A native Toledoan, Jim Beard was introduced to comic books at an early age by his father, who passed on to him a love for the medium and the pulp characters who preceded it. After decades of reading, collecting and dissecting comics, Jim became a published writer when he sold a story to DC Comics in 2002. Since that time he's written official Star Wars and Ghostbusters comic stories and contributed articles and essays to several volumes of comic book history.
His work includes GOTHAM CITY 14 MILES, a book of essays on the 1966 Batman TV series, SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER, a collection of pulp ghost stories featuring an Edwardian occult detective, a giant monster anthology called MONSTER EARTH, and CAPTAIN ACTION: RIDDLE OF THE GLOWING MEN, the first pulp prose novel based on the classic 1960s action figure.
Currently, Jim provides regular content for Marvel.com, the official Marvel Comics website, is a regular columnist for Toledo Free Press and has forthcoming comic and prose work from Bluewater, TwoMorrows, Airship 27 and Pro Se.
Please visit him at http://sgtjanus.blogspot.com and on Facebook at http://facebook.com/thebeardjimbeard
Sergeant Janus is a bit of an enigma. I liked the author's nod to those who went before, Carnacki the Ghost Finder and The Dream Detective. But Sgt. Janus is a "spirit breaker", one who functions to cast out ghosts that haunt the unwary. The stories have left me with more questions than answers, but they are well written and flow fairly easy. The cliff-hanger story at the end of the book was a nice touch and hopefully a lead in to a second volume.
Hopefully the new volume will answer a few questions. I'll try to ask them without spoiling anything for a first time reader, so if you feel these questions are spoilers, it isn't my intent. In fact you might read the book with added interest trying to see what I'm talking about.
1) Exactly what is the secret of the good Sergeant's rather unique house? 2) Exactly what is up with the Sergeant's enigmatic and efficient housekeeper? (I'd add what I think, but it might spoil something) 3) What is the secret of Sergeant Janus' powerful talisman? 4) Why does the Sergeant insist that his clients write up their own cases?
Looking for more ghostly and ghastly adventure to come!
In the tradition of the great fictional Golden Age ghost hunters--John Silence, Physician Extraordinary; Professor Challenger; Carnacki, the Ghost Finder; John Bell, Ghost-Exposer--comes the enigmatic Sgt. Roman Janus, Spirit-Breaker.
This is an Edwardian or Lovecraftian pastiche, yes, but an ingenious and inventive romp full of striking images, subtle horrors, and moments of real shock. In a fresh variation of the single-narrator ghost story formula, Sgt. Janus insists that the client write up a report of the case, a notion which allows Beard to play with the voices of all sorts of vivid characters: a spinster lady, a stolid police officer, a no-nonsense businessman, a bereft lover. Janus himself, initially a Man of Mystery, becomes a more defined personality as the book goes on--more vulnerable and less super-human.
Beard has a keen eye for grimly amusing touches--like a ghost being exorcised by being stuffed into a waste paper basket or a ghoul pulling itself down a chimney and out the fireplace. I particularly liked the images in "The Unbroken Lock", the slowly building menace of "When the Rain Comes" and, most gripping of all (I found myself shrieking at the author that, no, you can't let that happen!) the horror of "The Unfinished Record", which seems to be setting up a sequel. We can only live in hope.
This is a really enjoyable book, with a bit of a twist from other, similar works. I enjoyed the different personalities the author creates, the strange house he lives in, and his odd housekeeper. Each of the stories is unique. It's a good book just for relaxing and being entertained.
This review is based on an advance copy sent to me by the publisher, in my capacity as a regular book reviewer for the British Fantasy Society website.
There are many characters in fiction, who are shrouded in mystery, but who inevitably lose that air of otherworldliness as we find out more about them. Jim Beard has been very clever here, in that the only information we ever get on Sgt. Roman Janus, his home and his staff comes from the reports of his varied clients, who may be biased, unreliable, hostile, or fanciful. Beard is also intentionally vague about the period and settings of these stories. Reading the first one, I was leaning towards them being set in the UK, but later stories suggested an American setting. The period seems to be later than the classic occult detective tales of Carnacki, or John Silence, but not that much later - a generation maybe. I thought I'd found a mistake when Sgt. Janus is referred to as a para-psychiatrist, rather than a para-psychologist. After giving it some thought, I realised that a psychologist is mainly concerned with research and study, whereas a psychiatrist is concerned with fixing the problem, hence para-psychiatrist is actually the correct term. I don't really want to describe each story individually. Suffice to say that they are varied in both the voice of the narrator and the details of the hauntings, which provide the focus of the tales. I found I enjoyed each story more than the one previous, although I can't say if this is because they actually get better, or if it was simply because I became more deeply immersed in the strange world of Sgt. Janus as I progressed through the book. While each story is separate and can be read on its own, they do gradually build upon each other to give the feel of a novel.Read more ›
Jim Beard has written a book of ghost lore and the enigmatic investigator Sgt. Roman Janus. We've seen this with the heroes of our detective series who see thru the miasma of a complicated case to its core and not forgetting the great Carnacki, written by William Hope Hodgson. They were usually written by a sidekick honoring the great one who sees all the answers. Jim Beard adopts a different tactic here. Those who were part of the investigation and experienced extraordinary happenings write up the case. What this does is reveals who they are and their impressions of the aloof, caring, and daring exploits of Sgt. Janus. What this means is eight views from a business man, from a police man, to a psychic investigator (the last story: An Unfinished Report). You, the reader, get to experience the strange and mind-warping life of Sgt. Roman Janus. You might learn something. Before leaving your kind attentions, the publisher of Sgt. Janus is Airship 27 Hanger at [...]. The cover of the book was drawn by Jeff Herndon and the inside illustrations (for those who want pictures with the text) is supplied by Eric Johns. Do be a dear and buy the paperback. For those who think in Kindle, click for this to be published in our auspicies of the ebook. Thank you.