Not only does Stephen Romano have a background in film, he’s influenced by a specific sub genre, grind house. It’s those dark, exploitative, at times brutal movies from the ’70s and ’80s that fuel his creativity. His dark artwork has graced horror film posters and book covers. He adapted Joe R. Lansdale’s Incident On And Off A Mountain Road for Phantasm director Don Coscarelli and collaborated with the creators of Saw for the book Black Light. He even designed a collection of promotional material for faux grind house movies called Shock Festival. It comes as no surprise that his debut solo novel, Resurrection Express, is a nihilistic piece of entertainment that goes from noir to apocalyptic at the speed of sound.
Set up by an Austin gangster, high tech heist man Elroy Coffin lives out his sentence in a maximum security prison fighting off inmates and struggling to hang on to the fading memories of his murdered wife Toni. A mysterious woman tells him Toni may still be alive. She can get him out of prison if he’ll do a job, stealing information from Hartman.
The first part resembles a Richard Stark Parker novel. Elroy is put on parole and winds up with a crew that includes two ex-military men and the only robber he can trust, his very tough father. The job goes bad and bloody and puts Elroy and the survivors on the run from the law, from Hartman, and from some seriously connected killers. This is just the first third of the book.
The rest of the plot I can’t disclose without giving away some serious reveals and twists. It races along toward an action thriller with some sci-fi touches, dealing with identity and life, holding onto its dark tone like a junkyard dog with a bone.
This book is relentless. It has the feel of a grind house auteur working with a two-hundred million dollar budget. Nothing is too big, whether it’s shoot-outs, revelations, or ideas. Near the end of the book, Elroy finds himself on a helicopter gunship during a full scale assault on a mountain compound. As a reader, you feel pummeled by the end of the novel. That said, Resurrection Express questions ideas of love and hope. Just don’t expect any happy answers.
MysteryPeople welcomes Stephen Romano to speak about & sign Resurrection Express on Monday, October 1 at 7pm. He’ll be joined by Miles Arceneaux.