Daniel James is an author of fantasy, horror and thrillers.
Daniel was formerly represented by the Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency, who released his crime-thriller Pigs under the company's Agent Sponsored Publishing branch. Daniel now focuses on more fantastical stories rooted in the breadth of speculative fiction.
When not writing, Daniel loves reading genre fiction novels and comic books, watching movies, and listening to music; he also used to play bass in a few local rock bands.
“An exciting and complex tale with memorable characters, standout battle scenes, and riveting worldbuilding.”
– Kirkus Reviews
This sequel focuses on a hapless civilian caught up in a paranormal agency.
James’ first Hourglass novel introduced readers to ordinary guy and aspiring comic book artist Clyde Williams and his friend Kevin Carpenter. The two hang out regularly despite Kev being dead. The fact that the pals commune so easily brings them to the attention of the clandestine paranormal agency known as Hourglass. They’re both brought onboard as operatives, working alongside agents both lethally trained and superpowered. This new installment of their adventures features the same fevered pitch of pulp prose that made the first book so enjoyable: “A few cautious steps later and Clyde understood why the hub guards were so utterly oblivious to the two intruders marching down on them. They were not bored. They were dead. Grey skinned and white-eyed, blood still dripping from the puddles in their seats.” Robert E. Howard fans will recognize the tone instantly. Like James’ series opener, the sequel centers on the secret war Hourglass is waging against the evil Cairnwood Society, Citadel Security Solutions, and CSS’s dapper, diabolical middle manager, Edward Talbot. Added to the mix is the requisite fantasy “Master,” an evil, nonhuman entity named Charon, and its machinations further complicate an already very pleasingly complex plot. The baleful Eye of Charon lurks in the background of the tale’s expanded action, watching over plot threads and characters (the most memorable of whom eerily earns her name “Doll Face”) that range far afield from Clyde and Kev.
The sheer zest of the storytelling here is infectious. James has mastered the knack of meshing the fast-paced lingo of paramilitary thrillers with the colorful worldbuilding of urban fantasy. It’s the same combination found in books like Larry Correia’s popular Monster Hunter series and the novels of Simon Green, and it works to extremely readable effect in these pages as Clyde, Kev, and their Hourglass allies continue to face off against Cairnwood and its minions. This is the kind of SF/fantasy where internet encryptions and Glock 19s show up right alongside hexes and undead monsters (sometimes merging, as in “low-grade demonic radiation” and the like). Virtually all of the players in some way live on the borderline between those two realities. “Being a practical man, one of sound reasoning, science, and logic,” one such character thinks while standing in the middle of a literally haunted dungeon, he “never used to believe in fluffy matters such as souls and dark forces, but now, every time he shivered down in this dank hellhole he couldn’t help but wonder if it was the cause of ghosts brushing his shoulder.” This and similar passages highlight the volume’s only recurrent flaw: the author’s tendency to get tangled up in his own verbiage. But this defect is minor compared to the story’s many strengths: the sharply drawn characters, the frequency with which the jokes land, and, most of all, the roller-coaster pacing, which keeps the whole supernatural business hurtling to a gripping conclusion. Fans of urban fantasy should jump on this series at its beginning.
A fast-paced, richly imagined, gritty tale of modern-day good versus evil.
Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2022
Page count: 327pp
Publisher: Independently Published
Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022
In this fantasy, a teen’s attempts to pull his life together become complicated by the return of his supposedly imaginary—and murderous—childhood friend.
Neil Karp is a senior at Hawthorne High in Birch Creek, Michigan. After his father undergoes treatment for lung cancer, Neil decides to quit smoking. This worries his pot-loving friends Matt and Sam, especially the latter, who’s committed to the stoner life of driving a van and all but abandoned school for video games. When Sam buys a round of drugs from a nightclub dealer rather than local bully Russel “Shit Storm” Staubach, life becomes hellish for Neil and his friends. Staubach sells drugs from stock provided by 19-year-old Jason Noakes, whose family runs Birch Creek’s gangs. During a confrontation, Neil defends Sam by pushing Staubach against Noakes’ Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Neil and company narrowly escape in the van and now must watch their backs for retaliation. The best part of Neil’s life is Lindsey McGuire, a cute violinist he’s finally found the courage to talk to. As he continues the high-wire act of dodging Noakes and courting Lindsey, Neil notices a strange presence on the periphery of his life. At a skate park one evening, he sees a dancing shape on a nearby rooftop. This is Frogmore, a tweed coat–wearing, talking frog whom Neil knew five years ago. Frogmore appeared when bullies attacked Neil at Rawlins Pond. The ostensibly imaginary friend killed the bullies, prompting Neil to take medication to heal from the trauma. Now Frogmore is back, just when Neil and his friends need protection.
James offers a fun, psychedelic thriller that’s steeped in classic rock and teen melodrama and styled after Stephen King’s Christine and Carrie. Fans may be surprised the story is set in the present. Many genuine, grounded moments revolve around 1980s cultural touchstones, as when Lindsey plays Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talking ’Bout Love” for Neil on her violin. The novel’s antagonists toss homophobic slurs around readily—making them retro and repulsive. James rounds out most of the cast well enough for the audience to worry when Frogmore starts killing people. Sam becomes exceptionally real to readers when he admits that he smokes because “I can’t turn my brain off.” Even Noakes garners sympathy as someone with a choice between continuing a violent life and buckling down to become a car mechanic. Frogmore, meanwhile, is a tantalizing plot element from the get-go. His mysterious origin spools out carefully, threading around a subplot involving a drug chemist named Hansen “Doctor Crankenstein” Hurst, who wants to “smash through this rigid bowl of reality” placed over humanity. Frogmore explains, “My kind” are travelers, “visiting different worlds on invisible safari,” which implies hunting. The creature does indeed toy with people, making certain deaths seem accidental while implicating Neil and even growing jealous of the teen’s human friends. The author’s descriptive prose delivers a gory finale in which more than one victim is murdered by the frog’s “muscular cable-like tongue.” Hurst’s incredible drug, called Fable, burns up and blows across town in the finale, revealing the potential for a sequel.
A wonderfully odd thriller that should delight anyone who has ever been bullied.
Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2021
Page count: 264pp
Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021
An aspiring comic-book artist and the ghost of his best friend join a fight against soul-seeking private military contractors in James’ fantasy novel.
Twenty-something freelance artist Clyde Williams dreams of drawing comics but so far has collected nothing but rejections. He shares his Brooklyn apartment with Kevin “Kev” Carpenter, who’s been his best pal for 20 years—and for the last two months, he’s been a ghost. Shot to death in a liquor-store robbery, Kev simply appeared to Clyde as an apparition afterward and stuck around (although he refuses to serve as Clyde’s “ghost writer”). Both friends feel as if they’re at an impasse—so when Agent Rose Hadfield knocks on their door, the pair hear her out. She works for Hourglass, a black-ops government department that trains ghosts, or “Post-Life Entities” like Kev, and their physical anchors, like Clyde, to take on unusual threats. Clyde, whose father and brother both died in combat, despises the military but agrees to accompany Kev to Hourglass for training. The friends learn all kinds of fighting tactics as well as information about Erebus, the land of the dead that’s also called “the Null”: “There are no pearly gates, no kingdoms of clouds, or 72 virgins,” explains an Hourglass trainer. Meanwhile, the wealthy, powerful, and clandestine Cairnwood Society is planning a raid on Erebus from its Brooklyn warehouse in order to harvest souls and monetize them—maybe as energy, maybe as weapons. The strike force needs a guide, so Cairnwood has coerced Konstantin Kozlov, a Russian monk and ghost anchor who’s been to Erebus before, into service. For his part, Konstantin hopes to find the Firmament Needle, which he believes “could stitch together a heavenly Paradise.” A showdown in hell, and in New York City, awaits all the players in this game, with the fate of many souls hanging in the balance.
James, in his first fantasy work, tells a story that’s bursting its seams with imaginative ideas, backstory, combat scenes, and developing relationships. It’s a little slow to get started, but once it does, readers will be drawn deep into this well-developed world—or rather, worlds. These include such arcane elements as Konstantin’s Rising Path sect, the hellish creatures of Erebus, evil capitalists, and the comic-book subculture. Similarly, Clyde and Kev provide emotional ballast among so much that’s unusual and extraordinary; indeed, Clyde serves as an anchor in more ways than one. His relatable struggle over whether he should join the battle connects directly with his family history, and the descriptions of his artwork’s visual impact help prepare readers for the novel’s bravura training and battle scenes. The latter are densely choreographed with verve, intelligence, and plenty of operatic (or maybe comic book–like) action. Even the names of Erebus’ nine territories are evocative, such as The House of Fading Light, The House of Silent Screams, and The House of Cold Stars. With Konstantin’s quest incomplete at the end, readers will likely want a second volume.
An exciting and complex tale with memorable characters, standout battle scenes, and riveting worldbuilding.
Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2020
Page count: 378pp
Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021
THE FERRYMAN’S TOLL: AN HOURGLASS NOVEL: Kirkus Star
HOURGLASS: Kirkus Star
HOURGLASS: Named to <i>Kirkus Reviews'</i> Best Books, 2021
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