Pacific war veteran “Bull” Ingram is big, coldly competent, and quick to break a deadbeat’s fingers. Just the man a Memphis DJ needs to find his missing employee, lost somewhere between one radio station and another in the backwoods of Arkansas. Maybe he fell in a ditch, or maybe it has something to do with Ramblin’ John Hastur – a bluesman of whispered legend, whose songs can make a sane man kill and dead men rise.
What starts out as a solid noir thriller – with more than one homage to Rex Stout – turns about halfway through into a dark, raw horror tale. The action is good and the pacing tense, though exposition is heavy at times and not all of Bull’s World War II flashbacks connect. Jacobs makes great use of the concept that the sacrifice of innocents brings mystic powers, and he backs it up with vivid, disturbing descriptions that will stay with the reader for a long time. Be prepared for images of graphic sexual violence against all manner of innocent creatures, including children. I must say I wasn’t – I thought this was a book about a private dick and a zombie blues guitarist – but if you can handle that sort of thing, Southern Gods is an interesting new take on Lovecraftian horror with strong characters and nice taste of the atmosphere of American soul music as it emerged in the 1950s.