Writer of Horror Fiction

Review of Remy Porter’s “Dead Beat”

Johnny Silverman is a policeman in a small town in rural England when the dead begin to rise.  The reader is provided with a minor hint as to why this has happened, but for the most part, the plague that has caused the dead to come back to life is a mystery as we watch a few select people turning into zombies before all hell breaks loose across the countryside.  Johnny is checking things out in a store when a woman inside attacks him.  He narrowly escapes with his life and manages to get back to the police station, where Summer, a support officer, and Lester, the town drunk, barricade themselves inside while things go to hell quickly outdoors.  At the same time, Jack Nation, a farmer, and his son Griffin, are coming to grips with this new plague as well.  But despite the horrors they face, them seem more than willing to take advantage of the situation and bring many of the survivors together to build a fence around the town to prevent more of the dead from entering the area as they clear out the the undead from the town and surrounding region.
As Johnny and his compatriots start to sort things out in town, Jack and his son begin to thrive in a thuggish new world they have created, which doesn’t need the likes of people like Johnny and the laws he tries to enforce.  Given that most of the people in town have fearfully thrown in with Jack, there is little that Johnny can do as the farmer becomes more and more willing to enforce his own laws and rules, ruthlessly if needed, to keep everyone following his orders.
Dead Beat is a fairly accurate title for this book, because Johnny has no beat anymore-the town is no longer his, and since Summer and him are the only remaining law enforcement personnel, they are seen as a threat to the new order.  On the few occasions that he attempts to step in and assert himself as an authority, it doesn’t go over too well, and at one point I was shocked at how willing he was to give in to the demands of Jack and his depraved son.  The author does a good job of giving Johnny a real human side to him.  He doesn’t strike me as much of a hero, just a guy trying to hold things together and survive with both the dead and the living threatening him at every turn.  And until things really fall apart for him, he doesn’t make a huge effort to stop Jack in his depraved ways, and by then, it seems clear that it will all end in tears for just about everyone still alive.
The author switches from third to first person, with the sections of the book with Johnny in them being told from his perspective.  The story flows well from one perspective to the other and that wasn’t an issue for me.  I do pride myself on being able to pick up on British slang for the most part as an American reader, but even so, it was a bit tough in places to know with one hundred percent accuracy what the author was saying.  I don’t say that as a deterrent, because the language variations don’t detract from the story at all, they just forced me to pay a bit closer attention.  All in all, this was a good zombie story with compelling characters.  As is my tendency, I prefer character driven zombie stories, and this one definitely falls into that category.  Johnny isn’t a hero by any stretch, and reveals tidbits about himself throughout the story that made it clear that he is most assuredly human and has tremendous weaknesses and even a dark side that reveals itself near the end of the tale.  And despite the filthy depraved nature of Griffin and Jack, I can still see where the farmer had probably once been a good man and in his own screwed up mind was doing a good thing for the people of the community by building the fence that keeps the undead out.  Lester, the town drunk who ends up sobering up in time, is another character who grew on me and proved that he wasn’t one dimensional as he transformed into someone fighting to discover the cause of the plague.
Overall, an entertaining zombie read that was definitely satisfying.  Plenty of gore, plenty of action, and most importantly for me, plenty of characters that kept the story interesting from beginning to end.

Dead Beat can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Beat-Remy-Porter/dp/0956373364/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1297226757&sr=1-3

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