Our Lady of the Inferno (2017) is the first novel from Rue Morgue scribe and Cinedump.com assistant editor Preston Fassel. It takes place in the summer of 1983 in New York City and, more specifically, within the grime, crime and theatres of infamous 42nd Street.

The book follows two main characters, until their fates collide in a spectacularly bloody mess. First up is 21-year-old anti-hero and protagonist, Ginny Kurva. She’s the “bottom girl,” keeper of the day ladies of the street, and enforcer for The Colonel, a mean old pimp who runs a flophouse often referred to as the Misanthrope Motel. She takes care of her crippled sister Tricia, teaches German to her stable of discarded women, and runs a book club. In short, she’s an atypical source of calm for her girls, but can fight and mess up the best of men when things get violent.

On the flipside, Nicolette Aster is a dark force that sees visions and thinks she’s the embodiment of the mythical Minotaur from Greek legend. She’s wealthy, quiet, confident, and good at her job at the Staten Island landfill. Truth be told, she’s completely unhinged. Rarely do we get to experience such a villainous female character without a cartoonish underpinning. The weird things Nicolette sees and thinks are endlessly fascinating; reading her point of view opens an entirely new world full of secrets.

In fact, Fassel’s observations on humanity go way further than his years on this planet. Throughout reading Our Lady of the Inferno, I felt like I was discovering a bold new talent that not many have heard of — and I hope that changes. The dark paths of both women take visceral twists and turns through extreme violence and transcendence. Not many authors have the chops to pull off a story like this; Our Lady of the Inferno is at once a redemptive tale and an amazing homage to a forgotten reality before Times Square and the films of that era were homogenized.

Fassel’s story is well-paced, full of intimate detail, and so unlike anything I’ve ever read that I can’t help but give it my highest recommendation to fans of genre and those interested in the plight of the downtrodden. The story is full of strong women and never panders or feels exploitative, regardless of its subject matter… That in itself is extraordinary — think early Joe Lansdale. I can’t wait to see what Fassel does next.

Is a gritty, ‘80s 42nd Street horror novel with surprising insights up your alley? Check out Our Lady of the Inferno via Amazon.