Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Book Review: The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont

I had great hopes for The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont. Billed as a pulp adventure starring none other than some of the most famous writers of that genre as the main characters, TCDCP promised mystery, suspense, action, damsels, and more. Unfortunately, after putting this one down the only thing I felt I'd been given was confusion.

I even tried applying the rules for knowing when to stop reading. Page fifty… a little frustrated with the pacing and jumping around, but I kept reading. Page one hundred… I barely made it this far. The disappointment was palpable. Last, I applied the Page 99 test. Hmmm… Chinese guy swinging deadly chain at one of our heroes. Intriguing, but not enough.

I really wanted it to work, too. With names like William Gibson, Lester Dent, H.P. Lovecraft, L. Ron Hubbard, Louis L'Amour, and Chester Himes all playing roles in the story, who wouldn't want it to?

Looking at the summary from Amazon.com, I almost want to pick it up again and give it a second shot. Here's the description. Judge for yourself.

Malmont's debut thriller reads like pages torn from the pulp magazines to which it pays nostalgic homage. It's 1937, and the nation's two top pulp writers—William Gibson, author of novels featuring caped crime fighter "The Shadow," and Lester Dent, the creator of do-gooder hero Doc Savage—are trying to solve real-life mysteries that each hopes will give him bragging rights as the world's best yarn spinner. Gibson follows rumors that pulp colleague H.P. Lovecraft was murdered to the fog-shrouded Providence, R.I., waterfront. Dent tracks clues to an impossible killing through the bowels of New York's Chinatown. As the two adventures dovetail, they spawn sinuous subplots involving tong wars, secret chemical warfare, pirate mercenaries, kidnappings, revolution in China and weird science run amok.

Unfortunately, my reading pile grows almost daily, so if it does go back on the pile it'll go at the bottom.

So, the primary reason I had to put this one down: within the first 100 pages or so the story jumps and skips and hops around to the point where I couldn't tell if the entire novel is simply a collection of short "episodes" (they're called that rather than chapters) or if Malmont was actually going somewhere with it. If he was, I never got there. I did not see a consistency with the characters or a storyline, though I did thumb through latter parts and there did seem to be the same characters from one episode to another at least. Still, how many pages is Malmont going to make me wade through before getting to the good stuff?

Maybe I'm just missing something on this one. It's rated 4 out of 5 stars by 44 reviewers at Amazon. One of the lower-rated reviews, though, seems to reiterate my feelings:

I really would have liked to love this book, but it has become the greatest sleep aid ever. I am not sure how long it will take me to get through it! The story is all over the place and really doesn't make a lick of sense so far.

Exactly.

However, I tend towards open-mindedness, so if someone wants to enlighten me on what I'm missing, please leave a comment below. I could be completely wrong about The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril.