Released by Cemetery Dance Publications in 2002, Cast in Dark Waters is a collaboration between Ed Gorman and Tom Piccirilli that fluidly and creatively combines two genres: horror and sea-faring adventure. It also features artwork by Keith Minnion. Set in a dingy, 16th century Caribbean port, the story is about a female pirate by the named Crimson whose swashbuckling prowess and high-seas exploits have made her a legend in her own time. Her reputation has spread so far and wide that Trevor and Eileen Maycomb have taken leave of their home in the Virginia colony to hire Crimson to find their missing daughter, Daphna. The trail leads Crimson to an ominous island that is rumored to be haunted by vampires, but that doesn’t scare her as much as the possibility that one of the undead might, in fact, be her deceased lover.
A brisk 100 pages, Cast in Dark Waters is an undeniably enjoyable read, and it is clear that not only do Gorman and Piccirilli’s individual styles merge together cohesively, but that the two writers are also having a blast. A damp, grimy atmosphere settles on every page: bodies hanging from ropes; bar fights; muggy steerage compartments inside ships; foreboding jungles; and the rotting flesh of the restless undead. Bits of action alternate with scenes of nightmarish macabre, and the vampires aren’t the only demons adrift in this story: Crimson and the other characters carry with them plenty of their own personal demons.
If it is starting to sound like the whole book it is grim, it most certainly is not–there is much fun and excitement to be had in the book. Gorman and Piccirilli are perceptive writers who are equally sensitive to suspenseful atmosphere as to the darker aspects of their characters. However, they know how to balance these tendencies with both humor and action, as well as a swift-moving plot that keeps readers entertained.
The initial run of Cast in Dark Waters by Cemetery Dance was limited to 750 copies, and while it is out of print, there are still used copies available at ABE and Amazon, or you could ask your local independent bookseller if they know how to get a copy.
Also, many congratulations to Gorman and Piccirilli who were both nominated by Spinetingler Magazine in the Best Novel: Legend category for this year’s 2010 Spinetingler Awards. Gorman was nominated for The Midnight Room and Piccirilli for Shadow Season, both of which I reviewed here on Pulp Serenade. (I also interviewed both Gorman and Piccirilli about their respective books.) The other nominees include: Tower by Reed Farrel Coleman and Ken Bruen; The Complaints by Ian Rankin; The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston; and The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly. All I can say is, that’s one heck of a lineup! Congratulations to all the nominees. You can vote for your favorite over at Spinetingler Magazine.
As always, a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
"There is no pain, only a consuming sense of eternity that's more hideous than anything she's ever known. His tongue snakes its way deep into the wound, and she shrieks and weakly struggles as her own blood splashes into her eyes and mouth. The cage of fangs grows around her heart."
"They wore only wet trousers that dripped and left puddles at their feet, and their ashen skin gleamed and glowed with sea water. Jaundiced eyes blazed. The warm night winds swept low and snapped against flesh as hard as bone."
"There are some things that can't be explained and shouldn't be lied about."
Cover art by Keith Minnion