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Racing With the Devil by Bryan Smith [Book Review]

One of the reasons why I always pick up a new Bryan Smith book as soon as it’s released is that I never quite know what to expect. While I’d associate his books with strong female characters, a grindhouse aesthetic and a punk rock, anything-goes attitude, Smith uses these tools in a lot of different genres and styles and, particularly in recent years, each book has been very distinct from the last, whether that be a long-awaited sequel to perhaps his best know work (Depraved 4), a Murder Mystery (Invitation to Death) or an ode to Slasher Movies (The Unseen). I’m happy to say that trend continues with his latest novella, ‘Racing With the Devil’.

Set in the 1980s, ‘Racing With the Devil’ follows four young friends with a case of beer, a Chevrolet Camaro, and no place to be. Each one has their own problems, whether that be recent break-ups, unemployment or a lack of direction in their lives but tonight they’re looking to forget their troubles and have a few drinks and a good time.

The book cover for Racing With The Devil by Bryan Smith

Their big night out soon sours when a mysterious car with blacked-out windows begins to follow them, culminating in a showdown at a seemingly abandoned gas station. This encounter will take the boys on a nightmarish journey through a world where time has no meaning and hope is a lost cause and the only way out is a race with the devil himself.

Anyone who has read a Bryan Smith book before will know to expect a fast-paced, gory and exciting story and ‘Racing With The Devil’ doesn’t disappoint on any count. Like his previous novel, The Unseen, Smith has embraced some much bigger and weirder concepts than some of his more grim and grounded earlier work, and the end result reads like a cross between ‘Drive Angry’ and ‘The Endless’. The horror is toned down from some of his more extreme efforts (such as the ‘Depraved’ series) but there is more than enough to satisfy his fans, and the story itself is more than enough to keep readers engaged. In typical Smith style, it introduces a fun concept and keeps you guessing how things will play out until the very last page.

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Metal fans will get a huge kick out of the references in the book. Any hard rock band big in the early 80s gets a namecheck and the way they’re dotted into the story is very organic and makes the whole book feel very cinematic. We first meet the devil as he pulls up in his car blasting AC/DCs ‘Highway to Hell’, an epic chase scene features a band playing Iron Maiden’s ‘Run to the Hills’ and the titular race with the Devil kicks off with ‘Highway Star’ by Deep Purple. If Hollywood ever makes this into a movie (and they absolutely should) I can guarantee two things. It’d be amazing, and the song rights would cost an absolute fortune.

A balls to the wall action epic and a love letter to fast cars and faster tunes, ‘Racing With The Devil’ delivers exactly what you want from a Bryan Smith book. It’s got some memorable characters, great set-pieces and is an absolute ton of fun to read. The fact that such a prolific author can put out such consistently entertaining books is another reason why any new Bryan Smith release should go straight to the top of any horror fans reading pile.

Richard Martin

Richard Martin

Reviewer

Richard Martin started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatized himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner and an inappropriate amount of books. 

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