Hard Spell (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation -1)

Hard Spell (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation #1) by Justin Gustainis

Occult Crimes Unit Investigation series — aka Morris & Chastain Supernatural Investigations — by Justin Gustainis

Genres and Sub-GenresEdit

Urban Fantasy / Noir Urban Fantasy / Alternate History UF / Police Procedural

Series Description or Overview Edit

Scranton, Pennsylvania fifty years after WWII is a different place than one might expect. When millions of Americans poured into Europe to fight in the war, they picked up a little something extra to bring back home besides war wives and interesting STD’s. Quaint little things like cases of werewolves and vampires and zombies (oh, my!) Needless to say, it changed the way life is lived in the good ol’ US of A. Instead of McCarthy going after ‘Commies’ he gets to do real, honest-to-goodness witch hunts – for real witches. . . ~ So, I Read This Book Today

✥ Hard Spell is set in a world where the supernatural has been widely prevalent in America since the end of World War II. Apparently, the supernatural came back with the troops returning from Europe (a bit like some kind of STD that nobody admits to having and never gets treatment for) subsequent generations have accepted the existence of goblins, vampires, werewolves, wizards and witches with equanimity. The supernatural is legislated for with black magic and acts that would harm people being illegal and publishable by prison or death – otherwise there is pretty much a ‘live and let unlive’ attitude towards the supernatural and undead. ~ Hard Spell - Love Vampires

Lead's Species Edit

  • Paranormal Police detective, human

Primary Supe Edit

  • Variety: vampires, werewolves, wizards, witches

What Sets it ApartEdit

Narrative Type and Narrators Edit

  • First person — pulpy, hardboiled style by Stan, a police officer in the Occult Crimes division

Books in Series Edit

Occult Crimes Unit series:

  1. Hard Spell (2011)
  2. Evil Dark (2012)
  3. Known Devil (2013)

Shorts, Novellas, Anthologies and Guides Edit

Companion Series, Spinoffs, Sequels or Prequels Edit

Quincey Morris series

World Building Edit

Setings Edit

Alternate Scranton, PA

  • Set in the alternate Wyoming Valley in Northeast Pennsylvania

Supernatural ElementsEdit

Para-Police detective, vampires, werewolves, sorcerers, necromancers, demon, wizard, white witch, faery, elves, goblins, elven robbers, Ley lines, cultists, dhampir, supe mafia,

Glossary: Edit

Groups & Organizations:Edit

  • Church of the True Cross: extremist organization that hates all the supernaturals


In this alternate world, this part of Pennsylvania has an above-normal population of supernaturals (aka "supes") because it is located at the intersection of ten different ley lines. According to this mythology, supernaturals were relatively uncommon in the U.S. prior to World War II, having been scared off centuries ago by the fanatically religious Puritans and the Salem witch trials. During the War, however, many soldiers were infected by European supes and returned home as vampires and werewolves. Others met up with various sorcerers and necromancers and became intrigued with the black arts. Increased access to air travel after the War allowed fast and easy travel to the U.S., and the supernatural population has been rising ever since. Gustainis weaves the supes into the stories nicely, each species having its own characteristics, history, and language.

History in this world mimics the real world, but with supernatural twists. For example in this series, Senator Joe McCarthy's Congressional hearings in the 1950s were literally a witch hunt as he demanded "Are you now, or have you even been, a member of a coven?" (p. 12) Later, Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream Speech" included naturals and supernaturals on the list of disparate groups that he dreamed would live in harmony. Gustainis has fun twisting pop culture icons into supernatural parodies. Stan shops for blood at the Vlad Mart. He enjoys reading John Steinbeck's novel, Of Elves and Men. A James Bond film is entitled From Transylvania with Love. ~ Fangtastic


The hero (or anti-hero) of the series is Detective Sergeant Stanley (Stan) Markowski of the Scranton Police Department's Occult and Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit (aka the Supe Squad). In book 1 he introduces himself to us in a Joe-Friday-esqe manner, but with a supernatural spin: "My name's Markowski. I carry a badge. Also a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9 mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets." The trailer for book 1 even imitates Dragnet's opening credits, showing a full-screen shot of a police badge, but instead of 714, the number is 666. When Markowski and his partner need back-up, they call in the SWAT team, but in this world SWAT stands for Sacred Weapons and Tactics unit, and some of its members are priests. ~ Fangtastic

Sidekick Edit

Name:     What:     Sidekick-to:      About:      Book First Seen In:     Series:

Characters Edit

Characters What About
Stan Markowski Detective Sergeant Scranton PD's Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit;
Karl Renfer vampire, Detective Stanley's partner;
Bishop Navarra Head of the Church of the True Cross. extremist organization that hated all the supernaturals
Linda Thorwald #2 An FBI agent assigned to the case of snuff films
Brian Greer FBI special agent Linda's partner
Christine Markowski vampire, dispatcher Stan's Daughter; dScranton PD dispatcher;
Lieutenant McGuire chief Occult Crime Unit in Scranton; Markowski's boss
Lacey Brennan #2 cop Stan knows her; her sister was one of the victims in the snuff films;
Sharkey dhampir contract killer
Don Pietro Calabrese vampire Mafioso Head of Scranton's vampire Mafia "family"

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Justin Gustainis color

Justin Gustainis

Author Edit

Justin Gustainis

Bio: Justin Gustainis was born in Northeast Pennsylvania in 1951. He attended college at the University of Scranton, a Jesuit university that figures prominently in several of his writings. After earning both Bachelor's and Master's degrees, he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the U. S. Army.

Mr. Gustainis currently lives in Plattsburgh, New York, with his wife, Patricia Grogan. He is a Professor of Communication at Plattsburgh State University. ~ Justin Gustainis

Cover ArtistEdit

Artist: Timothy Lantz ~ Source: Bibliography: Cover: Hard Spell

Awards Edit

Publishing InformationEdit

  • Publisher: Angry Robot
  • Author Page:
  1. Hard Spell: Paperback, 382 pages, Pub: July 26th 2011—ISBN 0857661159
  2. Evil Dark: Paperback, 396 pages, Pub: April 24th 2012—ISBN 0857661361
  3. Known Devil: Paperback, 375 pages, Pub: January 28th 2014 —ISBN 0857661663

Book Cover Blurbs Edit

BOOK ONE BLURB—Hard Spell (2011): In this "alternate universe," supernatural creatures really exist, and everybody knows it. In Scranton, PA, when a "supe" breaks the law, they call Detective Sgt. Stan Markowski of the Occult Crimes Unit. Now somebody is murdering vampires in Scranton, and Stan learns that it's all part of a renegade wizard's ritual to gain ultimate power. Unless this evil magician can be stopped before the spell is completed, Bad Things Will Happen. Fortunately, when it comes to busting supes, Stan markowski is one bad motherf**ker. ~ Goodreads | Hard Spell (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation #1) by Justin Gustainis

BOOK TWO BLURB—Evil Dark (2012): In this second adventure of Stan Markowski and the Scranton Police Department's Occult Crimes Investigation Unit, Stan and the crew are confronted with the kind of crime they never even knew existed. Someone is making supernatural "snuff films" and selling them on the black market. Each one of these sadistic videos follows the same pattern: two men are shown, both tied to chairs. Then, off-camera, a sorcerer summons a demon, which "possesses" one of the men. He is then released from his bonds, and the demon uses the body of its new host to commit various gross atrocities on the poor bastard in the other chair, until the victim finally dies. The FBI has been after the perpetrators of this vileness for some time, but now they have shocking news for Stan and the rest of the Supe Squad: there is evidence that at least one of the videos was recorded in Scranton. Stan and the other detectives are on the case at once, but there are certain criminal interests who want their investigation to stop, and who will do anything — anything — to keep the blood money flowing.  ~ Goodreads | Evil Dark (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation, #2) by Justin Gustainis

BOOK THREE BLURB—Known Devil (2013): My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge. Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets. “A new supernatural gang is intent on invading Scranton and it looks like I’m going to have to work with the current mob to prevent a demonic gang war. “If there’s one thing I hate more than living with supernatural scumbags, it’s working with them! But you know that they say, better the devil you know…” ~Goodreads

First Sentences Edit

  1. Hard Spell (2011) — This is the city -- Scranton, Pennsylvania.
  2. Evil Dark (2012) — The city of Scranton. The name is Markowski. I carry a badge. The monsters from your nightmares are real, all of them.
  3. Known Devil (2013) — "I've never had a lot of use for elves."

~ Resource: Occult Crime Unit Series

Quotes Edit

Trivia Edit

Read Alikes (similar elements) Edit

Awards Edit

Notes Edit

  • This series was originally titled QUINCEY MORRIS SUPERNATURAL INVESTIGATIONS, but Gustainis added "CHASTAIN" beginning with book two.

See Also Edit

Category links at bottom of page

External References Edit

Summaries, Articles:

The World, Characters, etc:


Interviews, Guest Posts, Author Commentary:





Community, Fan Sites:

Gallery of Book Covers Edit

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