Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on the Escapist Book Tours virtual book tour for Steve McHugh’s Urban Fantasy novel The Way of Unity! Today, I am excited to help kickoff the tour by sharing a guest post by the author, diving into the influences and inspirations behind him writing noir urban fantasy.
You can find the guest post below, along with all of the info about the book, the author, and links to purchase a copy of Blessed Odds for yourself! Also, be sure to take a look at the schedule here or at the top of the post and follow along to see the stops from our other awesome hosts!
Blessed Odds by Steve McHugh
Series: Riftborn #2
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Any
Published: February 21, 2023
Lucas Rurik confronts a cult determined to remake the world—no matter the cost—in this urban fantasy noir from the author of the Hellequin Chronicles.
Lucas Rurik is no stranger to navigating the tricky territory between humans and those touched by the rift. After all, as the last surviving member of the Raven Guild, protecting the peace is his job. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
As much as Lucas would like to be out hunting for Dr. Callie Mitchell—a deranged scientist with a bad habit of experimenting on the rift-fused—his friends at the Rift-Crime Unit require his expertise on a perilous case. It seems a mysterious kingpin known as the Croupier has been making some shady deals, and revenants, riftborn, and humans alike are winding up dead in the process. Now, with the help of chained revenant Nadia and FBI-agent-turned-revenant Emily West, it’s up to Lucas to track down the anonymous crime lord before anyone else is hurt.
But as Lucas gets closer to his target, he discovers this is no ordinary manhunt. The Croupier is leading a dangerous group of zealots who want to destroy both the rift and humanity—and they’ll stop at nothing to make their so-called Blessed plans a reality.
The House Always Wins • Gunslingers and Gravediggers • A Crow Always Remembers
On Noir Urban Fantasy
I grew up reading comics. Lots of comics. They’ve influenced me throughout my writing life, and as I got older, the one thing I loved reading were those comics that were a bit grittier. Those that leaned noir. I enjoyed Ed Brubaker’s Daredevil Run, Greg Rucka (and Brubaker) on Batman, and even things like 100 Bullets, Hellboy, Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt, Preacher, and lots of others.
Urban fantasy wasn’t really a thing I was aware of as a kid. Hellblazer (which is definitely urban fantasy and completely noir) was probably the first I read, although I didn’t know it would be urban fantasy. It wasn’t until I read things like Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Laurel Hamilton’s early Anita Blake books, and Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld books, that I started to hear the term, and by that point you also had Jim Butcher’s books.
Urban Fantasy is one of those genres that seems to have a different definition depending on who you ask. I always assumed that it was just fantasy set in the modern day, with varying levels of destructive magic involved. Recently, someone suggested that Urban Fantasy is set in one place, with the city becoming almost a character itself, otherwise it’s Contemporary Fantasy.
Honestly, I don’t think it matters, as I consider the terms to be pretty much interchangeable, but for ease of use, let’s just use Urban Fantasy and be done with it.
Noir is a somewhat easier genre to describe. It’s crime fiction with cynical heroes, attitudes, and moods. It doesn’t always have a happy ending, but you can still have heroic characters, and what many would consider good-guys.
So, why did I push noir and urban fantasy together when I started work on Riftborn?
Well, it was sort of by accident.
Back in 2020, I’d finished Horsemen’s War, my final book in the Rebellion Chronicles, which in itself was the last part of the story that began with 2012’s Crimes Against Magic. It was a big story, with lots of characters, lots of destruction, and a sort of superhero feel to the whole thing. I’ve often described it as my Avengers type series, with a world ending threat and characters who come and go depending on the book.
The whole 13 book series (and a few novellas) was a huge amount of fun to write. The magic used in the books was powerful, almost god-like by the end, with dozens of characters from various places in mythology.
By the time I was done with Nate Garrett’s story, I needed to write something new, something different. I couldn’t just write a new story with the same ideas; I’d done the big Earth-taking over level threat and wanted to do something a little more low key.
Enter Lucas Rurik.
Unlike Nate, who can call down lightning from the heavens, Lucas is able to turn himself into smoke, and that power makes him a very different person. Yes, there’s still sarcasm and snark, there are still larger than life characters, it’s still Urban Fantasy after all, but Lucas’ abilities, and life were a new challenge. He’s less well known by the other characters than Nate, people don’t immediately fear the mention of his name, Lucas’ life a little more shrouded in mystery and darkness. While Nate was the charge through the front door and hit everything until it stops moving, Lucas is the person who you never see until it’s far too late.
The story of Lucas and the world he inhabits fed the story I was writing, and as things began to take shape, it was pretty obvious that it was going to be a more noir story than what I’d written previously.
Now, the Riftborn books aren’t the type of noir you’d find in things like Sin City. There’s not a never-ending, crushing nastiness to everything, or heroes who are only heroes because the bad guys are too evil to be anything else, but there’s still a darkness to the stories and characters that’s more pronounced than what I’ve done before.
Honestly, I think noir and urban fantasy go hand in hand quite easily, the same as thrillers and urban fantasy, and romance and urban fantasy. Urban fantasy as a genre is so vast and can encompass so much, that you can almost bolt a multitude of other genres on the side of it and it would still be urban fantasy. That’s kind of the beauty of working within a genre that’s so expansive.
There’s an old adage that says you should write what you know. It’s never really sat well with me, because I prefer to write what I love. With the Riftborn books, I’ve combined my love of two different genres into a story I’m proud of. I hope that everyone reading the books enjoys them as much as I enjoyed them.
About the Author
Steve McHugh was born in Mexborough South-Yorkshire, before moving to Southampton as a child. He currently lives in Southampton with his wife and 3 daughters.
Steve self-published his first book, Crimes Against Magic, in 2012, following up with Born of Hatred later that year. In 2013, the series was picked up by a traditional publisher, and the final novel in the series, Scorched Shadows, was nominated for a Gemmell best novel award. Three additional trilogies have been published in Hellequin Universe; The Avalon Chronicles, The Rebellion Chronicles, and The Antiquity Chronicles.
Steve has had multiple books become bestsellers, and has sold over a million books worldwide.
Author Page: https://amzn.to/3nXoJnZ