by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The King of Las Vegas, by John Van Stry
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, March 2016, trade paperback $10.99 (234 pages), Kindle $3.99.
John Van Stry has written four Hammer Commission novels; The Hammer Commission, Wolf Killer, Loose Ends, and The King of Las Vegas. They are set in a world where demons, devils, monsters, and vampires are real. Three of the four feature Mark Levin, a demon-devil-monster-vampire hunter for the FBI and Interpol who is a monster himself. Mark and his French partner Jake are minor characters in The King of Las Vegas, which features a rakshasa.
A traditional rakshasa is an Indian (Hindustani) demon, usually described as a huge fanged cannibal who can shape-shift and live hundreds of years. In Van Stry’s novel, it’s a tiger-striped shape-shifter who can turn into a tiger (not a were-tiger; the distinction becomes important in the story) that happens to be a good guy. Rafael is an American college student on vacation in India who is captured and enslaved by a Rakshasa (Van Stry sometimes capitalizes it) and is turned into one himself.
Eleven years later Rafael escapes to American Catholic missionaries in India, and is turned over by them to Mark and Jake. When they determine that Rafael doesn’t want to prey on anyone, he just wants to return to America, they help him out. As a rakshasa, he needs lots of meat, he feeds on strong emotions, and he has to be near tigers. The best place in America for that is Las Vegas – the casinos provide plenty of cheap meals, the gamblers provide the strong emotions, he can pass his tiger stripes as makeup or tattoos for an act, and several Las Vegas attractions and magicians have live tigers.