Horror comedy can be very good when it is done right but there are very few writers that can pull it off on a regular basis. I am always a little leery when I start a new book of this type as it is usually a let-down. I was hoping that Demon with a Comb-Over by Stuary R. West would be the exception that makes taking the chance worthwhile and provide some laughs and scares in equal quantities.
Charlie Broadmoor is a stand-up comedian. This, of course, would lead one to assume that he is funny. The truth is that Charlie is not a good stand-up comedian. He makes just enough to scrape by in his mundane, post-divorce life that consists of little more than surviving the moments between the time he gets so spend with his daughter and serving as crowd fodder to warm up audiences for stand-ups who are actually funny. One night during a particularly disastrous set, Charlie decides to go on the offensive and single out a man in crowd to be the butt of his jokes. The man’s comb-over made him an easy target and Charlie lit into him relentlessly with the hopes of garnering a few chuckles. The man with the comb-over was not a man, however, but a demon. And the demon did not find the jokes at his expense funny at all.
The demon with the comb-over is a senior demon named Kobal and he does not have a sense of humor and is determined to get revenge for Charlie’s mockery of him. It is not enough to humiliate Charlie. Kobal has his sights set on destroying Charlie and everything that he holds dear. Now Charlie must find a way to defeat the demon before he is literally dragged to hell. Charlie must find a way to defeat the demon and his bad haircut before the last laugh is had at the expense of his life.
In Demon with a Comb-Over, West pulls off the difficult task of mixing horror with humor successfully and crafts a story that is at times terrifying and at times funny. There are not too many laugh-out-loud moments, this is a much more subtle form of humor than found in books by writers such as Jeff Strand, but it is still very good. West goes with a more subtle approach to humor than simple gags and the story is stronger for that. Kobal is sometimes absurd but he is still a strong force of evil that is menacing at times. West manages to poke fun as the absurdity of life so that the struggle between Charlie and Kobal almost seems to be a metaphor for life. Danger may lurk in the shadows of the real world but there is joy and humor there as well. It all comes down to a matter of perspective.
I have come to expect quality horror from Samhain Publishing and Demon with a Comb-Over is a good example of why I have this expectation. The novel is by an author that I am not familiar with and the story is different but also very good. West understands that even a horror story is entertainment and provides a moment of levity and a breath of fresh air in a genre that sometimes seems to take itself too seriously. There is a time and place for stories of substance and gravitas but there is also an equal time and place for pure entertainment. West pits a demon with no heart or humor (and bad hair) against a comedian who is all heart and little humor to create one hell of a tale. Demon with a Comb-Over is recommended for any horror fan who does not take his books too seriously.
I would like to thank Samhain Publishing and NetGalley for this advance review copy. Demon with a Comb-Over is scheduled to be released in March.