Welcome to FanFiAddict’s stop on the book tour for Peter Hartog’s Bloodlines (The Guardian of Empire City #1). We want to thank Justine & Timy @ Storytellers on Tour for letting us be involved and a big shoutout to Peter on the release of his debut!
Below, you will find information on the book and author, our reviews, a short interview with the author, and links so you can grab yourself a copy!
Make sure to check out the rest of the tour by hitting up the schedule link here!
Also, be sure to stick around to the bottom of the article so you can enter win a signed copy of Bloodlines for yourself.
Bloodlines by Peter Hartog
Series: Empire City Special Crimes (#1)
Published: August 28, 2018
Genre: Science Fantasy, Crime/Techno Thriller, Dystopian Urban Fantasy
Pages: 430 (Print Length)
CW: Profanity, Indirect abuse of children and women
When former hotshot homicide detective Tom ”Doc” Holliday is recruited to join Special Crimes, he trades in his boring desk job for a second chance to do what he does best, hunt down killers. And his first case doesn’t disappoint: a murdered woman with a bogus past, her body drained of blood, and two eyewitnesses wasted on the designer drug goldjoy claiming a vampire did it.
For Holliday is no stranger to the unusual. He wields the Insight, a fickle clairvoyance that allows him to see the dark and terrible things that hide upon his world. After all, when you live in Empire City, where magic and technology co-exist, and humanity endures behind walls of stone and spell-forged steel, anything is possible.
Saddled with a team whose past is as checkered as his own, Holliday embarks upon an investigation that pits them against bio-engineered vampires, interdimensional parasites and the magical masterminds behind it all.
From nightclubs and skyscrapers, to underground drug labs and coffee shops, Holliday’s search for the truth will uncover a shadowy conspiracy that spans the ages, and forces him to confront a destiny he never wanted.
An urban fantasy at its core, Bloodlines is going to get the inevitable comparisons to Dresden Files, and in the end they do share a lot of similarities. However, I think that Bloodlines brings enough to the table to set itself apart from Dresden and carve its own mark in the genre.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Bloodlines takes place in an imagined future where nuclear war and disease has left humanity reeling and has pushed it into a few hospitable zones — megacities called enclaves. Of the few enclaves in the world the only one we see is Empire City, the enclave in which the story takes place. Empire City is a future, cyberpunk version of New York City. I think that Hartog did a great job of introducing us to the setting and slowly trickling the worldbuilding details in over the course of the whole novel. Empire City feels both gritty and dirty, while still maintaining a sense of wonder and awe. Because of this Hartog can play with the increased wealth gap in interesting ways by juxtaposing the futuristic high-rises with the old city underneath. Honestly, the amount of things that Hartog manages to fit into Bloodlines without it becoming too much is kind of impressive. We have magic, aliens, and vampires in a futuristic, cyberpunk setting all added into this one story and it never feels bloated.
I won’t go into too much detail concerning the plot, but Bloodlines follows Tom “Doc” Holliday, a former homicide detective who has had quite the fall from grace. Nowadays, Holliday finds himself a disgraced cop burdened by scandal and past regrets. When he’s given the chance to somewhat redeem himself (even if only in his own eyes), he takes it and joins the newly created Special Crimes Unit, a police unit created to battle supernatural threats rather than mundane ones. Along the way, he joins up with an ex-Protector (a type of religious lawman) from the Confederate States of Birmingham, a young hacker who not only has some control over ice, but also harbors a darkness of her own, and a Vellan woman. The Vellan are the aliens I mentioned before, although technically they’re a race of extra-dimensional humanoids that came through rifts created in the aftermath of nuclear war and have now settled in enclaves of their own.
No matter what century you live in, the world will always be filled with assholes.
The writing throughout was really solid and Hartog manages to deftly weave clues in and out of the plot. I was constantly left guessing and the twists and turns had me on the edge of my seat. I did feel that Hartog could be a little overly descriptive at times, describing in detail the room that they just walking into and such, but that’s a very small complaint. Overall, his prose was evocative and beautiful, while not overly complex. I have to mention Holliday’s voice, as well. We are told this story through Holliday’s first-person point of voice and Hartog does a fantastic job establishing the internal voice of the main character. He’s snarky and worn down and even a bit cynical and that comes through wonderfully. The fact that the characterization for everyone else is also done really well is further testament to the author’s skill.
For this to be his debut, I am really impressed with the level of writing that is on display. Hartog manages to navigate a complex murder mystery plot, while adding in loads of worldbuilding and character development. Each of the characters have their own demons (maybe literally?) that they have to face and watching the team come together and learn to respect each other, albeit sometimes grudgingly, was really satisfying. All in all, I thought Bloodlines was wonderful and I can’t wait for Holliday’s next case.
There was no rest of the weary, or the wicked. Besides, rest was for quitters.
And I had a job to do.
Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to read a book that involves vampires, highly advanced AI-driven guns and systems, cybernetics mixed with magical elements all wrapped into a who-dunnit murder investigation? Bloodlines by Peter Hartog delivers exactly that. This book was for me one of those precious gems I found and want to talk about it to everyone, especially if you enjoy the genres mentioned above.
The self-published novel starts by introducing far-fetched science fiction elements melded with elements we’re very familiar with. For example, I truly enjoyed when one minute the main character, Doc, does research on holoscreens or tests his voice-activated gun, and the next he’s grabbing coffee from a barista in a coffee shop reminiscent of a Starbucks. Again the familiar mixed with amazing fiction-driven elements. Then Peter builds a world rich in fantasy (magic, anyone?) and gadgets to rival any SciFi lore. Did I mention I want my voice-activated gun like yesterday (this device is so cool)!?
At the heart of the story there is a bizarre murder, which could involve futuristic or fantasy factors, and Peter does an amazing job of throwing us in many directions that either dilutes or clarifies the mystery until the very last minute (or pages). I kept guessing and theorizing on who (or what) was behind the first and following homicides, and I never saw it (the ending) coming.
Our major character, Doc Holliday, was aided by a tapestry of unique characters who once again covered the magical through the SciFi and each played an important role at a specific moment in need of their expertise. Doc’s history introduced us to a character that experienced tragedy, and this backstory shaped his behaviours and resolve throughout the rest of the novel. However, I wished we had a bit more background information to understand the rest of the cast better, but other than that I truly enjoyed the dynamic of the group. I’m told their background will be explored further in book two (coming soon).
As a final thought, when you create a shiny toy filled with electronic parts, add magic dust and grim creatures of the night and compile it all with a murder mystery, the result is Peter Hartog’s Bloodlines. Highly recommended.
What has been your publishing experience? Also why did you choose self-publish over the traditional route?
Up until Bloodlines, I hadn’t published a thing. Sure, I dabbled with stories, even entered (and lost!) a few writing contests, but I never put anything together worth a damn to truly publish. Then lightning struck when the concept for Tom Holliday entered my life, and the rest is rock-and-roll history.
I certainly tried to land an agent. I sent out thirty-nine queries over a period of two years and a fair amount of agent research, with nothing to show for it, not even a request for a partial manuscript. Whatever the reason, agents weren’t interested. I recognize that’s a small sample size compared to most of my peers, but I’m not in my twenties (or thirties…or forties…you get the idea), and I honestly didn’t feel like waiting around for the market cycle or demographic interest to shift my way.
As incredibly disheartened as I was, I knew there was another path open to me. So I researched self-publishing, reading blogs and articles outlining the various pro’s and con’s. Once I decided on a platform (originally Draft2Digital, but then moved over to the KDP mothership), I hit the “publish” button and off I went.
In the book, you created a rich world mixed of SciFi and magical/mythical elements, what was your inspiration if any?
I’ve always been a dreamer, and as a child of the 70s and 80s, my interests run the gamut of Dungeons & Dragons, sports, comic books, buddy cop tv shows and movies, Star Trek, most Steven Spielberg films, The Princess Bride, Star Wars, cartoons (Starblazers, He-Man, Force Five, among others), and a love of what is now considered classic rock and classic alternative music.
But my greatest influence (or influencer) was my mom. She passed away tragically from cancer nearly thirty years ago. Not only did my mom introduce me to Star Trek, but she would take me to the bookstore once a month and urged me to find something to read. I’d stare at the massive wall of high fantasy and sci-fi stories at (long and regrettably defunct) Lauriat’s Bookstore at Shopper’s World in Framingham, MA, then come home bearing tales by David Eddings, Fritz Lieber, Michael Moorcock, Terry Brooks, Fred Saberhagen, the Choose-Your-Own Adventure books, you name it. Then add in the classics by literary titans like Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Alexander Dumas, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allen Poe, and William Shakespeare. Plus, I was a Philosophy minor in college. I studied Aristotle, Plato, Descartes and the like.
Once you put that all together, you have the makings of a very diverse and creative milkshake.
Do you have a daily routine for writing and what does this look like? Do you write to music?
Sadly, I don’t have a daily routine. My writing is sporadic, at best. The tricky part for me is finding that Idea, the one that drives me from scene to scene, chapter to chapter, and yanks my chain around reminding me I have a story to tell. Once my imagination is captured by it, I then write during my free hours (my day job keeps me very busy, and I’m the dad of two boys – 13 and 11), or when the whimsy hits me.
My wife supports my writing habit. She gets it, and she gets me. She understands. She gives me my space to write, whenever I need it. I am very thankful and fortunate to have such a wonderful and supportive life partner-in-crime. And she likes my writing, which doesn’t hurt either.
I absolutely write to music! Couldn’t be productive otherwise. Movie and television scores, with a few songs thrown in. I have playlists that I cultivate with specific sounds and moods. Here’s a quick list of some of what’s on there currently:
Escape from New York
Blade Runner 2049
The Shawshank Redemption
1492: Conquest of Paradise
Person of Interest
Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan
The Green Mile
Can you tell us anything about the sequel to Bloodlines?
Pieces of Eight is the next big case for Detective Holliday and the Special Crimes Unit. It takes place four months after Bloodlines, in the coldest part of February. When an ex-con is found mutilated in the bowels of an old church, a ghostly warning at the crime scene from the victim of a thirty-year old kidnapping case reveals a motive far more sinister than murder. As Holliday chases a wintry trail of fresh corpses back home to Little Odessa, he soon realizes that blood isn’t always thicker than water, especially when it involves the Russian mob. But in order to stop a Faustian bargain from claiming an innocent boy’s soul, Holliday will have to sacrifice everything, or watch his world die.
The whole cast returns, with the resolution to the Bloodlines case still weighing on Holliday’s mind as he hunts what could be an undead killer through his old stomping grounds of Brighton Beach (Little Odessa).
Right now, the book is in the hands of my editor. I’m hopeful she’ll have it ready for my review in the next few weeks, because I’m dying to reveal its cover! Same cover artist as Bloodlines (the truly talented Lance Buckley of Lance Buckley Designs).
Pieces of Eight explores themes of family, regret and the secrets we bury to protect the ones we love. The story also gives the reader some interesting Insight (see what I did there?) into Holliday’s past, his evolving role as the Guardian of Empire City, a further hint at what might be lurking inside of Leyla, and a smidgen more about the Game.
And dare I say, perhaps a little romance sprinkled in as well?
What inspired you to create this story and what was your goal of achieving at the end of your novel?
Stories are the lifeblood of every culture whether spoken, written, chanted or sung. Within these tapestries of words and sounds are every bit of the weft and weave, personality and purpose, meaning and ritual, philosophies, themes, beliefs, everything that comprise the essence and identity of a person, a family, or a community.
I wanted to highlight some of my own thoughts and feelings, directly influenced by the stories that I have read or watched, the ones that moved and defined me and my love of the science fantasy genre for nearly forty years. Bloodlines combines elements from the gorgeous sci-fi noir film Blade Runner, the dark and sinister dystopia of Escape from New York, the strange, mystical and magical half-life of Big Trouble in Little China, the playful banter of Lethal Weapon and Tango & Cash, the gritty realism of Harry Bosch, and the vibrance of present-day New York City.
I also have a wonderful crew of close friends who I have had the privilege of knowing for over thirty years. We still game together every Sunday night. Bloodlines is the novelization of one of those tabletop games. I’ve GM’d three set in my world of Empire City. Both Bloodlines and Pieces of Eight, and the third novel entitled The Devil’s Share, are all cases that my friends as role-players “solved”. Several of their characters were taken and transformed, to greater and lesser degrees, into Doc, Deacon, Leyla and Besim.
By novelizing our game, I hope I’ve paid proper tribute to my friends, some of the greatest creative minds I have ever known.
What do you look into when creating a sci-fi world to make itself stand out from the tropes of usual sci-fi?
I want the story to be readable and relatable from the get-go. The world building happens organically as the characters move through the telling. Empire City is different enough from modern day New York, yet equally familiar. I didn’t want to go with the (what I consider) standard play on dystopia—totalitarian regimes, where the haves and the have nots are truly segregated, and a prophesied savior will arrive someday soon to liberate the masses and restore order or balance.
Bloodlines is about real people struggling to rediscover themselves, to find a purpose in a somewhat futuristic vision where magic plays its part side-by-side with technology that isn’t too advanced. While the story itself is tight, the characters are allowed to flow, to breathe and evolve.
Holliday is a good man. Sure, he’s made a lot of mistakes, but at the end of the day, he wants to help people. Besim is enigmatic, but still waters run deep. Deacon is brash and irreverent, but he’s a man on a path to either redemption or destruction. And Leyla has only begun to understand the darkness inside of her.
I’m sure I’m rehashing all the typical tropes. I don’t think what I’ve written is unique, or ground-breaking. That was never my intent.
But I do hope Bloodlines is enjoyable to fans who like the occasional peanut butter in their chocolate, or chocolate in their peanut butter.
A native son of Massachusetts, Peter has been living in the Deep South for over 25 years. By day, he’s an insurance professional, saving the world one policy at a time. But at night, well, no one really wants to see him fighting crime in his Spider-Man onesie. Instead, Peter develops new worlds of adventure, influenced by his love of science fiction, mysteries, music and fantasy. Whether it’s running role-playing games for his long-time friends, watching his beloved New England sporting teams, or just chilling with a movie, his wife, two boys, one puppy and three cats, Peter’s imagination is always on the move. It’s the reason why his stories are an eclectic blend of intrigue, excitement, humor and magic, all drawn from four decade’s worth of television, film, novels, and comic books. You can learn more about Peter and his writing projects at peterhartog.com, or send him a tweet @althazyr.
Prize: A signed paperback of Bloodlines by Peter Hartog – INTERNATIONAL!
Starts: April 18th, 2021 at 12:00am EST
Ends: April 25th, 2021 at 11:59pm EST