The Beast Within by James Daniels (47North, 2011)
2011 came to a close with the best Dead Man series book yet, The Beast Within by James Daniels. Matt Cahill finds himself in Michigan and caught in a feud between two different white power militia factions. I have dubbed this one the best of the series so far (except for #16, I’m reading them in sequence), because it has the most out-of-control plot of the series. I found The Beast Within difficult to put down as each page introduced a new twist, insane character, or bad-ass weapon. James Daniels is an author to watch.
In The Beast Within, Matt travels to the backwoods in Michigan searching for an author. The author has self-published a book, which we’re told early on is stark-raving crazy. But it has a section which alludes to Mr. Dark, Matt’s archenemy. He arrives in a hick town straight out of Deliverance central:
“…Every other storefront in the downtown was closed. The ones that were open consisted of the Jewelry Loan, the VCR Repair Shop, the Pro-Life Bookstore, a grocery/gas station, an antique store that specialized in bladeless pocketknives and Ku Klux Klan memorabilia, and a dingy diner called the Cosmopolitan. There were also, directly across from each other, a liquor store that sold guns and a gun store that sold liquor. The town’s main function, Matt guessed, was to ensure that every fall hunter and winter snowmobiler was fully equipped with ammo, antifreeze, a Bible, a bottle, a Hot Pocket, and a Glock.”
You can hear the dueling banjos!
As soon as he hits town Matt saves a foreign woman named Roma from being assaulted by a mob of rednecks. The assailants,armed with steel morning stars, drive a spiked ATV with the monogram RAHOWA. He offers to take her home, which she accepts. Turns out home is a fortified camp in an old ski lodge owned by her white supremacist husband, Charles Kingman. And it also turns out Kingman is the very author Matt has traveled 3000 miles to meet.
Kingman, whom Daniels describes as a “de-shelled turtle”, runs a group known as the White Aryan Caucasian Fist of God. The group seems to be modeled on Ben Klassen‘s Church of the Creator. Kingman spouts crazed racial theories as Matt tries to find out what inspired a key chapter in his self-published manifesto, The Aryan’s Lament. While Kingman measures Matt’s head (phrenology), Matt discovers the wannabee supreme leader paid a big lump sum of cash to bring Roma and her family over from Russia so he could marry her. But doing so will bring about a fire fight.
What turns this from another “redneck rampage” spiel to the heights of genius is the background Daniels inserts into the plot. You find out Matt Cahill, as a boy, became converted to tolerance by way of an Executioner novel. Number 38, to be exact. A series of books describing how a Vietnam war veteran blows up mafiosi has a passage which inspires Matt to the Brotherhood of Man. Pure brilliance.
We also find out the blade of the ax Matt carries around was forged from a meteorite which struck his grandfather’s barn on Christmas Eve.
If you want a Dead Man book to read, besides #1, this is it.
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