The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont 

 Fiction

Of the more than 100 novels I read in 2006, none gave me more pleasure than this summer's debut from Paul Malmont, "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril." A serious book with a funny name, Malmont's what-if adventure features two real-life writers as its protagonists: Lester Dent and William Gibson.
 
Dent and Gibson serve as Malmont's reluctant co-stars, putting aside their differences to look into the murder of their colleague, the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. What they find sets them rolling on a rip-roarin' ride not unlike the kind they churn out for a nickel a word "? one involving deadly zombies, secret codes, nerve gas, conjuring magicians and other famous writers, from Louis L'Amour to L. Ron Hubbard (not yet having founded the "religion" of Scientology).
 
Admittedly, it sounds like a disposable airport paperback, but Malmont takes the story seriously, approaching well-worn genre conventions with a literary style.

-Rod Lott

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