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Monday, October 10, 2022

Excerpt: Double-Booked: The Cases of Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. by Kevin J. Anderson

Double-Booked: The Cases of Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.
by Kevin J. Anderson
November 22, 2022
Book 8 of 8: Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.
In the Unnatural Quarter, the Plot Thickens . . . and then runs uncontrollably!

When Howard Phillips Publishing announces the 12 + 1 anniversary edition (due to unavoidable production delays) of the famed Necronomicon—the very book that caused the Big Uneasy in the first place—it takes zombie P.I. Dan Chambeaux, a.k.a. “Shamble,” to root out the diabolical schemes surrounding the book, and the fanatics who wish to destroy it.

With enough plot twists to confound a professional contortionist, Dan Shamble doesn’t have time for light reading. Along with his ghost girlfriend Sheyenne, his firebrand lawyer partner Robin, his best human friend Officer Toby McGoohan, and his ultra-cute vampire half-daughter Alvina, Dan faces an unnatural caseload.

Entire neighborhoods in the Quarter have simply vanished into thin air.

Rogue werewolf cop Hairy Harry struggles to write and market his memoir.

Customer complaints turn monstrous over an auto-mechanic shop run by gremlins, to whom “repair” is a foreign concept.

And when unnatural doppelgangers appear in the shadowed streets, it does not mean double the fun.

Entangled in it all is the mousy virgin librarian—now turned superstar celebrity—whose blood sacrifice, through an accidental paper cut, brought back all the monsters thirteen years ago.

That anniversary is indeed an unlucky number.

Chapter 1
“It’s a black-tie gala, Beaux—fancy-schmancy,” said Sheyenne, my beautiful ghost girlfriend. She hovered in front of me and fussed over my appearance like an obsessive-compulsive undertaker. “You can’t wear this old sport jacket with bullet holes all over the front.”

With zombie-stiff fingers I brushed at the lumpy black threads where the holes had been clumsily stitched up. “It’s what I always wear.”

“Not for special occasions.” Sheyenne was gorgeous in a phantasmagorical evening gown with sapphire sequins, manifested to perfectly fit her curves.

“I don’t have a black tie either,” I pointed out. “A tie feels like a noose around my neck.”

“You’ve never had a noose around your neck, so how would you know?” She drifted around me, checking my appearance. “And we need to do something about the bullet hole in your forehead. I have embalming putty in my desk drawer. Let’s make tonight special.”

We were in the offices of Chambeaux & Deyer Investigations, getting ready for the swanky reception at Howard Phillips Publishing. The event was a duty dance for our clients, but as a zombie I’ve done very little dancing. It doesn’t turn out well when I try.

With a poltergeist nudge, Sheyenne opened the side drawer of the receptionist’s desk and pulled out a jar of mortician’s putty. She let it hover in front of me until I took it from her insubstantial grip.

“For you, Spooky, I will even do without the hole in my head.”

She gave me a seductive smile that would have made my heart melt, if my heart still functioned, and then added in an enticing tone. “There’ll be hors d’oeuvres.”

“Maybe little cocktail hotdogs!” said a dangerously cheerful voice. “With blood ketchup, my favorite.”

Alvina, a spunky ten-year-old vampire girl, bounded across the office. She bubbled with more joyful energy than I’d ever possessed, even when I was alive. “I like playing dress up. This doesn’t suck at all.” My half-daughter wore a teal blouse with sparkly crystals on the front and a loose chiffon skirt over a silky underskirt. Her blonde hair was in pigtails, and her hopeful grin displayed pointed white fangs.

I knew I had to make the best of the situation. “I still have the dark suit I was buried in. I could wear that—it’s been dry-cleaned, all the dirt stains removed.”

A few years ago, after a case went sour and I got shot in a dark alley, I was buried in the Green Lawn Cemetery. But thanks to the magic released in the Big Uneasy, I clawed my way up through six feet of dirt and went right back to work. Back from the dead and back on the case, and since then, Chambeaux & Deyer has had a string of satisfied clients.

“You can look pretty snappy when you want to, Beaux.” Sheyenne glowed. “You always keep yourself well-preserved.”

“Yay!” Alvina ran to the closet in my office and pulled out the dark suit hanging there, still wrapped in its plastic dry-cleaning bag.

The little vampire girl had only recently come to stay with us in the Unnatural Quarter, abandoned by her sour-tempered mother Rhonda, who couldn’t deal with the fact that her child now had fangs. I harbored doubts that Rhonda herself was human, but that’s a different matter. We had history.…

We call Alvina my “half-daughter” because we aren’t entirely sure whether I’m her father or if it’s my best human friend, Officer Toby McGoohan. We both hooked up with Rhonda at about the same time—call it simultaneous temporary insanity, from which we fortunately both recovered.

The poor kid became a vampire through an inept blood transfusion after a skateboarding accident. Because vampire blood made permanent changes to DNA, paternity tests were no longer valid, so McGoo and I could never know the real answer. Alvina was a bright and cheery presence, and we all took care of her. Alvina would come with us to the book-launch gala, since McGoo was working tonight.

I shrugged out of my usual bullet-riddled sport jacket and donned the formal suit, while poltergeist Sheyenne whipped and swirled the tie around my neck, expertly tying a neat Oxford knot, a skill I had never mastered. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Meanwhile, Alvina had fun plugging putty into the hole in my forehead, giggling as she probed with her forefinger.

Although it was a formal event, I drew the line at giving up my fedora. Even if the color clashed with my funeral suit, it’s my trademark. I’m a zombie P.I.

Robin Deyer, my human lawyer partner, emerged from her office dressed in a sapphire silk blazer and skirt. Her black hair was clipped back, her features highlighted by dainty gold earrings and subtle plum lipstick.

I gave a slight bow. “You look stunning.”

Robin straightened, exuding more confidence than I could manage on my best day. “My aim is less to stun people, Dan, than to impress them. I want to be seen as the best damn lawyer in the Quarter.” She adjusted the thin gold chain around her neck. “This launch party is important for our clients, and it could generate new business.”

The two witches Mavis and Alma Wannovich work on the editorial staff of the largest publisher in the Quarter. In exchange for letting them base a book series on my real cases, Mavis and Alma perform a monthly maintenance spell on me to counteract the wear and tear an unnatural detective is bound to encounter during the normal course of business.

Tonight, Howard Phillips Publishing would announce a big upcoming release, hoping to drum up media attention and also, presumably, to get rid of surplus cocktail weenies and blood ketchup.

Admiring my three lovely companions, I insisted on serving as chauffeur. We left the front door and stepped out onto the street, feeling like a million bucks … in sharp contrast to our rusty and battered vehicle, a lime-green Ford Maverick that we had affectionately dubbed the “Pro Bono Mobile.”

We climbed in, and I settled behind the steering wheel, while Robin made sure Alvina was buckled in the back seat.

“We should have rented a limo,” Alvina commented.

Shimmering in the passenger seat, Sheyenne said, “Style is in your heart and mind, honey.”

The hinge creaked as I pulled the door shut. The engine coughed, hiccupped, sneezed, and snorted like an orc with a severe head cold, but finally caught. “Don’t worry, I can park out of sight.”

I shifted into gear and lurched along the bright nighttime boulevard.

About the Author:
Kevin J. Anderson has published more than 175 books, 58 of which have been national or international bestsellers. He has written numerous novels in the Star Wars, X-Files, and Dune universes, as well as a unique steampunk fantasy trilogy beginning with Clockwork Angels, written with legendary rock drummer Neil Peart. His original works include the Saga of Seven Suns series, the Wake the Dragon and Terra Incognita fantasy trilogies, the Saga of Shadows trilogy, and his humorous horror series featuring Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. He has edited numerous anthologies, written comics and games, and the lyrics to two rock CDs. Anderson is the director of the graduate program in Publishing at Western Colorado University. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta are the publishers of WordFire Press. His most recent novels are Clockwork Destiny, Gods and Dragons, Dune: The Lady of Caladan (with Brian Herbert), and Slushpile Memories: How NOT to Get Rejected.

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