After The World: Killable Hours (2009)

Author Clay Blakehills
Publisher Black House Comics
Length 62 pages
Genre Zombie
Blurb Life on earth has changed since the dead stopped dying.

Talk us through it

Terry Daniels is a first round seasonal clerk at the prestigious law firm of Walters Kendall and is starting to regret ever going into Law as a career. On the bright side of the brief that's not going to be a concern for Terry anymore as a zombie outbreak in Australia's main Cities pretty much makes the law a moot point.

Trapped in a high rise office block by an ever increasing number of zombie Lawyers, Terry along with legal beagle Janelle Davis and handyman Neville must find a way out of the building and out of the City before they become the next victims on the undead menu. Gathering the surviving members of the workforce Terry leads his group in a hair raising descent of the undead stairwell.

Ready to try the corporate meat grinder?


"You wack her in the head and she'll bite your toe clean off, Terry" - Janelle Davis

Killable Hours represents Dark House's first foray into the world of prose in the form of a first person narrative zombie novella. Baden Kirgan, top gun at the House, had been promising us a series of zombie apocalypse novellas and Clay Blakehills' release marks the first of four scheduled zombie outings announced thus far. Fingers crossed we get some more announced in due course, I think Black House may have a major cult hit on their hands. Okay before getting carried away lets check into the offices of Walters Kendall to see what might be stirring.

I'm always up for a good pun in the title of a horror book or film and Killable Hours certainly worked for me. If you have ever worked in a Professional office where your manager checks timesheets to see how many hours each person has billed clients for than you'll know what I mean. So two thumbs up to Writer Blakehills for getting a good punch line in with the title. What becomes apparent when you work your way through the novella is that Blakehills is keeping up the fun times from the title on each page through out his zombie yarn. There's no real laugh out loud moments but you will certainly have a grin on your face as Blakehills pokes some fun at the zombie sub genre and the Legal profession. Killable Hours isn't one of those heavy tomes that require you to wade through miles of exposition, it's short, it's smart, and it's not written to be taken seriously.

The other thing that people should bare in mind when starting their zombie blood feast, is that the stated aim of After The World is to bring together a number of differing Writers producing Australian Pulp Fiction. I have no idea of what style of writer Clayton Blakehills is normally as I've never read anything from him before, but with Killable Hours> he's certainly hitting Black House's pulp vibe with a vengeance. Don't expect deep and meaningful ideas here, this is a full on return to the concept of the penny dreadful where the story is everything. Blakehills is telling a yarn and doesn't side step into the metaphysical wilderness. I got exactly the read I laid down my dollars to get, now that's delivering on a promise in anyone's language.

At $5 you have to say Black House are giving the budget minded amongst us a lot of loving. Added icing folks is you get a zombie novel that stands out from the normal chaff the sub genre seems to wallow in.

Blakehills isn't holding back on the claret, this is a zombie apocalypse novella, and he goes after the gore descriptions with the sort of glee you hope Romero had when he sat down to pen Night of Anubis, the prototype for Night of the Living Dead. If viscera, brains splattering all over the office, and cannibalism isn't your thing then Killable Hours might not exactly sit right with that cup of cocoa at bedtime. Then again if you didn't get this one wasn't going to pull any punches via the rather gaudy cover artwork then you deserve ever intestine looped your way. In case anyone is wondering, I was lapping this up, hell yes! At least Zombies haven't had their teeth pulled like Vampires have recently.

In keeping with the purist Romero dead universe, the zombies in Blakehills novella can only be put down by major head trauma, the "shoot them in the head" solution that has been repeated through the sub genre for the last four decades. I was left wondering if the Author here didn't use that device as a sort of swipe at the intellectual nature of the Law. Blakehills certainly has a swipe at the legal Profession from time to time, so I wouldn't discount a slight wink to the Reader going down. Once again I may be reading far too much into a horror story, but if you have ever had to sit down and read some of the more outlandish theories on works such as Waiting For Godot, then you will allow me some latitude here.

What's not debatable is Blakehills' notion of where the media fits into the developing apocalypse. Killable Hours is set in a legal office tower, all the action goes down on the floors that dripped blood as the Survivors fight to get out of Dodge, preferably without any wounds. Blakehills keeps the reader appraised of what's happening in the outside world, there's a micro element here, via the internet news and chat sites. You can thus see Killable Hours as a direct descendant of Night of the Living Dead, the Survivors drag out a television to learn what is happening outside the farmhouse they have barricaded themselves in, via Signs, the Survivors switch on the television to discover how widespread the alien invasion is. Blakehills provides a framework for his zombie apocalypse via news media websites. We learn the initial outbreak was in Asian, referencing I think World War Z, where the initial outbreaks were in China, and has spread to the United States, Britain, and Europe. Australia barely rates a mention, though we do learn Melbourne isn't the only city on the world's driest continent currently descending into chaos. We also learn what the social networkers think, as usual ill informed and competing opinions, and in a humour filled moment learn a major character spent the night playing online chess with someone in Taiwan.

Blakehills use of the internet to provide a wider framework to his story, the Author isn't making a statement on the digital media, is an excellent device that presents the wide picture in quick easy to consume snippets. It's like a really useful twitter to be honest, would that make zombie posts zom-tweets?

One final point and we'll call this one a wrap. Like Romero, Blakehills has his survivors holed up fighting off the zombie hordes, but the Author also points out this is a temporary solution to the problem at hand. Blakehills is at his finest in Killable Hours, is it just me or does that title sound like it belongs to a really bad slasher movie? - when his characters try to get out of Dodge. Not everyone is going to make it, but you will be certainly hoping some of the characters do.

Jason Paulos provided the cover artwork for Killable Hours, which is highly distinctive in a sort of comic book fashion. Exactly what you would expect for a pulp publication in fact. Two thumbs up for Paulos, am loving the cover artwork.

Killable Hours is currently available in selected news agencies. I got my copy at the MLC News Agent in down town Sydney after my local agents proved to be a waste of time. In January Black House is going online with a shop so if unable to source a copy then check back on that site on a weekly basis. For International readers, am pretty sure Black House will take you into account as well. Did I mention Killable Hours is awesomely priced at $5 (AUD)?

ScaryMinds Rates this read as ...

Excellent novella by Clay Blakehills to kick of the series.