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"The Devil You Know"
by P.N. Elrod
This is a short story…what is the difference between a novella and a short story?…, falling in at 12.5 in the Vampire Files: Jack Fleming historical urban fantasy series revolving around a former journalist-turned-vampire-turned-nightclub-owner, Jack Fleming, in Chicago in the 1930s.
Whoaaa, for a short story, there is a whole lotta action goin’ on!
Elrod is amazing in her depiction of the time period. You can see, smell, feel, and hear it as you read. The swish of satin, the smoke from cigarettes drifting in the air, the roar of a Studebaker, and the tat-a-tat-tat of a Thompson submachine gun.
There’s quite a bit of “what-if” in here as Jack and Jonathan both wonder how they could have prevented the tragedy. If only…
Interesting side bit about Thomas E. Dewey as an assistant district attorney in New York.
Way unexpected to discover Jonathan’s lifestyle change. This is so unexpected! Now Jonathan says this was a long time coming… Damn, there’s another story here! Meanwhile, Emily’s house out on Long Island is on land that Barrett’s family had owned when he was still alive, and he’s purchased the house from her.
Maureen Dumont is the woman both men had loved. And now Jonathan has found her body. With an unexpected sensitivity, Jonathan invites Jack to return for her funeral. And another unexpected discovery. One that will involve the New York City mob.
It’s all about the history. That between Jack and Jonathan. The woman they both loved. The rivalry for power between mob criminals in New York City.
And a lawyer who’s been missing for seven years. One whose recovery poses all sorts of trouble for more than just Jack and Jonathan.
Jack Fleming was a journalist who left New York City and ended up in Chicago. Ended is the right word as that’s where he learned about his new existence as a vampire. He now owns Lady Crymsyn there and is friends with Escott, a private detective, and Northside Gordy, a mob boss. Bobbi Smythe is his girlfriend and an amazing singer who performs at his club.
Jonathan Barrett became a vampire during the Revolutionary War and has stayed on the East Coast for the most part. For years he has lived with Emily Francher, a human.
Maureen Dumont is the woman who caused Jack to become a vampire. It’s saved his life at least a dozen times. The least he can do is attend her funeral.
Missus Stannard, a most interesting woman, provides the necessary clues for Jack and Jonathan to continue their search for the body’s identity.
Fleish Brogan is a gangster in New York City with the most amazing secret. Swann is his second with an interest in changing up. Thorp, Kaiser, Wendell, Remke, Harv, and Ernie are some of Brogan’s soldiers. Griffin Endicott was Brogan’s lawyer until he went beyond the pale. Mrs. Naomi Van Dusen Endicott is still living in their home, wondering where he disappeared to, hoping he’ll never be back.
Desmond “Clappie” Clapsaddle is a reporter from Jack’s past. A sot and an excellent writer with more knowledge about the City’s underworld than he is allowed to print. Isabelle DeLeon is another reporter whom Jack knew. One whom Jack would have tried to date if he hadn’t been so deep in a bottle. Now she’s holding up Clapsaddle, although Jonathan seems to be interested romantically.
The Cover and Title
The cover is all black-and-white with Jack and his shadow trekking across a concrete sidewalk.
It’s an opportunity for retrospection for Jack and he soon comes to realize that he prefers The Devil You Know.