually get more pleasure from reading than from TV, I looked to see if anyone was writing this stuff -- and they were. There were a number of occult detective series, in paperback original, being written in the Seventies. Looking back, I can say they weren’t very good -- but I read ‘em anyway. And the upside is that they led me to writers who were good, and their occult detective heroes. I made the acquaintance of Thomas Carnacki, John Silence, and Jules de Grandin, among others. But good contemporary occult detective stories remained hard to find.

Then, in the 1990s, three figures made their appearance in popular culture. Two of them were named Scully and Mulder. The third was a lady named Anita Blake. The rest, as they say, is genre fiction history.

“The X-Files” (itself inspired by “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” of 15 years earlier) showed the cultural appetite for paranormal investigators (another term for “occult detectives”), and the success of Laurell K. Hamilton’s “Anita Blake” books demonstrated that this interest extended to fiction. Thus was the occult detective reborn.

I define “occult detective” pretty broadly, to include any fictional character who regularly contends with the supernatural. For me, the term includes actual private detectives specializing in the paranormal (Vicki Nelson, John Taylor, Cal McDonald, Angel), government investigators (Scully and Mulder, Frank Black, Bureau 13) reporters (Kolchak), bounty-hunting witches (Rachel Morgan), wizards-for-hire (Harry Dresden), dedicated idealists (Buffy and crew), freelance exorcists (Morgan Kingsley) and a slew of others. These days, occult detectives fall under the heading of “urban fantasy” and, in my opinion, constitute its most dynamic sub-genre.

So, what explains the continued popularity of this shadowy figure, whose origins lie in the 19th Century and who yet flourishes in the 21st?

The occult detective brings order to chaos. He/she is the expert who understands the supernatural and can use that expertise to help, even save, the innocent who fall into the clutches of the dark side. Like the shaman in almost all societies, the occult detective plays a mediating role between humans and forces they cannot comprehend.

So, if you’re an ordinary Joe or Jane, and weird shit starts happening in your life, who you gonna call? You know the answer, same as I do.

As a writer, I didn’t make a conscious effort to write about occult detectives, or even to Commit Urban Fantasy. I write the kinds of stories that I like to read -- and I like to read about occult detectives. My novel “Black Magic Woman” teams Quincey Morris, great-great grandson of the Texan who died in the shadow of Castle Dracula, with Libby Chastain, a practitioner of “white” witchcraft. They’re a formidable team -- and they’d better be, considering the cases they’re asked to handle. In “Black Magic Woman” they fight to save a family from a deadly curse that dates back to the Salem witch trials. But in “Evil Ways,” (due out in January) they’re not expected to do much, really -- just save the world. The third book in the series (due in 2010) is called “Sympathy for the Devil.” I’ll let you figure out what that one deals with.

As long as there are things that go bump in the night (to borrow from the first Hellboy movie), humanity will need those with the skill and courage to “bump back.” And that’s where occult detectives come in. Have Wolfsbane, Will Travel.


Justin is giving away a copy of "Black Magic Woman." To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment here answering this question: Who is your favorite occult detective and why?
Winner will be posted Friday evening.


Blogger Pam P said...

Those are great covers, Justin and I like a series with detective couple, occult even better. Liked Scully and Mulder, the skeptic and the believer. Nightstalker was one of my favorite series, too bad it was short-lived. The remake I ddin't care for, couldn't even come close to Darren McGavin's Kolchak. First I've seen your books, going to go check out some more on them.

3:57 AM  
Blogger Ruth Schaller said...

I can honestly say I don't think I've ever read a book about occult detectives, but I have watched X-Files. I loved Moulder -- I'd have to say that he would be my detective of choice!

Your books look fascinating -- I'd love to read one!

6:06 AM  
Blogger Ruth Schaller said...

oh, why do I love Fox Moudler? Well, he believed in all the strange stuff going on.

Remember the truth is out there!!!!

6:08 AM  
Blogger Danielle said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Danielle said...

Great blog. I love occult detectives for the reasons you elucidated. They are people who are doing something about the dark things instead of pretending they aren't there. My favorite occult detective has to be John Smith, from the Nightside books by Simon R. Green, but I love most of the ones I've read. I have your book, btw.

6:39 AM  
Blogger Lynda Hilburn said...

Welcome to Paranormality, Justin! Thanks for being here. I have to agree that your covers are excellent. I really enjoyed reading BLACK MAGIC WOMAN and look forward to the next one.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Sarah Glenn said...

My favorite occult detective would have to be Carl Kolchak. Kolchak introduced the idea (to the childhood me) that horrific and frightening things could be investigated, learned about, and, in some cases, defeated.

Other occult detectives that have gone unmentioned so far: Dr. Taverner, written by Dion Fortune, and The Adept's Adam Sinclair, written by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner-Harris. The Adept series was inspired by the Dr. Taverner stories.

7:18 AM  
Blogger Robin Snodgrass said...

I love the covers for your books. They are very eye catching and intriguing. I'm a big fan of occult detectives myself.

I've been reading books in the genre for years and watched all the shows you mentioned.

Some of my favorites have been: P. N. Elrod's Jack Fleming series; Tanya Huff's Blood series; LKH's Anita Blake series; Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden books; Simon R. Green's John Taylor series; Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan books; Kat Richardson's new Greywalker books; and, Vicki Petterrson's new Zodiac series.

After reading about your books, these are definitely added to my To Be Bought list for my next visit to the bookstore. They sound like they are right up my alley!

7:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for stopping by, folks.

Because of space limitations, I didn't list all of the occult detectives I like, but I AM a fan of those you have mentioned, as well as some others.

I've read the adventures of both Dr. Taverner and Adam Sinclair, but I didn't realize the latter were inspired by the former. That's great to know!

Best wishes to all of you.

Justin Gustainis

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your covers are gorgeous. i do like hte idea of occult detective. It is an interesting concept. i like the unique spin. I have to ask about the logo or the sign that appearson both covers. What does it mean or represent?

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've gotten me interested in your books. Going to have to check them out next time I'm book shopping. Right now, in terms of occult detectives, I'm hooked on Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan, but I'm always on the lookout for a new author to add to my collection.


8:38 AM  
Blogger B said...

I love this book :D

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The symbol in the upper left corner of each book cover was invented by my publisher, Solaris. I guess they wanted something to symbolize the series. Go figure.

It is, I grant, hard to make out above. It's a triangle, with a pentangle inside it. Along the sides of the triangle are three words: "paranormal," "supernatural" and "intervention."

Come to think of it, I guess it does describe the series pretty well....


10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My fave would be Harry Dresden. He such a normal guy, tortured past and all, and then there's the magic, a particular favorite of mine. It's not enough to investigate werewolves, demons and the like, he has to deal with the high council stepping on his toes, and the lovely lady cop Murphy in his face. Saves the day and gains a little life knowledge on the way.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Suzanne Johnson said...

Love John Taylor from Simon R. Green's "Nightside" series. That killer British wit!

2:14 PM  
Blogger Lillian Porter said...

I like Harry Dresden from the Dresden Files and I really enjoyed the original Kolchak series Nightstalker. I would love to read and review your book. I am going to be writing an article on clergy/religious leader sleuths and this would include Wicca.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Linda Wisdom said...

I remember Spectre well and recorded it one time because it's still fun to watch.

Kolchak was a classic -- his underground Seattle episode is a favorite and Harry Dresden is just plain fun.

A great post!


2:42 PM  
Blogger tetewa said...

I loved the Nightstalker series, and was thrilled when they redid it with Stuart Townswnd as Kolshack a couple of years ago. They never finished the show as it was cancelled the first year. Enjoyed you being here today!

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite mixed genre is occult mystery or paranormal mystery. I would say that my favorites (not one as how can I just choose one?) is probably a toss up between Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden (who is made of awesome) and Jack Fleming from the Vampire Files by P.N. Elrod (because I love the noir pulp feel and how everything else is usually played straight) and Cal McDonald from Steve Niles series (because he is so messed up, knows it and still fights the good fight).

From TV it would be Mulder because he just rocks and the boys from Supernatural (though they aren't really "detective-like" per say on every episode).

Thank you for writing for my favorite genre. Heres hoping for many books in this series!

6:52 PM  
Blogger Night critter said...

My faves are Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden and Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan.

8:01 PM  
Blogger Pamk said...

on the telly it would have to be the old nightstalker series. I remember staying up late and watching it when I was growing up. I like rachel Morgan and Harry Dresden from books.

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just love the X-Files Scully and Mulder... especially Mulder... always believing...

Love the symbol your publisher invented for your series. Do you have a certain amount of book planned for your Quincey Morris series?

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm taking the Quincey Morris books one at a time, but my plan is to keep writing them until either a) I run out of ideas or b) people stop reading them.

The third one is to be called SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL. Think you can guess what THAT one's about?

Thaks for commenting!


10:55 PM  
Blogger Dawn M. said...

One of my favorites that hasn't been mentioned yet is Diana Tregarde (Mercedes Lackey). That was the series that got me started. Of course, soon after came Mulder & Scully and Anita Blake. A couple of my newer favorites are Joanne Walker (C.E. Murphy), Jaz Parks (Jennifer Rardin) and, of course, Dean & Sam of Supernatural. :0)

12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say, the writer topping my list right now in this genre is Tanya Huff. I love how her Vicky Nelson books are about someone a reader can relate to; she's fighting all of this supernatural bad guys, and she can't even see without her glasses! Great stuff. And the fourth book always makes a little tear come to my eye.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great to see you over here Justin! How is Evil Ways coming along??

I am re-watching the X-files right now because the new movie was so disappointing and I needed to revisit the couple who got me into the 'spooky' side of life.

Although Mulder and Scully are my original occult heroes I have found some newer heroes in Supernatural...Dean and Sam rock my occult world ;)

In is hard to answer. I see the normal answers but while I agree with those replies I have to say they are getting a little boring...what about something new like Rowan Gant (M.R.Sellars), Anna Strong (Jeanne Stein) or the Darkwing Chronicles (Savannah Russe).

With so many cool guys and gals out there (including Justin's) I have to say that the question can not be answered ;)

The best have to be the writers who come up with the great characters that I love to read.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Lynda Hilburn said...

Thanks so much for being here, Justin! I hope you'll be a guest again in the future. Best wishes with the next book and all the others.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great covers and very interesting post. Best of luck with your books.

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Justin - Thank you for answering my question. I do think the symbol is awesome. What a way to sum up your book! Just like Prince or the artist formerly known as Prince who went back to being called Prince --- (you know what I mean!)

Yeah! I won:) I can't wait to read this book.

2:57 PM  

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