Writer of Horror Fiction

Review of SP Durnin’s “Keep Your Crowbar Handy”

Keep Your Crowbar Handy introduces the reader to Jake, a free-lance journalist who has traveled the world and has been exposed to many war-torn countries in his journeys abroad.  He was also embedded with the British SAS for a time, getting intense military training during one stint as a reporter.  He has returned home to Ohio, working on tamer projects including editing a cook book to pay the bills.  He has just met Kat, a Pharmacy Tech who thinks he would be a perfect match for her roommate, Laurel, a part-time singer who runs her own health food store.  He agrees to meet up with them at a local bar along with his friend Allen, and Jake and Laurel hit it off, despite his initial (and ongoing) interest in Kat as more than just a friend.  Unfortunately for them, it is the same night that the world is going to hell and the dead are coming back to life. 

The story tells of Jake’s efforts to save his new found friends along with some of his old ones, including his landlord, a former military man, from their deaths at the hands of the undead as well as the living.  This was an independent novel from SP Durnin, but has been picked up by Permuted Press to be re-released as a series of books (this novel plus several sequels). 

Keep Your Crowbar Handy isn’t another tale of a bunch of regular folks barricading themselves in an apartment building with the hopes of being saved by the military.  Instead, it is a tale of a group of well-armed and well trained individuals who plot how they can make it through 2,000 miles of deadly territory to what they hope is an area out west that has been cleared of the undead.  It is also a tale of romance-the love triangle of Jake, Laurel, and Kat. 

Jake has military training and Kat, who is half-Japanese, has extensive training in martial arts and weaponry, which makes her even more deadly than Jake against the undead and the living.  Naturally, they face off against more than just zombies, as the world falls apart and desperate men and women fight to take the resources that Jake and his friends have at their disposal, along with the survivors they have rescued. 

The story moves at a fast pace and the action is gripping.  Jake is a strong, though reluctant leader/hero, and his character, along with Laurel and Kat, are well developed.  They along with Allen, Rae (another military survivor they meet up with) and George (Jake’s landlord-the man with the plan for survival) were the most compelling characters in the book.  There is quite a bit of traditional zombie survival storytelling going on here, though once again, it is clear that this isn’t your run of the mill apocalyptic survivor’s saga. 

Credit to the author for putting the romantic elements of this story up front and center, making it complicated for the characters-not just because of the fear of death around every corner, but because of the feelings they have for one another.  Jake has fallen for Laurel but has feelings for Kat as well, which she reciprocates.  Jake is perhaps written too much as a ‘every man fears him and every woman wants him’ type guy who seems to far too perfect-he is strong, handsome, intelligent, and an all-around boy-scout, but as much as he proclaims his devotion to his gorgeous newfound girlfriend, he isn’t above tempting himself with Kat’s constant advances; this despite both of them knowing that what they are doing is wrong.  That they both seemed to feel little guilt about their actions seemed out of character given their loyalty to Laurel and the fact that they are clearly presented as heroes and saviors.  It would seem that their tantalizing and teasing of one another would weigh more heavily on them than it did.   

As is the case with many independently written novels, this could use another solid round of edits-misplaced commas, over use of certain descriptive terms, etc. occur throughout the book.  Despite this, the storytelling is solid and keeps you intrigued from start to finish.  SP Durnin’s writing style is compelling and he clearly enjoys creating vivid characters and story sequences.  With this book (along with its sequels) being re-released by Permuted Press, more editing will sharpen things up a bit and I would guess the story might get tweaked a bit as well.  I look forward to seeing the entire series when it is completed.  Keep Your Crowbar Handy has a memorable title and an entertaining storyline that I look forward to seeing through to the end of the road for Jake and his friends. 

Keep Your Crowbar Handy can be found here:     http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1481096222/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_img_sol_0

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