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SFF and Queerness – We Need To Do Better

SFF and Queerness – We Need To Do Better


5th Annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off: An Introduction

5th Annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off

SPFBO #5: An Introduction


Black City Saint by Richard A. Knaak

Black City Saint by Richard A. Knaak
Book Name: Black City Saint
Author: Richard A. Knaak
Publisher(s): Pyr
Formatt: Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy / Mystery
Release Date: March 1, 2016

Prohibition is in full swing. The cops are scrambling around, closing down speakeasies, and arresting gangsters whenever they can – those that aren’t on the take that is. And in Chicago, Al Capone is about to make his move.

To Nick Medea this is all background noise, a fact of life in the roaring 20s. He has a much larger role to play, a bigger job to handle. He has ghosts to hunt. The phone rings, a number that only those who really have a ghost problem can see, and another job begins. This one could kill him.

Richard A Knaak is an author of many more books than you probably realise. Not only did he create, and continue to write about, the world of Dragonrealm, but he has written books in the worlds of Warcraft, Dragonlance, Diablo and Age of Conan. By my count, and not including Black City Saint, that is 56 books.

Black City Saint is an urban gangster fantasy, set in the 1920s. Against this background of gang warfare, Model T Fords, racism and Tommy-guns, a much larger battle is taking place and Nick is right in the middle of it all. The Lord and Lady of Feire are fighting each other for the future of our world and theirs.

There is a lot of history to come to grips with in this war and the story drops hints left, right and centre. Our main character has been around for a long time, a very long time, and has a raft of contacts, friends and enemies that he uses, protects, and kills as the story progresses.

However, Nick has principles and responsibilities. He is driven to do the right thing, to protect those too weak to look after themselves, to work with the law and within the boundaries of his own moral code. There are times when Nick’s behaviour borders on saintly, but there is a strong counter-point of darkness to his character. He is not alone in his body, nor is he at peace. At constant war with the other spirit, Nick struggles to stay in control of his actions, and though an uneasy alliance is struck it is always under tension, threatening to crack at any moment.

Nick is haunted by the past, and he has a lot of past to be haunted by. Ghosts offer him advice in the hopes of forgiveness, shape shifters alternatively protect and then try to kill him, and there is a girl to protect. Faced with many choices and a villain that seems always three steps ahead, our hero struggles to protect everyone he cares about.

Inhabiting the grubby side of 1920s Chicago, there are no flapper girls, no Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance routines, no posh clubs, no jazz bands, tuxedos or posh dresses. Knaak gives us the underbelly, the seedier side of the age and then combines it with an almost Lovecraftian, Cthuluistic variety of globular, tentacle festooned monsters.

You can tell that Knaak is an accomplished author because the tale grabs you and moves you along at a fair clip. Little snippets of foreshadowing are dropped into the narrative flow without causing much of ripple, but later these little pebbles splash the cold water of realisation into the reader’s face. Hints of a long, dark and deep history are scattered throughout the story, and the ensemble of characters suggest that many more books could be written and we would still have the wonderful sense that there is more to learn.

Fast paced and full of twists and turns, Black City Saint is urban fantasy with a 20s twist.



  1. Avatar J P Ashman says:

    Great review, Geoff. Thoroughly enjoying the book so far. Fetch is great, as is Nick’s… companion. Can’t wait to finish it and see how it all pans out. This story feels timeless, despite being set I’m fairly recent times – in the grand scheme of things.

  2. Avatar Richard A. Knaak says:

    Thanks as ever for this terrific review! Working on the sequel BLACK CITY DEMON, which is due out next March!

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