Justin Gustainis is a college professor living in upstate New York. The author of many published short stories, he has also written the novels The Hades Project (2003), Black Magic Woman (2008), Evil Ways, (2009), Sympathy for the Devil (2011), Hard Spell (2011), and Evil Dark along with editing the anthology Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives (2011). He is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. Known Devil is his latest in the Occult Crimes Unit series, released in January 2014.
My novels in the “Haunted Scranton” series (Hard Spell, Evil Dark, and Known Devil, so far) are written in the first person – narrated by my protagonist, Stan Markowski. Stan is a Detective Sergeant in the Scranton Police Department’s Occult Crimes Unit, in a world where supernatural creatures exist, and everyone knows it. But even “supes” haves to obey the law – or else. As Stan puts it in Hard Spell, “When a vamp puts the bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that’s when they call me. My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge.”
Stan is the last person to consider himself witty, or even ironic. If asked, he’d tell you, “Aw, I’m just a sarcastic bastard.” But some folks have found Stan’s observations on his life and work to be amusing, in a dark sort of way. I thought I’d share a few of them with you. The quotations that follow are drawn from all three of the “Haunted Scranton” books.
[Describing a Mafia capo, who also happens to be a vampire] “He had salt-and-pepper hair, wideset brown eyes, and a thin moustache in the middle of a face that was no harder than your average concrete wall.”
[The same guy later, in conversation with Stan] “He stared at me with eyes that had probably looked dead even before he became a vampire.”
[Describing an elf in the middle of a robbery who insists, “I’m cool!”] “I thought he looked about as cool as Jell-o in an earthquake.”
[On a Mafia-owned restaurant] “The terrace outside the front door is open in warmer weather, for those who like sharing their food with the local bugs. I prefer to eat inside, where the only insects I’m likely to encounter have two legs.”
[Stan and his partner arrive on a crime scene, and an impatient cop asks, “Jeez,what took you so long?”] “We stopped to get our hair done.”
[Negotiating with some goblins who have taken human hostages] “Talking to gobs always made me sound like some nitwit in an old Tarzan movie. Can’t be helped, though. Goblins aren’t real bright.”
[Stan’s vampire partner, Karl Renfer, shakes hands with a civilian] “I saw a puzzled look on his face – maybe because Karl’s grip, like every vampire’s, is colder than a banker’s heart.”
[While interrogating a local member of the undead] “Vollman raised his head and looked at me. He didn’t seem to change expression, but I was suddenly very aware that I was talking to a 500-year old vampire who’d probably killed more people than I’ve had meals.”
[Stan on another species of supe] “I’ve never had a lot of use for elves. In my experience, they’re nothing like the ones in the stories – those drones who supposedly work for the Fat Guy up North.”
[Stan describing yet another member of the supe family] “The default setting on the average Fairy’s face is a smirk, and in more than one case I’ve been tempted to wipe it off –with my fist.”
[Arriving at a crime scene, 2:00 a.m.] “All three police cars had their red and blue lights going, creating an effect like a madman’s version of Hell. Given what I figured was on the other side of that fence, the madman would have been right.”
[Stan finds that his vampire daughter has been reading the “Special Undead Issue” of Cosmo] “The cover stories cracked me up: ‘Is Your Coffin Clunky?’ ‘The Secret Place He Really Wants You to Bite Him,’ and my favorite one of all – ‘Sharpest. Fangs. Ever.’”