• Robert Saucedo

Checkoff's Podcast - I'm Ready For More Blackwood Tapes

Guillermo del Toro has finally created his CBS crime procedural!

The director of THE SHAPE OF WATER and PAN’S LABYRINTH has reteamed with his THE STRAIN co-author Chuck Hogan for THE HOLLOW ONES, a propulsive new supernatural thriller that owes as much to the work of Seaburry Quinn as it does ELEMENTARY, LUCIFER, GRIMM, SLEEPY HOLLOW, and the other spooky hourlong dramas about cops teaming up with monster hunters that my mom likes to watch. Seriously, she can’t get enough of them.

Rookie FBI agent Odessa Hardwicke is in trouble. Her partner is dead, shot through the chest. That would be bad enough except it was Hardwicke that was the one pointing the gun. It’s not like Hardwicke doesn’t have an excuse, though - her partner snapped while trying to stop a mass-murdering politician, stabbing the suspect with a kitchen knife before turning the blade on the suspect’s young daughter. What caused Hardwicke’s partner to turn violent enough where she felt the need to take him out? And what was that strange shimmer that seemed to emanate from his body as he died? Most importantly, what does all of this have to do with John Blackwood, a mysterious figure who can only be summoned by dropping a handwritten letter into a forgotten mailbox in the middle of New York’s Wall Street?

THE HOLLOW ONES is a tightly-paced novel about a body-hopping horror, summoned from beyond the realm of the known to wreak havoc across humanity. Hardwicke must learn the truth about the darkness - the real darkness - that exists in the world if she’s going to stop the monster who possessed her partner before it continues its murderous rampage. Helping her is Earl Solomon, a dying FBI agent who first encountered the evil while on a case in the segregated South during the ‘60s, and John Blackwood, an ageless British mage who has stood against monstrous forces for the last 400 years.

With their new novel, del Toro and Chuck Hogan have taken the first step towards what seems primed to be a new multimedia franchise. The novel is a start of a series of books and, as such, it reads like the pilot episode for a specific kind of television series. I’m ready to set my DVR for the rest of the show - except now I have to wait years between novels. But what if I didn’t?

Film, television, podcast, comic books - the sky is wide open when it comes to possible avenues to continue the story of John Blackwood, the dry-witted, haunted hunter of demons that is introduced in THE HOLLOW ONES. The book does a great job setting up characters and scenarios that still have a lot of stories left in them - including a particularly fun cliffhanger.

I'm most interested in the possibilities suggested by the name of the series THE HOLLOW ONES kicks off - The Blackwood Tapes. This title refers to a series of reel-to-reel tapes that Blackwood records after every mission, detailing his encounter with the supernatural. This seems like a concept begging to be adapted into a podcast series, with various encounters with the supernatural across Blackwood’s career told via excerpts in podcast form while the main story focusing on Blackwood and Agent Hardwicke’s burgeoning partnership is saved for Hogan and del Toro’s novels.

Maybe I’m just used to a world where franchises pop up like mushrooms after a heavy rain, but it’s easy to read something like THE HOLLOW ONES and see the roadmap for how it can be transformed into a dozen new projects across a dozen new mediums. Granted, it’s hard to create new concepts and characters that make the leap into successful cross-platform franchises - the road to LA is paved with one-and-done books and movies that were meant to launch the next big series - but I think Hogan and del Toro have what it takes with their character John Blackwood. The character plays to the strengths of both writers, whether it’s Hogan’s background and skill as a crime writer or del Toro’s fascination with ancient folklore, there are tons of great stories to be told when it comes to an immortal exorcist who has a penchant for teaming up with the FBI.

Guillermo del Toro famously tried to develop a John Constantine-led film that would explore DC Comics’ staple of horror characters. The project fell apart but I see in THE HOLLOW ONES a chance for del Toro and Hogan to tell a wealth of stories involving a very similar character. The few tantalizing peaks into the world of John Blackwood are enough to show that this character can successfully launch a franchise bigger than the duo’s previous THE STRAIN trilogy.

At least give us the podcast...

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