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Ryder on the Storm… “Reads Flawlessly”

Review by Shathley Q

If anything, Ryder On The Storm reads a little too flawlessly. You’d miss the hidden depths by getting easily lost in the swiftly billowing skein of narrative flow. Ryder’s a private eye in a world where PI’s seem to function as much as legal counsel as investigators. Ryder’s anger management issues and impulse control have pushed him to the margins of society, and he now stands on the cusp of investigating the very founders of high society. The murder of Michael Hudson will eventually wind its way into the Danton family, the patricians who built the city and have been influential in civil, business and religious structures ever since.

So Ryder reads flawlessly, like the perfect noir novel. The old hardboiled detective is thrown in a mystery ostensibly beyond his depths. The femme fatale appears giving the plot its MacGuffin. And eventually through hard work and diligence, exercise of a profound intellect, and above all grit, the detective winds his way to solving the case.

Easy to read, flawless, easy pop entertainment. Except of course David’s hidden depths come bubbling to the surface in marrying the noir crime drama with an altogether unrelated genre, the monarchy horror.

The Dantons are descended from Old Country royalty. But nothing of their relocation to the New World has done anything to alter their worldview. And as we discovered fairly early on in issue one, they really are vampires. So the story twists, just that little bit. Ryder himself takes on the appearance of a moral crusader against the corruption (both biological and criminal that the Dantons have effected in order to fulfill their desires) of the city’s first family.

And of course this becomes an actual crusader story, replete with a secret order of knights bound together by a blood-oath to end the reign of the Daemons (the vampire race by which the Dantons call themselves). We learn of this secret brotherhood with the appearance of Charles Monk. Monk who could easily be a meditation on the first of generations to be born into the emerging Chicago blues scene of the ‘60s, those who didn’t come from elsewhere but went on to conquer Europe.

Monk is so tantalizingly elegant a character he seems to deserve his own book. Though is he not Muddy Waters (despite Waters having come from the South), the autodidactism is apparent in Hine’s writing.

And another twist by the end. The image in Michael Hudson’s journal, the image on the Daemon tapestry in the Danton family home (in the finest tradition of ever Sam Spade and every Dracula novel ever, a home that hunches over an entire island just outside the city) is a prophecy, not a history. This is vampire sci-fi, not a vampire period piece.

And by the end of the mini series, Ryder, Katrina and Monk’s escape from the island feels very much like the warm-up for a second season. How are the Danton’s going to reassert their control of the city? What will become of the tunnel rats, will they actually be able to mount a social revolution? And will Ryder remain steadfast in his choice.

It’s so much pure fun to watch Ryder barrel headlong through the nature vs. nurture debate that it’s hard to notice what’s really going on.

The use of cultural migrations in African-American culture as a major theme, the use of hardboiled noir to interpret the staid excesses of an amoral royalty, the suggestion of human trafficking as a hidden theme (with the female lead Katrina Petruska)… All of these reorient the reader almost without their noticing. David Hine has shifted the goals and presented Ryder on the Storm as a map of the cultural evolutions of the twentieth century.

There’re no $10 words to be found here in Hine’s writing, but just as with Hemingway, the kind of reader who had fans who eventually became scholars, Hine lays bare the heart of popular culture. It’s the kind of culture we can all share in, sure, but in the long run it’s the kind of thing we can all return to, down the line. It’s the writing that can grow with us.

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