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Doc Voodoo: Aces & Eights
Dale Lucas
Beating Windward Press, 205 pages

Doc Voodoo
Dale Lucas
Dale Lucas is a novelist, screenwriter, civil servant, and armchair historian. He earned his BA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida. His short stories have appeared in Samsara: The Magazine of Suffering and Horror Garage. His film reviews appeared in The Orlando Sentinel. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'"You ready?" Ogou asked, voice now right in his ear, the sound of iron scraping iron.'

Dub prepared himself. "Let's get horsed," he answered.

The Iwa fell upon him.

The Dread Baron opened his black eyes.'

Rather than stretch out an idea until it snaps, author Dale Lucas presents a tight, action packed tale of what his publishers term mobsters, mystery, magic and mayhem. The mobsters are a mixture of West Indian, Jewish, Irish and Italian immigrants, all competing -- often bloodily -- for a piece of the action in Harlem. The main contenders are Papa House and the Queen Bee, who are running rival gangs yet have very different ambitions. Papa House, seeks power and money by any means, and feeds his enemies to his pet alligator. The Queen Bee, on the other hand, seeks to create semi-legitimate business to benefit not only herself, but also the citizens of Harlem. To the Queen Bee, bending the law and coming to agreements with corrupt officials is simply greasing the wheels. Naturally, these opposing and equal forces come into murderous conflict, and when Papa House employs a local practitioner of old magic to create a curse engine, things get nasty. Meanwhile, local GP Dub Corveaux begins keeping company with the sister of a junior mobster, a young man who he has attempted to set upon a righteous path when operating under his night time identity; The Cemetery Man. Also known as the Dread Baron, the Witch Doctor, and finally, Doc Voodoo. Corveaux's secret identity is something like a cross between the Shadow and the Black Panther, empowered by Voodoo gods who ride him as if her were their horse, using him as a solider to battle evil. Initially uninterested in a conflict between gangsters, Dub Corveaux and his alter ego Doc Voodoo soon become embroiled in the turf war when it threatens the wider community.

Set in Harlem 1926, Doc Voodoo is steampunk at its best. I found it refreshing to read about a black superhero in a mostly black community, who wasn't being used to air long held political grievances. Not aimed at any particular racial group, Doc Voodoo: Aces & Eights is first and foremost an alternate take on a time and place. While obviously an important factor culturally, the skin colour of the main cast is distant second to their situation and humanity. Intriguingly, author Dale Lucas -- who is Caucasian -- manages to imbue his work with an authentic feel, in much the same way that the singer Bill Medley always sounded black. Yet the cast are never in any danger of becoming the steampunk equivalent of blacksploitation such as Shaft. The eponymous hero works equally well in both of his identities, and there's plenty of room for expansion. The only thing I had a hard time accepting was how the Queen Been had achieved her position without cracking many more eggs, and retained such an altruistic streak. This quibble aside I felt that the characterisation was spot on, the plot an assured run through the urban jungle, and the world that Lucas creates to be one that I would like to visit again.

In an industry where the major players are often ruled by accountants, I find it encouraging that small press outfit Beating Windward Press appear to be placing their emphasis on editors capable of spotting a good thing. In the case of Dale Lucas, they've found a writer whose work innovates and entertains, reinventing the familiar and breathing new life into old themes. I thoroughly enjoyed Doc Voodoo's first outing, and look forward to reading the next.

Copyright © 2012 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

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