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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Review: Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez

I've been sitting here for about ten minutes staring at an empty blogger post page, wondering where exactly to begin with this book.

There's a question I've been asking myself lately about the quality of authors' writing, and when -- if ever -- is it okay to let things slide?

I had some issues with this book, but it was also one of the rare books where I felt it was sort of okay to let some things slide. Why? Because when a book is about:
zombies (human)
zombies (bovine)
teen sorceresses determined to end the world
horny teen minions
Ancient Gods
tentacled hell beasts
graveyard guardians (ghosts)
dead terriers (ghosts)
determined mini-golfers (ghosts)
obese werewolves (main character)
balding vampires (main character)
spectres in a magic eight ball
a diner designed to end the world
mail order hoodoo catalogues*
and a tiny, tiny town with more paranormal activity than just about anywhere (see Law of Anomalous Phenomena Attraction**)
I guess it's understandable that some of the actual writing may fall by the wayside. Maybe? It is a lot to juggle.

Alright, let's be honest. This is not a book you go into thinking it's going to be great literature. And you wouldn't be wrong. It was a little like reading Shaun of the Dead or a Scary Movie script. It was silly and slapsticky and fun. There definitely needed to be a better copy editor, and the characters may have been a bit flat, but they are all memorable, the entire ridiculous cast of them.

But I digress. Because other than the list up there, I haven't actually told you what the book is about. Duke (the massive former-trucker werewolf) and Earl (the middle age, balding vampire with a penchant for Hawaiian shirts) are on the road as usual when they stop for a bite at Gil's All Night Diner in the nowhere town of Rockwood. They settle in and Duke beings wolfing (couldn't resist) down his food, when they are set upon by zombies. They dispatch them and learn from the diner's operator, Loretta, that the zombies are a regular occurrence and are on the verge of ruining her business. Oh, and she needs a new water pipe laid. Would the Sirs, Werewolf and Vampire, like to stay and lay the pipe and maybe help sort out the zombie problem? (answer: yes)
But the problem is much bigger than zombies, and Duke and Earl soon realize that the fate of the world lies in Gil's greasy spoon. Ghouls and antics follow.

So, as I said, it's like reading a scarody (scary parody. Sometimes, I am too amused by myself). It's funny and light and vulgar and gross, but there are some really great elements in there, and it is certainly memorable. The writing is very simplistic, and it at times has a sort of film noir feel. I have a feeling Martinez had fun writing it, and it is fun to read, even if just as a throwaway Halloween read.

Bonus Material:
A. Lee Martinez's site


The book has its own Wikipedia page, which politely explains the novel's title:
The title of this novel is a play on the phrase "all night diner." However, it is an "all fright diner" due to the encompassing supernatural elements.
Thank you, Wikipedia.


Surprisingly, this was nominated for a 2006 Alex Award. The award is given to adult books that may have special appeal to teens. I found this book in the teen section, which surprised me from page one, because it is incredibly vulgar and not at all "teen." Or maybe I'm a prude.


The book did contain a very helpful description of the "average zombie":
Your average zombie is not a killing machine. Their fighting prowess springs from a single-minded determination and a certain walking corpse stick-to-itiveness.
This would have been beneficial in my Spotlight On: Zombies post...


Random quotes that amused me:
Earl reached into the pool of empty beers. "Damn it Duke! If that's the last beer, I'm going to have to kick your ass." Like Arthur with Excalibur, he withdrew a full beer. "You got lucky."

The vampire glanced at the floor. His shadow was indeed gone again. It did that quite often. Sometimes disappearing for hours or even days. Earl always hated that. He just knew that wherever it went, it was having a better time than him.

Reality is like a fruitcake: pretty enough to look at, but with all sorts of nasty things lurking just beneath the surface.

The other men saw that the herd had surrounded them unnoticed. The cow bells should have warned them....Melinda raised her head and uttered a low, haunting howl. The rest of the herd joined her in a bloodcurdling moan that seemed to bubble up from the sulfurous pit of Hell itself.

Here's a (really bad but funny) fan made trailer

*Crazy Ctharl's Hard-to-Find Sorcerous Emporium, "Prices so low, you'll question the collective dream of sanity....The darkness approaches, and Ctharl says everything must be sold before the Lords of Doom swallow the world!"
**Law of Anomalous Phenomena Attraction = weird shit attracts more weird shit.


  1. Wow.
    I'm not sure if there's another word for me to describe my reaction to this review. I've never heard of this one before, but it definitely sounds entertaining and possibly hilarious. It may not be a great work of literary merit, but it looks amusing and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    P.S. The quote about the beer and Excalibur resulted in me waking up my roommate...I literally LOL'd. Oops!

    Natalie @ Mindful Musings

  2. I gagged/laughed (because I was drinking something) when I read it. And that was the first page. It's not a wower, but it sometimes makes you say "*wow*" if that makes any sense.

  3. I love the trailer! Terrible spelling but I got to see a zombie cow chasing a truck. How cool is that?

  4. "scarody" - I love it!

  5. Never ever heard of the book before, it does sounds very interesting to read. But I don't think it's quite for me. Great clip. :)

  6. To be honest I've read this book twice!.. sometimes you need something lite and humorous to help break your own moods or feelings. I've even read two of his other books but this one was the best of the lot. A Lee Martinez gets an A from me for trying to make people laugh...and at times he does it quite well! I'm glad you saw it for it's humor which I am sure he meant it for.

  7. What can I say except I'm intrigued. Thanks for this review, I've got to read the book. Zombie bovines? For some reason I can see this image is going to stay with me for a long time.

  8. is it possible the tentacled beasts are cthulhus?

    LOL - um dude, i think we're screwed!

    everything but the kitchen sink paranormal! gotta love this wacky fun!

    ok, it's next on my shopping list.

    and thanks for the new word of the day - scarody

  9. We don't live in Rockwood, Velvet, we're good. (I hope). And you're right, it may have been a cthulu...

  10. I read the title and thought "yes". I read your review, and now I think "Maybe?". It sounds funny, but a little too on the silly side. I think I would actually have to be in the right mood to read this, I don't think I could just pick it up anytime. Hmm. Not sure. Great review!


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