Dinosaur Jazz by Michael Panush
Acheron Island is a world lost to time, home to prehistoric creatures from earth’s savage past.
The island’s occupants range from ferocious, man-eating dinosaurs and savage Ape Man tribes to strange ruins from a lost civilization. It is also home to Sir Edwin Crowe, son of the Victorian explorer who discovered Acheron Island, renowned big game hunter, scarred Great War veteran, and last of the world’s Gentleman Adventurers.
But now Acheron Island has some new residents – ruthless American businessman Selwyn Slade and an army of corporate cronies. Why has Slade brought all of his modern industrial power to conquer this world from the past? Can Sir Edwin uncover his strange purpose and protect this prehistoric world? Sir Edwin’s only allies are his stalwart Ape Man partner, a beautiful torch singer with a mysterious agenda, his strong-willed sister and her archaeologist boyfriend, and a family of American tourists – and they’re about to become the last hope of a lost world.
What do you get if you cross a 1920’s gangster movie, a maniacal despot with a delusions of grandeur and a horde of rampaging terrible lizards? The answer – Dinosaur Jazz by Michael Panush.
And what of Sir Edwin Crowe, the stalwart hero of the piece? Well, he is the living embodiment of the English gentleman. Ironically, in a novel chock full of dinosaurs and ape men, Sir Edwin is swiftly becoming an anachronism. His attitudes towards certain things are, how can I put it? A trifle old hat? The good news is that there are plenty of other characters around who are more than willing to point out his lapses in judgment. Don’t get me wrong, all of his actions are driven by the most noble of intentions but like some of the other denizens of Acheron, Edwin hasn’t ever really evolved much. Sir Edwin may have flaws, but he continually endeavours to overcome them. He strives to be the hero that the islanders need him to be when their way of life is threatened.
James, Sir Edwin’s adopted ape man brother, also plays an important role in proceedings. Through him the reader gets to discover the details of Acheron Island’s native inhabitants. There is also a sub-plot involving James being trapped between the traditions of his race and the modern life he lives with Edwin. This helps to flesh out his character nicely.
It seems only proper that the villains Sir Edwin and James face off against, are all delightfully evil. Along with Selwyn Slade there is also the bandit leader, the enigmatically monikered Crimson Khan, as well as a whole host of gang leaders, mercenaries, Mongols and Cossacks. Actually, now that I think about it, Acheron Island really has a serious crime problem.
I have to admit that I’ve always had bit of a soft spot when it comes to dinosaurs. I remember being awestruck the first time I saw a dinosaur on the big screen and I’m glad to say that sense of wonder has never really gone away. I kept expecting Doug McClure, you may remember him from such films as The Land that Time Forgot, to crop up in the pages of Dinosaur Jazz. (Part of me remains a little sad that he didn’t).
When I recently reviewed the first volume of The Stein and Candle Detective Agency (also written by Michael Panush), I made a point of mentioning that it had an addictive B-movie quality about it. The plot of this novel captured my imagination in a similar manner but rather than B-movie this time I was thinking classic radio play. Each time a chapter ended I was could almost hear an announcer proclaim “How will Sir Edwin and his friends escape from the vile clutches of Selwyn Slade? Tune in the same time next week to find out…“. Dinosaur Jazz reads like a loving homage to the weekly serials of old.
It’s well worth your time to seek out and luxuriate in this exuberant slice of monster mayhem. Overall a great, fun romp chock full of derring-do and more prehistoric action than you can shake a stick at.
Dinosaur Jazz is published by Curiosity Quills and is available in paperback and for Kindle now.