If you’re looking for a fast-paced action / horror mashup with one badass mofo battling monsters, demons, and otherworldly creatures The Gospel of Bucky Dennis by J.R. Parks is a must read. Parks’ titular anti-hero Bucky Dennis is pitted against everything from the Wolfman to Ba’al Zebub himself. With only his trusty .44 dubbed Harriet, Bucky fights through bloody hell to protect his home town from the evil that is destined to destroy it. These bastards of hell may have thought the citizens of Verney County, Mississippi easy pickens, but they sure didn’t bet on this southern-fried warrior, former high school football star and Vietnam vet, to give ‘em a what for. Want to read about a tough son-of-a-bitch that won’t take no guff? As witty as Ash in the Evil Dead films and as versatile in skill as Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, here is a new hero, “the slack-jawed bayou bubba” Bucky Dennis.
The good versus evil, man versus beast conceit has been celebrated in numerous variations in horror fiction, on screen and in print. Whether an unassuming store clerk, a high school cheerleader, or even a Hobo with a shotgun, we love to watch these seemingly insignificant people prove extraordinary when faced with supernatural (or just plain despicable) predators. While the antagonist(s) can be interchangeable, the anti-hero trope relies on a charismatic and endearing lead. They have to be sympathetic, tough but lovable, and have a quick whit good for one-liners before unleashing their final deadly blow. Parks’ The Gospel of Bucky Dennis has familiar, yet uniquely skewed, monsters, but its best asset is the sharp-tongued charmer Bucky.
Set in Verney County, Mississippi during the 1980’s, The Gospel… is told through Bucky’s first person narration. The reader plays his eager sidekick following along on his macabre misadventures. Bucky doesn’t set out looking for trouble; it just seems to find him. A simple life insurance sales call finds Bucky in the home of an “eight-foot high Wolf Man;” his friend and co-workers become zombified by devil’s voodoo; and what should be a relaxing fishing trip quickly turns into a bloodbath of carnage when thrill-seeking college students anger an old forest dwelling witch. These showdowns are graphic, violent, gory, and an over-the-top bloody good time. Bucky spares no details and his recounting is consistently laugh-out-loud funny. He uses vulgar language, but he is never crass. He is, after all, a gentleman of the south. He may say of something rancid that it “smelled like an ass oyster omelet,” but he’s still a good guy, just one that is fated to save the world.
The Gospel… has a darkly humorous tone overall. Many scenes are extreme to the point of slapstick in the same vein as Evil Dead II, but Bucky reveals a softer side in his moments of vulnerability. Bucky shares his haunted memories of Vietnam – these memories even manifest in flashbacks – and laments the estrangement from his two daughters Minnie and May. These episodes are brief because Bucky isn’t one to wallow in self-pity too long, but it’s just enough reveal to make him sympathetic and leave his tough mystique intact. As the savior of Verney County, Bucky’s superior physical brawn is important of course, but without an unbreakable will to live it’s just window dressing. Bucky’s been beaten, battered, and bruised physically and mentally and his resilience makes him an admirable character. At the same time his tale is a tragic one because like most heroes his destiny doesn’t include personal happiness. That doesn’t stop the reader from caring, however, since Bucky is such an endearing charmer you’ll only want what’s best for him.
Bucky D. pays his dues in The Gospel… making him a deserved candidate to join the ranks of a long line of monster-slaying heroes. Hopefully this is just the first in many repeat performances for Bucky because he puts on a show that begs for an encore. You can expect an entertaining lead with a sharp tongue and the heart of a warrior, and pages packed with frightening monsters unleashing carnage sick enough to turn even the strongest gorehound’s stomach. But don’t worry. If you’re going to face creatures from the deepest pits of hell, Bucky D. is the one you want to be standing with.
You can find out more about Bucky’s creator J.R. Parks and his work at his website www.buckydennis.com. Destroy The Brain! recently had the pleasure of interviewing Parks, so be on the lookout for that next week.