Bobby Dollar has been having a bad few days. He’s been stuck babysitting his best friend’s new trainee, his new girlfriend is something straight out of hell, one of his colleagues was recently found strung up by their guts, and a flaming pre-christian demon has taken an uncommon liking to how he smells. Problem is, he’s a Heavenly Advocate. He’s supposed to be spending his days making sure folks like us don’t end up spending the rest of eternity hanging out with his new playmates.
Oh, and there’s one more problem: some of the deceased have stopped showing up for their Judgement.
The Dirty Streets of Heaven is the first of Tad Williams new series of celestial noir novels starring the aforementioned Bobby Dollar. It is one of the few books on my short list of must reads for folks who play In Nomine.
The roles of the various choirs and bands are a little bit different from what they are in the In Nomine universe, but you can still get a glimpse of different types of angels and demons, factional disputes within each of the two great powers, and how that actually ends up impacting the day-to-day of their agents responsible for furthering their will on earth.
Normally I’m a bit leery about reading a new Tad Williams novel. My first exposure to the author was his Otherland series: well conceived, told in a world with remarkable depth, and slow enough that it could have started with the words, “Call me Ishmael.”
At 441 pages, The Dirty Streets of Heaven is no lightweight, but the action mystery and building action keeps the story from feeling like it drags on. And perhaps more importantly, the story follows its own arc to completion, allowing for a sense of closure at the end of the novel even as you know that Bobby Dollar is about to go off and get himself into even more trouble.
The novel takes place on the San Francisco peninsula in the fictitious city of San Judas. I suspect this was done because neither Tad Williams nor his agent wanted to field calls from angry hotel owners asking why their property had been described as belonging to a Prince of Hell. However, anyone with even the slightest familiarity with the SF Bay Area would know that San Judas is actually a slightly more built up Palo Alto.
(Not at all far from where I’ve proposed the tethers to Lilith, Magog and Kronos would be located).
There is sex in The Dirty Streets of Heaven, and Tad Williams does not shy away from describing it. If the novel were a bit shorter, I might even classify it as paranormal romance. However, there is enough other stuff going on that the assorted bedroom antics are clearly a complement to the story and not its main thrust.
Doloriel “Bobby Dollar”
Saint of Judgment
Forces: Corporeal 3, Ethereal 2, Celestial 2 (Will)
Corporeal Hits: 36
Skills: Acrobatics/1, Detect Lies/4, Dodge/3, Driving/2, Engineering/1, Fast Talk/5, Fighting/3, Firearms/3, Investigation/3, Lockpicking/1, Lying/4, Medicine/1, Move Silently/3, Ranged Weapon/4, Running/3, Savoir-Faire/1, Swimming/1
Corporeal Songs: Healing x2 (self only, grants +2 bonus)
Artifacts: .38 Revolver, Golden Feather, AMC ’71 Matador
Role: Insurance Salesman 3/3
Servants: George “Fatback” Noceda 5/1, Orban 6/1
Countess of the Cold Hands, Demon of Scholarly Defeat, Lilim of The War
Forces: Corporeal 4, Ethereal 4, Celestial 3, Word 6
Corporeal Hits: 40
Skills: Detect Lies/2, Dodge/1, Driving/3, Emote/4, Fast Talk/4, Fighting/2, Investigation/1, Lockpicking/2, Lying/4, Move Silently/3, Seduction/4, Savoir-Faire/3, Small Weapon/3
Attunements: Lilim of War, Art of Combat
Distinctions: Knight of the Black Order, Captain of the Infernal Armies, Baron of Victory, Countess of the Cold Hands
Special Rite: Watch a student give up on their studies.
Role: Caz 4/4
Servants: Bodyguards (Candy & Cinnamon) 6/2
Vessel: +2 Charisma
Eligor the Horseman
Duke General of Hell, Demon of Alliances, Djinn of The War
Forces: Corporeal 6, Ethereal 6, Celestial 6, Word 17
Corporeal Hits: At Least 108, Probably 144
Skills & Spells: Eligor is effectively an Archduke. He can have whatever skills you want at whatever levels you want, but combat and business skills should at least have at least token representation.
Attunements: All of The War’s Attunements, All of Greeds’s Attunements
Distinctions: Knight of the Black Order, Captain of the Infernal Armies, Baron of Victory, Duke General of Hell
Role: Kenneth Vald 6/6
Vessel: Any (but I would probably go for 6)