John F Leonard leaves behind the apocalypse and settles into creating his own mythos with the novel Bad Pennies. I’ve read a couple of John’s stories now including Call Drops and the novella 4 Hours. Call Drops, in particular, really worked well for me. I enjoyed John’s storytelling style, his witty humour and his obvious ability to spin a good yarn. Call Drops is a great way to introduce yourself to Leonard’s Scaeth mythos which is explored much further here with Bad Pennies.
Poor Chris Carlise. His life is pretty shit, his job is a chore, he’s broke and he lives in a dump. One day, Chris is minding his own business when he sees a man hit by a van. Said man loses his wallet in the accident. Chris can’t believe his luck, so he picks up the wallet and from here on in Chris’ life turns down a dark path, one that involves the mysterious horror that is the Scaeth! Chris Carlise is a solid character, really quite likeable despite his flaws, but it is The Scaeth that steals the show. The Scaeth is a terrific creation: sly, manipulative, fearsome, this character has all of the characteristics a good antagonist needs, I loved every scene with it in. Greed seems to be the overarching theme here and I found myself questioning exactly what I’d do given the situation Chris finds himself in.
Now, Bad Pennies is a novel and novels are perhaps my least favourite format to read. That said, this is a good one. Leonard’s story is heavy on atmosphere (which I love with my novels) and has a vibe similar to that created by Lovecraft and Chambers in their works. Once you get over the slightly sluggish start to the novel the pacing settles down quite nicely. I found Bad Pennies to be a little slow initially but that’s probably down to the fact that I read mostly novellas and short story collections, and that my patience with novels is almost non-existent. That being said by the end of the book I was well satisfied with what I’d read.
Overall, Bad Pennies is a very solid novel from John F Leonard. It is one built upon the foundations of good characterisation and a foreboding and dark atmosphere. If this sounds like your bag then definitely check it out.
4/5 dark portals from the Grim Reader.
Pick up a copy from here.