Tag Archives: Mystery Action & Adventure

Angelmaker

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Angelmaker [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Nick Harkaway.

Harkaway Angelmaker

Harkaway’s second novel Angelmaker is a far better book than his first, despite showing a similar range of preoccupations. There are still martial arts training, a big showdown with a fearsome villain, strange conspiracies, and incomprehensible technology with basically metaphysical effects.

This story has for its hero Joshua Joseph Spork, a “clockworker” with a gangster heritage, and it concerns the immanentization of the eschaton by means of mechanical apiary. Although set in the early 21st century, the novel includes recollected episodes from throughout the 20th–largely thanks to a key alternate protagonist, superspy Edie Banister. The whole thing is told in a hectic Pynchonesque style that I greatly enjoyed.

A lot of the sensibility of this book has been taken up again in the later Jack Price novels by “Aidan Truhen,” and while the tale of Crazy Joe Spork is sometimes as funny as Jack Price, it also includes a little more serious reflection and attempts to deal with “deep” concerns.

Seven Footprints to Satan

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Seven Footprints to Satan [Amazon, Abebooks, Local Library] by Abraham Merritt, cover by Doug Rosa.

Merritt Seven Footprints to Satan

Abraham Merritt’s Seven Footprints to Satan was first serialized in 1927 and issued as a complete novel in 1928, but it’s been through a whole stack of paperback reprintings. It’s a pulpy action tale with no real theological pretenses, and it is entirely light reading. Seven Footprints has a cinematic feel, and was made into a movie in 1929. 

l took a perverse amusement in imagining the protagonist James Kirkham with the appearance of a young William Shatner. And in fact the pacing of the book and its contrived dilemmas are somewhat reminiscent of the original Star Trek and other TV adventure dramas of that vintage. Kirkham is a “famous explorer,” i.e. a sort of generic resourceful man of action. He is recruited — conscripted, rather — by an arch-criminal who styles himself as Satan. For most of the book, Kirkham tries to escape Satan’s domination, eventually determining to rescue others as well. There’s an obligatory romantic plot vector and some irksome orientalist racism. 

Although the author had a longstanding interest in the occult and amassed a considerable esoteric library, such studies are not evident in this book.