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Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories

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The world has two faces. The natural and the supernatural. Cal McDonald is a detective with one foot in the real world, and one in the world of magic. For Cal, the horrors we all dream about in the fevered darkness of the night are all too real, kept at bay through an almost constant influx of drugs to numb the pain, but never erase it.


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The world has two faces. The natural and the supernatural. Cal McDonald is a detective with one foot in the real world, and one in the world of magic. For Cal, the horrors we all dream about in the fevered darkness of the night are all too real, kept at bay through an almost constant influx of drugs to numb the pain, but never erase it.

30 review for Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Mansfield

    Reason for Reading: I read the latest graphic novel in the Cal Mcdonald series which was my first introduction to Steve Niles. I was so impressed I just had to read more and see what this series was about so I decided to start with the text stories. I am certifiably hooked and won't stop until I've read them all now. Going to order the two omnibus collections of his earlier graphic novels next. Those, I want to own! Cal is a no holds barred gritty noire detective, even talks as if he's right fro Reason for Reading: I read the latest graphic novel in the Cal Mcdonald series which was my first introduction to Steve Niles. I was so impressed I just had to read more and see what this series was about so I decided to start with the text stories. I am certifiably hooked and won't stop until I've read them all now. Going to order the two omnibus collections of his earlier graphic novels next. Those, I want to own! Cal is a no holds barred gritty noire detective, even talks as if he's right from the pages of the 30s/40s classics in that genre. But Cal does differ greatly, he sees the paranormal elements of life and his detective goals are to fight these otherworldly evils; Cal also has a very foul mouth, is addicted to every drug known to man (except the heavy street stuff), smokes and is an alcoholic. He says he needs this to survive what he has to deal with every day. And survive Cal does, though every now and then just within an inch of his life. Somehow Cal's lack of societal niceties, his abrupt (call it rude) speech patterns and mostly not endearing personality actually appealed to me as a character right from the start. He's nothing if not genuine; you have to take him as you find him, warts and all, but on the inside he s fighting for the good side and will not let evil prevail no matter what. Recommend for the short story fan of noire, loneliness, crime and the paranormal. I think this will sit well with fans of the TV Show "Angel". 1. Savage Membrane - originally published as an individual novel, this is in fact more accurately described as a novella. The first Cal McDonald story is an intriguing, fast paced read and reminds me of the show "Angel' more than anything else. Cal is human but he has the ability to see paranormal creatures; some of these, such as ghouls, are noticeable to the average human but except from seeming a bit creepy their true nature is not evident. However Cal has lived with these creatures in his life ever since a young boy and cannot escape from their true reality. Written in the old crime noire style, Cal is an ex-cop now working as a private investigator dealing in "unusual" cases. He has a buddy left on the force: Blout, a muscular, got-it-together black man and non-believer in the supernatural but when he comes across a case that is inexplicable he will throw it Cal's way and that is what happens here. Homeless men, dumpsters full of them, have turned up dead (some six months so) with their brains completely missing from their skulls with no evidence as to how they could have been removed. This brings back an old case of Cal's, but that perpetrator is dead; Cal killed him with his own hands, or did he? Cal, Blount, and Cal's sidekick, the ghoul Mo'Lock take the case and enter the sewers of DC to face zombies, FrankenTeens and the monstrous creature who feeds on brains. A creepy story, well written but with a sense of humour and a good likeness of the dark old detective genre of Chandler and Spillane. I'm hooked! 5/5 2. Guns, Drugs, and Monsters - This second novella was also published separately as a book, but it has no pretensions of being a novel. There are no chapter breaks and it is slightly shorter than the first story at 125 pages. Another excellent story of urban fantasy mixed with crime noire. The scenario changes here but does keep some familiar aspects. At first Cal. meets up with an escaped convict he put away in jail the first time who has come to exact revenge upon him. We were told of this past case in "Savage Membrane". Missing from the entire story is Cal's police friend, Blount, though he is referred to, who I enjoyed very much; but Cal's sidekick Mo'Lock is ever present even though his role is less than in the previous story. I can't give too many details as a lot happens in this story since a rift in the dimensions has caused a great increase in the supernatural and Cal finds himself both involved in that and several concurrent cases at the same time. I loved this just as much as the first story; maybe even a bit more since it was quite out there, this time dealing with traditional monsters such as vampires, werewolves and demons. Making it more "realistic" LOL. Cal has moved to California which creates its own nuances, meets up with an older detective in the same field and a reporter for a newspaper dealing with the supernatural. This story did seem to have much more vulgar language than the previous story, which I could have done without, but otherwise a well-written, humorous, entertaining paranormal story with the crime noir narrative twist. 4/5 3. The Dead Don't Die - With this story we start the third (and final) separately published book. This is the first story from a collection of short stories entitled "Dial M for Monster." We can presume the continuity follows with this story as Cal is settled into California permanently. Cal gets "the call" and is told about a small rural town in California which has been infested with Zombies. He's taken out for a aerial view, then dropped off. Molock and his invited crew of ghouls have already arrived, and secured the perimetre. The town is basically a hick town, in the middle of nowhere, in the shape of a circle and very much self-contained. This is good as it means the infestation is localized. Call gets to work in zombie killing, finds the source and ends up having an interesting discussion with a government man. He finds out what their opinion (and use) of him really is and they leave with an understanding. Not that Cal benefits in anyway from it, except perhaps he'll waste less time being arrested. 3/5 4. Doll Face - This story is prefaced with a note that the events take place before the first published graphic novel. This is a little enticing as it suggests something from this story might return in that GN. This is a very creepy story of a "freak" (Cal's general term for all unnatural creatures) who walks into a police station. He looks like your stereotypical accountant only he's covered head to toe in blood, as if he'd been swimming in it. He sits quietly in a cell for several hours and then starts talking at an incredibly fast speed, in a language no one can understand, except at one point the name Cal McDonald comes out. Cal is called in to have a look and figures a few things out right away. Off he and Mo'Lock go to the man's house where he finds one of the most disturbing sights he's ever seen and in his haste walks straight into a trap. This story brings back mention of Cal's girlfriend from #2, though she doesn't show up as a character. It is also quick-paced and an unsettling horror story. A good read! 5/5 5. Soul Sucker - Another good story! Two scientists come to hire Cal to watch over their experiment. They supposedly have devised a way to remove the soul from the human body. They've managed to obtain a comatose patient who was slated for being "unplugged" to be their first guinea pig. Cal and Mo'Lock arrive, witness the experiment and leave in disgust. Later that night they are alerted that not all has transpired well for the scientists and they return to deal with the situation. This is rather a sad story as we see man interfering where he should not tread and the inevitable results are not pretty. Mo'Lock's character is further developed and character continuity is kept in line with an explanation of why Cal is still living in his friend's house from story #2 and where said friend has been since then. 4/5 6. Stitch - This story takes place immediately after #5, with Cal in the hospital getting stitches removed from his injuries suffered in that encounter which he briefly describes in the opening paragraphs. His recently acquired police contact calls him to come down to the morgue for a look. Cal sees five female bodies horribly disfigured which bring to mind the horrific work of Dr. Polynice, twice put behind bars in this collection already, but something is different. Searching for who has killed these young women and sewn them back together with various body parts leads Cal into a case so disturbing he, for once,, is not that eager to even talk about. The police will have enough evidence for a "regular" crime to have been committed... 5/5 7. Eater - Starts off with telling us that Cal is still in a relationship with Sabrina, not mentioned since story #4, though again she still doesn't show up as a character. This was a fun story and a bit different than the others. This time Mo'Lock brings to Cal a mysterious baby something. Cal's immediate response to what to do with it is to kill it but Mo'Lock is having none of that. After finding out that it eats meat, they have a real problem on their hands. It starts to grow before their very eyes and its owner comes looking for it. Unexpected ending, though by this point nothing is unexpected in Cal McDonald's world! 5/5 8. Big Fat Hairy Deal - So Sabrina is back as a character. She tricks Cal into going camping with her and instead of bears they meet up with some other great big huge hairy humanoids. I'll you guess what they are. Mostly just a fun story, one that tries to show that Cal has a bit of human social awareness. That he and Sabrina may not be your average couple but they care for each other and that Cal does have some sensitivities... sort of. Fun story, but not as good as others. 3/5 9. A Proper Monster - This is the last story in the collection of short stories entitled "Dial M for Monster." Cal receives a short note from a man introducing himself as a werewolf and telling Cal they must meet concerning a "grave matter that concerns the lives of many thousands." The next night a very dapper man right out of the '40s arrives via limo at Cal's house and proceeds to tell him a chilling tale of Nazi torture, experiments and a plot to take over America. Usually Cal kills werewolves on the spot but Paul Grimshaw is different and Cal is intrigued enough by the story to investigate. I'm not a fan of werewolves but this is a unique take on the creature and I enjoyed this story. 4/5 10. All My Bloody Things - The last story in this collection was previously published in an anthology. This is the grossest story in the book and does not involve a paranormal monster but a human monster. So this time the story is really pure crime. Cal gets a phone call from someone he's helped and the guy is going on thanking him for saving his life when he happens to mention a friend is concerned that her brother, wife and son didn't arrive two nights ago. The police did nothing and she's quite sure foul play is involved. Cal takes the details. He doesn't get involved in missing persons but he has a gut feeling (intuition) about cases and this one smells bad right from the beginning. Whole families don't just disappear in the Californian desert. What we get here is a bit of a "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" story but with no chainsaw. Very freaky and gross with the apt ending line, "Some of the worst monsters out there are human." One of my favourites in the collection and a great note on which to end the book. 5/5

  2. 5 out of 5

    Thomas A

    A functional drunk fights monsters and evil! The character Cal McDonald is a paranormal private detective created for Criminal Macabre, which is a Dark Horse Comics series. In addition to the comic series, the character also appears in two novels (Savage Membrane & Guns, Drugs, and Monsters) and a collection of short stories (Dial M for Monster), which are all included in this single omnibus edition of Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories. The backdrop of the Criminal Macabre series A functional drunk fights monsters and evil! The character Cal McDonald is a paranormal private detective created for Criminal Macabre, which is a Dark Horse Comics series. In addition to the comic series, the character also appears in two novels (Savage Membrane & Guns, Drugs, and Monsters) and a collection of short stories (Dial M for Monster), which are all included in this single omnibus edition of Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories. The backdrop of the Criminal Macabre series is similar to what you might find in the dark urban fantasy genre, but the majority of the population is in denial of the existence of the supernatural and the authorities actively work to cover up evidence of supernatural involvement in criminal activities. Though vampires, werewolves, and the undead are integrated within society, normal people are unwilling or unable to accept their existence, leaving individuals like Cal McDonald with the task of investigating crimes in the dark, supernatural underworld. Cal, isolated by his work and the horrors and loss he has experienced during his life, is a self-destructive, anti-social, anti-hero. He spends the majority of his days and nights taking an excess of alcohol, barbituates, and illicit stimulates in order to maintain a balanced state of functional inebriation. I found all of the Cal McDonald stories enjoyable, especially the interplay between Cal and his kinda-sorta-sometimes business partner (and ghoul), Moloch. The books are well written and the narrative is deep, dark, and immersive. The plots of the stories often take unexpected (and interesting) twists and turns. The story is told from Cal’s point of view and the tone, like his character, flits between grim horror and snarky sarcasm. Cal seems to possess a death wish born of his self-loathing and depression, yet refuses to die at the hands of another, particularly if it's one of his many supernatural adversaries. Between his awful luck and occasional fits of rage, he tangles with vampires, werewolves, demons, aliens, zombies, and other things that go bump in the night through the series. I know the comic series is still running, but really hope there are more novels published in this series as well. The narration for the audiobook is a perfect fit with Criminal Macabre and Eric Bryan Moore’s distinct tone perfectly captures Cal’s personality and dark temperament. Other characters are well portrayed with unique voices that represent their nature and disposition. Overall, Moore’s performance greatly enhances what is already an entertaining and interesting collection of stories. Special thanks to Eric Bryan Moore, who provided me with this book at my request.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Chandler

    honestly one of the most interesting characters that i have ever seen in this kind of Genre. And i love it, i mean really this was i have to say in one word. Honest. this character and this world just seem to fit and mix with this one. I was looking more closely at the people around me and who i talk to looking for a Ghouls. Frankly i am kind of disappointed thou i know this is fiction, or is it. Steve Niles is one of the best writers i have seen in this day in time. I got to say he has done thi honestly one of the most interesting characters that i have ever seen in this kind of Genre. And i love it, i mean really this was i have to say in one word. Honest. this character and this world just seem to fit and mix with this one. I was looking more closely at the people around me and who i talk to looking for a Ghouls. Frankly i am kind of disappointed thou i know this is fiction, or is it. Steve Niles is one of the best writers i have seen in this day in time. I got to say he has done things that are so simple but yet no one had ever thought about it. This is proof of that and more. i hope to see more from this Cal McDonald. One of the best and most interesting detectives that i have read about in a long time.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    “Criminal Macabre” is a collection of “Cal McDonald” stories wrapped up in a single audiobook volume. The stories consist of over thirteen hours of audio containing all of the material from the Cal McDonald books one thought five. A few of the stories are novellas where the others are more short stories. The compiled stories were written by Steve Niles who is an American comic book author and novelist mainly crafting books in the horror genre. The Audiobook’s narration was exceptionally performe “Criminal Macabre” is a collection of “Cal McDonald” stories wrapped up in a single audiobook volume. The stories consist of over thirteen hours of audio containing all of the material from the Cal McDonald books one thought five. A few of the stories are novellas where the others are more short stories. The compiled stories were written by Steve Niles who is an American comic book author and novelist mainly crafting books in the horror genre. The Audiobook’s narration was exceptionally performed by Eric Bryan Moore who I previously reviewed for his performance of the “Damian Stockwell” series of audiobooks. After listening, I could understand the author writing graphic novels as the characters and stories felt more satirical and humorous while there were quite a few graphic scenes that felt over-the-top. The audiobook is really a collection of paranormal procedural noir horror tales each including a few facets of suspense and surprise. If this is your type of genre, I would recommend the audiobook based on the amount of material for one’s Audible credit including great narration. Unlike your typical noir or cyberpunk tale, this one involves aspects of paranormal activity in the likes of Ghost Busters elevated to a much greater level. There is humor, satire, and zaniness. However, our main character is a broken man who was a police officer that now fulfills specialized tasks relating to supernatural events. Often, these cases taken on by our hero evolve from a basic request to a rather crazy set of events involving ghosts, ghouls, werewolves, vampires, and others. I was hoping for the stories to contain a bit more detail and background as getting into each of them took me some time. Even after getting some context, it was hard to connect with most of the characters. For me, it felt more comic bookish than a deep and compelling story. The feelings I had towards the main character were more out of pity due to his self-destructive personality and substance abuse, then a connection. I was hoping the scenes would have been more detailed and the characters more complex than they were. There were a few gems sprinkled in the various stories that caught my interest. I like the author’s use of some unique weapons and scene locations. I was able to feel the dark and dreary environment as I listened. However, I wanted more. More communication, more depth, more interaction and more complexity. The bones of a great story were there, but I wanted more of the flesh and sinew as I listened. I think that is why I saw it more as one would write if they were trying to describe a graphic novel or comic book. The audiobook’s narration was performed very professionally by Eric Bryan Moore. I have enjoyed many of his other audiobook and this one was no different. The characters were strongly voiced, had distinctive personalities, and each one felt alive. Inflection and other elements that assist a listener with expressions and events was executed well. The thirteen hours of audio was clean and clear of any audio artifacts such as background noise, swallows, or page turns. I quite enjoy the smooth tone and pace of reading when I listen to Mr. Moore. For parents and younger readers, this set of stories is intended for mature audiences due to the amount of adult material and rather graphic violence. Vulgar language flows steady from the first page to the last. There is quite a bit of self-destructive behavior from the main character including a fair amount of substance abuse. For this reason, I would not recommend this audiobook for younger listeners and even some adult many find it overly explicit. In summary, the audiobook and its stories have a decent flow and there was a good amount of humor to offset the more graphic portions of the book. The book can be consumed in smaller bite-sized sessions. Both procedural and horror are not one of my top preferred genres, yet the stories keep my listening until the end. The stories are told in a way that is a bit choppier than I like my stories to be, yet there was enough mystery keeping me engaged.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Individually, these stories are a lot of fun. About halfway through, I started to get frustrated by the slowness of two of the overarching plots: 1) The explanation of the angel-like communal behavior of the Ghouls, and their particular interest in Cal, and 2) The clear descent of the main character into end-stage alcoholism. Drinking is a cliche in hardboiled detective novels, and Niles starts to do something new with it when the character's behavior and health start to fall off a cliff at a ce Individually, these stories are a lot of fun. About halfway through, I started to get frustrated by the slowness of two of the overarching plots: 1) The explanation of the angel-like communal behavior of the Ghouls, and their particular interest in Cal, and 2) The clear descent of the main character into end-stage alcoholism. Drinking is a cliche in hardboiled detective novels, and Niles starts to do something new with it when the character's behavior and health start to fall off a cliff at a certain point in these stories. But then this subplot is seemingly dropped. Both of these threads might get picked up in the comic books and carried further, but I'm not sure there was enough here to make me want to go find them. Having said all that, these are very fun horror stories taken individually.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jp

    I had read some of Steve Niles' Cal McDonald stories in the past. I write stories about a PI that deals with a number of the darker aspects of the supernatural world, so I pay attention to other writers. Steve Niles has given us a gritty, hopped up hero in an awful world. I've always loved them. I had read some of Steve Niles' Cal McDonald stories in the past. I write stories about a PI that deals with a number of the darker aspects of the supernatural world, so I pay attention to other writers. Steve Niles has given us a gritty, hopped up hero in an awful world. I've always loved them.

  7. 4 out of 5

    J.

    Definitely a guilty pleasure. This isn't particularly well-written (although you can see the improvement from the beginning of the book to the end), and it has no wildly original ideas, but I did still enjoy the gratuitous, self-indulgent, almost fanfic mash-up of Raymond Chandler and monster lore. So it definitely is what it is, but I enjoyed it in spite of itself. Definitely a guilty pleasure. This isn't particularly well-written (although you can see the improvement from the beginning of the book to the end), and it has no wildly original ideas, but I did still enjoy the gratuitous, self-indulgent, almost fanfic mash-up of Raymond Chandler and monster lore. So it definitely is what it is, but I enjoyed it in spite of itself.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gouty

    Some people attract love, some money, Cal McDonald attracts the supernatural. Criminal Macabre is the complete Cal McDonald Short story collection. Cal is a Sam Spade for the weird and unnatural. The short stories are very well written, both horrific and funny. The Author Steve Niles is also the guy who did 30 Days of Night.

  9. 5 out of 5

    JD Korejko

    a great collection of stories involving Cal McDonald, a hard drinking junkie supernatural detective. we travel with him from Washington DC to California with his ghoul partner Mo'Lock. The narration is funny and endearing, though it comes from a guy no one would want to actually ever meet. He's a great character and I hope to see more of him. a great collection of stories involving Cal McDonald, a hard drinking junkie supernatural detective. we travel with him from Washington DC to California with his ghoul partner Mo'Lock. The narration is funny and endearing, though it comes from a guy no one would want to actually ever meet. He's a great character and I hope to see more of him.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Beth (bibliobeth)

    Cal Mcdonald is not your average detective. A druggie, alcoholic, issues with violence and a talent for the supernatural detective is what you're getting with this book. I enjoyed the zombie madness and monster mayhem on the whole and would definitely read more of his tales. Cal Mcdonald is not your average detective. A druggie, alcoholic, issues with violence and a talent for the supernatural detective is what you're getting with this book. I enjoyed the zombie madness and monster mayhem on the whole and would definitely read more of his tales.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Garren

    This collection has some high points, but it seems a little too close to Jim Butcher's character at times. There are some definite differences, though. For a nice late night read, it is completely enjoyable. I will look forward to Cal McDonald showing again in the graphic format soon. This collection has some high points, but it seems a little too close to Jim Butcher's character at times. There are some definite differences, though. For a nice late night read, it is completely enjoyable. I will look forward to Cal McDonald showing again in the graphic format soon.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Randy

    fuck yeah, great book. could not have asked for more.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    Hands down one of my favorite books in recent years. Witty story telling and just enough humor to keep you entertained.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael Emmerich

    a rollicking rocking and rolling good read over this festive period ... some excellent reading entertainment ... much needed and a great read ... highly recommended

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  16. 5 out of 5

    Benjaminrajasekar Benjaminrajasekar

  17. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  18. 4 out of 5

    Laia

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Bingaman

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Allison

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ralph

  23. 5 out of 5

    Firecracker432

  24. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Johnson

  25. 4 out of 5

    Adam

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Evan

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ami

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michiel

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