Back in the summer of 2016, Netflix wasn’t Netflix, TV Industry Conquerer™ just yet. Long before Russian Doll, The Crown, or choose-your-own adventure bonanzas, Netflix made a bunch of “eh” originals following their initial Orange Is The New Black/House of Cards splash. But then, the company’s “green light all the things” strategy struck unexpected gold with an ’80s adventure homage set in fictitious, rural Indiana. Suddenly, pulsing vintage synths could be heard everywhere.

A few years can really make all the difference. Entering 2019, maybe only Game of Thronesfinal season had more hype within the TV landscape than Stranger Things’ two-years-in-the-making third season (and we all know how things went in Westeros). And new-school Netflix has leveraged this anticipation in a very old school way: tie-in novels. A hallmark of beloved franchises from Star Wars to Star Trek, a handful of “Official Stranger Things novel” offerings have arrived this spring and summer to satiate rabid fans ahead of a July 4 S3 premiere. But none immediately sent us to the “pre-order” button faster than author Adam Christopher’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, an old-fashioned crime novel featuring Chief Jim Hopper’s pre-show adventures.

Is this another kids v. D&D villain story?

Released at the start of June, Darkness on the Edge of Town takes place back in 1977 within a pre-Giuliani gritty, grimy, and gang-y New York (a setting that may be familiar to any fans of HBO’s The Deuce as the most recent of many fictional examples). The country dealt with Vietnam fallout, the city dealt with crime headlined by the Son of Sam killer, and fictional cops like Hopper dealt with internal monologues about war changing people, the nature of good and evil, or how doing one’s job may be the only shot at cleaning up the city.

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