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Already Dead (A Joe Pitt Novel)
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87 of 94 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 1, 2006
That Charlie Huston is on the edge was evident in his debut, the unconventional "Caught Stealing" and its equally offbeat sequel, "Six Bad Things". In both, Huston writes with a hip and irreverent flair that is all his own, brutal tales of the seamy underbelly of life that are at the same time darkly and cynically humorous.

In "Already Dead", Huston applies his uncommon talents to a very common but wholly unexpected theme: vampires. The result could be described as the abominable offspring of a marriage of JR Tolkien and Quentin Tarrantino, a bizarre but refreshingly unique tale of the undead set in contemporary New York City. This is no Bram Stoker. Huston's vampires, or "vampyres", have neither fangs nor Transylvanian accents, and sleep in Manhattan apartments rather than coffins. Huston's ghouls are victims of the vampyre "vyrus", an infection that instills an irresistible craving for new blood, while at the same time cleansing the blood of all impurities. Thus explaining the legendary strength and immortally of the Vampire myth.

Joe Pitt is one that is "already dead", a forty-five year old New Yorker who looks twenty-five. Pitt and his ilk live, work, eat, and play among us, a virtual parallel universe of vampyre cults and clans that mirror New York's more conventional society. There is the "Coalition", the largest clan, corporate and business-like, suit-and-tie vampires ruling midtown from north of 14th Street up to Harlem. The "Society" inhabits the East Village. Progressive liberals, they are committed to diversity and the day when vampires are accepted in society - simply another minority like gays or the disabled. The "Enclave", the smallest but most feared, is a cult of extremists - a band of Zen Buddhist-like ghouls who hang out in a lower west side meat market warehouse starving themselves to an imagined spiritual passage to the another realm of blood lust depravity. And then there are biker-vampyres, homeys, Chinese and Italian vampire mobs, all controlling their own turf with varying degrees of influence and power. Filling out Huston's nightmare version of a Tolkien "Middle Earth" fantasy world are flesh eating zombies ("shamblers", or, in the politically correct jargon of the "Society", "Victims of Zombification") and a mysterious wraith. Like author Charlie Huston, Joe Pitt is ever the maverick, the rogue vamp refusing to align with any of the clans, living in Society territory while carrying out hits and dirty deeds for the highest bidder. When called upon by the Coalition's boss to help track down the runaway daughter of a Manhattan socialite, Pitt finds himself caught in the middle of warring clans of the undead while also questioning his own "life" and love choices, at least to the degree a vampyre chooses such things.

With tongue firmly in cheek, Huston spins this cleverly original yarn that is as rich in irony while every bit as raw and brutal as his first two efforts. At first the blood lust may leave the reader a bit squeamish, but you'll soon be pulling for Joe and forgetting about his rather nasty but uncontrollable habits. As evident in his other novels, the eccentric and sordid Charlie Huston isn't for everybody. But the brilliance of "Already Dead" will undoubtedly add new converts to his own growing cult of followers.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2007
I met Charlie Huston while participating in a Comic-Con panel discussion about using monsters as protagonists. Charlie claimed that he had begun by writing a normal pulp novel, but that his main character got beaten up so badly and so frequently that he shouldn't even be walking, let alone getting into new scrapes. (This has been a perennial problem in pulps. Philip Marlowe gets knocked out or drugged at least twice a novel, but it never seems to bother him much.) How did Charlie solve the problem? By creating a whole new genre, vampire noir.

Joe Pitt is a vampire in a Manhattan secretly infested with vampires. Joe's Problem? He has several, actually. First, there's that zombie roaming his neighborhood. Then there's the grief he's catching from his girlfriend, Evie. Finally, someone has stolen his blood stash, someone who can walk through walls.

Part of Huston's genius lies in his ability to take classic fang-lit premises and run them to their logical conclusions. Take the notion that vampires live among us as a wealthy elite secretly controlling society, a thematic staple of the Blade comix and movies. Huston's embellishment? Yes, there's a vampire group that behaves like a corporation. But there are other groups, too. Vampire bikers. Vampire monks. Vampire mafia. He even gives us a collection of leftist vampire radicals, who provide some of book's funniest scenes and dialog. Or take Richard Matheson's notion that vampirism is caused by a virus. Matheson never speculated about whether this virus could be transmitted in ways other than biting. Huston does, and his answer is the cause of Joe's lady trouble.

But all of this is trivia for horror nuts like me. Anyone could pick up Already Dead and still get one heck of a read because it's real charm lies in its prose and in its characters, especially its supporting characters. There's Chubby Freeze, the pimp trying to improve his vocabulary with a word-a-day calendar. There's Lydia Miles, the feminist vampire who insists on finding a politically correct term for Zombies. There's Hurley, the sweet-tempered Irish thug who is much older than he looks. There's Daniel, the dangerous and enigmatic leader of the vampire monks, who has granted Joe membership whether he wants it or not. And at the heart of the story there is Evie, Joe's troubled girlfriend.

Like all noir protagonists, Joe must struggled simply to keep what he has. In Joe's case, that's independence from the various gangs. Any of them would take him in, and all of them want him dead for his refusal to join. Joe's need for Evie and a semblance of a human life is the true source of all his problems. And he can't even tell her about it for fear that he'd lose her.

Parents, please note, this book is not appropriate for young children or even faint-hearted adults. It contains violence, strong language, and people (well, vampires) with gender issues. I recommend this for teens who are already reading horror but haven't yet graduated beyond Steven King and Anne Rice.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2006
I have long held a theory that the more a book makes me think, the better and more satisfying it is to me the reader. We all have favorite books, characters and stories. As I have grown older my tastes have changed drastically in most parts of my life. I have drifted to the left politically, become more sentimental, traveled the world and learned to love foods I wouldn't have fed my dog in past times. One of the things that doesn't seem to change for some reason is that books I liked and thought about and read and reread are still among my favorites. This book is destined to be one of these.

The characters are as real as any I have read before and drive the reader to "feeling" for them. Either hate or love, dislike or empathy, fear or loathing it seems that the important thing is that the reader feels for the characters and has some understanding of them. As this is a novel of Vampyrs I think it is a testament to Mr. Huston's skills as a writer. He makes the extraordinary believable and, more than that, he makes you think about the characters and story and draw parallels to life as we know it in the real world. It is a vampire novel, a hardboiled mystery and a political thriller all wrapped up in a treatise on life as a human being. Longing for the love you don't have, of dreams faded and gone, and of how our mortality has such an effect on our morality, in both positive and negative ways. He does it not by beating you over the head but by drawing out a story filled with people, who like people we know, deal with situations which polarize fellings and make us gather in cliques and gangs to avoid being alone. I look forward to more from Mr. Huston and the characters I have come to know so well.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2005
Charlie Huston caught my attention with Six Bad Things. It was so good that I bought Caught Stealing and enjoyed it immensely. When I received Already Dead I settled in for a scintillating read and got it.

It was not, however, what I expected after reading his first two hard-boiled releases. The twist is that Huston successfully switches genres in Already Dead, from hard-boiled to vampires--and he does it with panache.

Joe Pitt (not his real name) is a reluctant vampyre who became infected as a result of a sexual encounter and is required to regularly drink blood. He prowls Manhattan where the island is over run with the undead. The city has clans who are warring and Pitt becomes involved with the Coalition who wants him to destroy the carrier of a bacteria that turns its victims into brain-eating zombie monsters. Ick! The zombies are so sloppy they're drawing unwanted attention.

At the same time Pitt is hired to locate a socialite's daughter who may have traveled from "her neck of the woods" to Pitt's "neck of the woods." And that makes him right for the job.

I like Joe Pitt. He has a subtle sense of humor and I couldn't help smiling once in awhile because Huston populates Joe's life with some interesting facts. Joe can eat garlic (it's just pretty repulsive to him). And he can see his reflection (albeit he's a much younger man in the mirror). Holy water and crosses don't seem to cause him any difficulties; he actually drank holy water once. He smells the zombies before he sees them, and he'd so enjoy moving to the suburbs if he thought he could last there. There are so many strip malls and such.

I'm not typically a fan of anything vampire. But Huston's writing gives an established genre a new twist in this crisp, fast-paced read. It is violence and gore that you want to experience even as you consider turning away.

Huston is a rising star in both hard-boiled and vampire novels. His characters are full-bodied and multi-dimensional, the plot is scintillating and the prose has a rhythm from right out of an old detective novel. You'll want to keep the lights on and peer around corners for a long while after reading Already Dead.

Armchair Interviews says: Charlie Huston's Already Dead is a must read for the fans of the undead. If you read the opening scene you'll be hooked. Actually, I'd read an advertisement if Charlie Huston wrote it. He's that good.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2006
Already Dead is the first novel of Charlie Huston's that I have read. After finishing, I am excited to read his first two books.

Already Dead follows Joe Pitt, a vampyre who is sort of an errand boy for just about any of the different vampyre clans that occupy Manhattan. Pitt is a great main character. He is basically exactly like a detective in a noir mystery, sort of like a Philip Marlowe. In his narration, Pitt provides some great sarcastic humor to follow along with the gruesome action. To not give anything away, all you need to know is that Pitt is hired to find the daughter of a rich family, and her case becomes linked with a "carrier" who is going around Alphabet City infecting people with a zombie virus. The book is fast-paced and a really fun read. Dialogue is quick, interesting, and witty. The action, while it might be a little too violent and descriptive for some, fits right in with the overall vibe of the novel. That Alphabet City is a dirty, evil place where the ends justify the means.

However, this is definitely not a horror novel. Just because the main character is a vampyre, doesn't mean it's a vampyre book. The vyrus which infects Joe Pitt is merely his backstory, and provides an interesting twist on a story that really could have been told using just normal human characters.

The only reason I'm not giving Already Dead 5 stars is because of the ending. While it did wrap everything up, it felt a little bit rushed and contrived. But the last 20 pages don't ruin a great, entertaing read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2007
"But I did get sloppy last night, and someone is gunna swing for it. So I'll fry a little to keep them happy and to keep myself alive. Because I don't want to die. Except, oh yeah, I'm already dead."

An interesting blend of gritty suspense, first-person detective thriller, and action in the context of a dark New York City (NYC) riddled with zombies, vampires and their socio-political hierarchies, Charlie Huston mixes a tangy cocktail punch in the form of ALREADY DEAD. There's a love mixed in as well, but true to guy fiction, it's a bit tragic and certainly not the primary focus of this novel. I liked the noir feel of ALREADY DEAD, I liked the fast-paced action, I enjoyed the dark NYC settings, I even liked the politics amongst the vampire (or "Vampyre") clans. The wry, sardonic humor our main character Joe Pitt exudes prompted some laughs. Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt reminded me of Richard Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs, but I liked Kovacs better. Charlie Huston's ALREADY DEAD hums with an impassioned detachment - if I can call it that - that stems from its main character Joe Pitt, and the book contains plenty of violence and explicit language. All of it builds the dark and gritty scene in an unsympathetic New York City nightlife crawling with vampyres, zombies and other creepy creatures you don't want to meet in a dark alley.

A cool, fun book overall, I still found the final pieces of the mystery puzzle a bit lacking, a bit anti-climactic. Although I liked the anti-hero persona of Joe Pitt, I thought the book had him in a reactionary role throughout. From beginning to end, Joe Pitt is always reacting to the circumstances others have set in motion, never really dictating any of his own. I suppose that's part of what makes this book a mystery/suspense, but it'd be nice to see Joe setting something up for once. Even at the end when he retains Horde's teeth and ultimately evades the Coalition and Predo, I thought he lucked out rather than eliciting an outcome of his own making.

There's some memorable soliloquies and humorous lines in this novel. That in and of itself made the reading experience very worthwhile.

"Death has truly and finally arrived.

Good.

I have failed. Failed as a child; failed as a man; failed as a revolutionary; failed as a lover; failed as a goodguy. My only success in life has been as a pawn. [Screw] it, I never asked to be any of those things. And my life was over by rights long ago. I've just been waiting to catch up to it. Then my heart explodes, beating a manic rhythm, and a I realize my life is not over.

Hell."

The Story, possible SPOILERS.

We pick up the story as rogue vampyre Joe Pitt eliminates some "shamblers" (zombies) which pose a threat to the underground Vampyre hierarchy by drawing undue attention. 6-foot-3 Joe Pitt looks 28, but he was was turned into a Vampyre some 30 years ago, and initiated into the vampyre clan the Society in New York City by his then-friend, Terry Bird. In Terry's clan the Society, Joe serves as the Society's de facto Enforcer, meting out the Society's justice and punishment. He leaves the Society though to live as a rogue vampyre, no longer wanting to play someone else's thug enforcer. Joe is very cynical and often times unapologetic over his brutal actions and prosaic immorality.

Joe settles into a life of a rogue vampyre after he leaves the Society. Sometimes he's hired for jobs by the Society, other times, he's hired for jobs by the biggest vampyre clan, the Coalition. The Coalition hires Joe to eliminate some zombies as the book begins, zombies he cuts down on Society's turf. After eliminating the zombies, Joe realizes he still needs to find and kill the carrier who is at large. Predo from the Coalition threatens agonizing death (sunlight) if Joe doesn't clean up the mess from the zombies Joe killed, a mess in which Joe leaves an innocent witness alive and the zombie corpses in plain sight.

It's Joe's soft spot for trying-to-do-the-right-thing which lands him into some trouble, and Predo from the Coalition exploits these good-guy tendencies, and stages events which ultimately position Joe between a rock and hard place. Predo further confounds Joe's problems as he obliges Joe to help the most wealthy family in NYC (and the closest thing NYC has to an aristocracy) find their missing 14 year-old girl, Amanda Horde. Dale Horde (CEO and founder of Horde Bio Tech) and his wife Marilee are seemingly at odds with each other and with Joe. Meanwhile, Terry and the Society are on Joe's case for all the unwanted events on their turf. The most powerful and also the most surreptitious Vampyre clan the Enclave also seems to have adopted Joe against his wishes.

Between trying to balance the different vampyre clans (Society, the Coalition, the Enclave), finding the zombie carrier, finding the Horde girl, Joe also struggles to maintain a semblance of normalcy with his HIV-positive girlfriend Evie. He loves Evie and Evie loves him but of course she knows nothing of what he really is; that is, his vampyre life.

Welcome to Charlie Huston's ALREADY DEAD, where the [everything] hits the fan, and Joe Pitt must solve some riddles and cope to survive with everyone breathing down his neck. Except, of course, he's already dead.

The action is good, and I was glad the end refrained from a Matrix-esque finale. However, I was disappointed by the reactionary elements in the storytelling and the various pieces of the mystery puzzle itself seemed empty once we learn everything. Still, there's some good kick-butt writing here, fast pacing, plenty of action and of course, a hard-nosed gritty first-person characterization to sate anyone's appetite.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2011
First off, this isn't a bad book if you're into this kind of thing. I just happened to find out that I'm not (hence the three stars).

The mood was set pretty well. It had a hard gritty feeling to it, which is a nice change compared to most modern vampire stories that focus on sex appeal and remaining humanity. Most of the characters were very well fleshed out, and you had a good sense of them within moments of their introduction. You knew what they were aiming for, the type of person they were, and what kept them going.

Except the narrator. I don't even remember what he was supposed to look like aside from maybe a vague mention of his height. He has almost no personality, he doesn't really clarify WHY he does what he does (if he doesn't want the drama, why not just leave the island? No mention is made of vampires being unable to cross running water, so hypothetically he wouldn't need to deal with any of the drama). A good chunk of his vocabulary is "Yeah" or "Sure" or other similar words. It seems like the author wanted to create a cold, tough character but (in my opinion) failed to create depth that a lead character--especially a narrator--should have.

The organization of vampires was alright, but it reminded me a bit too much of White Wolf's Vampire RPG. Get assignments or quests from various clans, try to decide who you can and can't trust, owe favors, repay favors, try to avoid being on anyone's bad side... It vaguely reminded me of reading a playthrough of VPtM: Bloodlines. Even the descriptions of the clans resembled the games' stereotypes a bit too much (a group of anarchists/revolutionaries, a group of rich and powerful vampires that pull most of the strings, rough gang-like vampires, others that are kind of creepy looking)... I don't know if it was intentional or not, but the similarities were a bit too noticeable.

My biggest pet peeve was how dialog was handled. Rather than using quotation marks, every single piece of dialog is preceded by a dash (--).

--So basically the conversation reads like this.
--Really?
--Really. It's quite irritating.
--How so?
--Well, considering the lack of personality in the main character's speech, there were quite a few times that I wasn't sure who was talking.
--You mean the author didn't use and "he said/she said" type language?
--Not really.
--Well that sucks.

This isn't really my cup of tea, though I won't say it's bad. If you're into paranormal stories and/or stories with organized crime organizations, you might be interested in this. It's definitely worth a try at least.
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22 of 31 people found the following review helpful
I rushed to buy Already Dead after reading that it is being turned into a film since books are almost always so much better than their celluloid counterparts and all the reviews I read praised it highly. Unfortunately, it just never grabbed me in the way I was hoping. It was well written, was plenty dark -- just how I like my vampire stories, and the characters were well developed; but for whatever reason the story was somewhat offputting. It all seemed too contrived and convoluted. I just never felt a bond with the characters, and by the end I hardly cared what happened. I was just ready for it to be over so I could move on to the next thing.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2009
I know a lot of people liked this book, but for me: meh. The writer has decided to forgo the basic writing convention of using things like quotation marks (instead using an emdash at the start of what is considered to be someone speaking), identifying the "speakers" in a conversation, and then jump-cutting to another "scene" without any sort of physical delimiter to identify that a new scene at a different point in time is now taking place. I actually got the impression that this was used for no other purpose than to appear "cool." Instead, it made it extremely difficult to figure who was speaking; this was made even worse when a scene "cut" to a new point in time in the next sentence and had conversations that had nothing to do with the people speaking just a few sentences earlier. It was so bad I couldn't get through it... and that's saying a lot from a voracious reader.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 18, 2011
ALREADY DEAD by Charlie Huston.

STORY BRIEF:
Joe is a vampyre living in New York City. His vampyrism requires him to drink blood which he usually purchases but sometimes takes directly from humans without killing them. He also drinks and eats human food. The vampyres have divided Manhattan Island into several geographical areas. The vampyres north of 14th street belong to the gang called Coalition - ruled by Predo. Other vampire gangs are Society, Dusters, and Enclave. Terry rules the Society. Joe used to work for Terry but quit and is now a rogue, but his home is in the Society area.

A shambler (called the Feeder) is infecting people with a flesh-eating bacteria. The victims of this bacteria kill other humans by eating their brains. Joe wants to find the Feeder and kill it.

Predo calls Joe with a "request" that Joe help Marilee Horde. Her fourteen-year-old daughter Amanda is living on the streets and won't go home. Joe agrees and gets beat up a lot as he travels into different gang territories.

REVIEWER'S OPINION:
I want to be entertained, but this was more of an "ugh" "ow" feeling than entertainment. I wasn't captivated. I wasn't drawn to the characters. Although I was intrigued with Lydia (a minor character later in the book) and could have been drawn to her if she had been developed more. Too many characters were mean and brutal to each other. This is not a genre for me.

The book is narrated in first person by Joe. He has good motivations, but he acts like an uncaring tough guy. It has the sound of the hard-boiled private detective noir fiction. As I listened to him speak I kept trying to define his style/attitude. The words I came up with are cynical, hard-swearing, annoyed, resigned, I don't care, whatever, tough guy. The Washington Post describes Joe as "shades of Raymond Chandler, Hunter Thompson, and Quentin Tarantino." The environment is urban grittiness.

My biggest confusion was about the gang names (Coalition, Society, etc.). That wasn't clear to me until after I finished the book and saw the map on Amazon's Look Inside the book. I didn't know they were all vampyres and the names were gang names. I thought they might be different "types of paranormal creatures" which they were not. That's the downside of listening to the audiobook and not seeing the map (as opposed to reading the book).

Someone steals Joe's stash of blood so he is starving for blood and in pain. His pain is like torture, cramps, and drug withdrawal. For much too long, the story keeps getting interrupted by Joe's terrible pain. For example A says something. Joe thinks about his pain. B does something. Joe thinks about his pain. The result was interrupting the story too much and for too long which annoyed me.

Joe gets beat up frequently as he travels in the different gang territories. He can't fight back because he's outnumbered wherever he goes. He's resigned to it and just suffers through it. I guess that's the nature of being an independent rogue. But it isn't a fun storyline for me. Throughout the story he was reacting to things rather than making things happen. Wherever Joe went he was a helpless victim at the mercy of the gangs. I'd prefer seeing someone walk into a gang territory and win once in a while - whether he wins by smarts, weapons, or other buddies helping him, doesn't matter. I just don't like hanging with a guy who keeps getting beat up. Yes he survives it all and has success at the end, but it wasn't a fun trek for me. Also part of his success was due to luck, not of his making, again the reactionary method.

Daniel is a member of the Enclave. I was confused about Daniel's interactions with Joe. I wanted to know more about Daniel's motivations and Joe's nature relating to that. It's possible that may be developed in the sequels.

DATA:
Unabridged audiobook length: 9 hrs and 5 mins. Narrator: Scott Brick. Swearing language: strong. Sexual language: moderate. Number of sex scenes: 2 brief scenes, 1 male-male, 1 male-female attempted rape. Setting: current day New York City. Copyright: 2005. Genre: paranormal mystery crime fiction (possible urban fantasy).
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