I received “Conquer” by Edward M. Erdelac free from the author. Thank you! This book is a collection of short stories featuring John Conquer, a private detective who specializes in supernatural cases. I really enjoyed this collection and gave it 4 stars! Let me tell you what makes this collection so groovy.
I have to be honest, going into this collection, I made the mistake of assuming the author would use the 1970’s time period and the Blaxploitation films that served as inspiration to make stories rife with racism, homophobia and the objectification of women. I am so glad I was wrong. John Conquer is a strong main character. He is smart, he is funny and he thinks quickly on his feet. There is not too much that can throw him off! He has been trained in various magical arts and is well educated about a variety of creatures and how to stop them. There are Blacks in most of the roles, positive or negative. There is a white policeman Conquer works with, but neither man is a sidekick. Conquer solves the supernatural crimes and Lou Lazzeroni, the white policeman, takes care of the paperwork and averts any suspicion that it was anything other than humdrum human crime. He gives Conquer tips and seeks his expertise. Conquer can solve cases and stop these monsters without legal ramifications. I think that the two of them do not necessarily like each other, but they respect each other and they have a realistic relationship.
In the story “Conquer And The Queen of Crown Heights”, Conquer’s world is unexpectedly thrown into the LGBTQ+ community. It is not just at the center of the case, but it is deeply personal, involving his mentor Uncle Silas. I think the author could have cleaned up this story a bit, he essentially created a safehouse for LGBTQ+ youth, called the House of Mechant, but he fell short by using the terms “Drag Queen” and “Transvestite” interchangeably. A Drag Queen is a job, a show, a persona created for entertainment purposes. A transvestite (the old term for a cross dresser), uses clothing as a form of gender expression. It’s not really clear what any of the ladies in the House of Mechant actually were, since the terms were used interchangeably. What the author did get right is the use of preferred pronouns and the tragic *ongoing* problem of police ignoring violence and murder toward LGBTQ+ Blacks, especially transgender Blacks.
John Conquer detests pimps. In “Conquer Cracks His Whip”, this is spelled out. I was happy pimps were not romanticized, but seen as the predatory scumbags they actually are. Conquer is not shy about his feelings towards pimps and ironically, he ends up working very closely with a former pimp! Conquer is no James Bond, getting laid on every other page…. He has cases to solve and people to help. I was happy he was more concerned with helping women instead of bedding them.
Can you see why I dig John Conquer? The stories were pretty short, reading like an episode of a tv show. I loved learning about different types of witchcraft, rituals and creatures from this collection. As a matter of fact, most of the stories had a “fresh take” on the usual creatures we normally encounter! At the center of this universe is the notion that a person’s ethnicity plays a role in what sort of magic they are susceptible to and also how creatures can be defeated. That is something I haven’t encountered before. I hope to read more about John Conquer in the future!
Beth Griffith lives in Maryland with her husband, three children and a pathetically small herd of cats. She enjoys reading smut and gardening. You can watch saucy smut reviews, read salty book reviews and keep tabs on her questionable life choices on Instagram @mrsbeverlygibbs