Shithead Of The Year

7061684Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If our personalities are derived from the characters and novels we tend to enjoy (in my case both reading and writing), then I’d make a strong candidate for Shithead of the Year. Hell, I don’t even need a running mate. I suppose I could leave it at that, and just walk away, probably leaving more than a few of you scratching your heads. But I might as well expound upon my point, because once you start shoveling shit you might as well keep going.

You see, James Stark is a character I’m not supposed to like. In fact, he burns jackets, kills people (bad ones), and even manages to piss off a few angels just for fun. He’s the kind of guy you’re better off pretending you don’t know. If he does happen to come around, you barricade your front door, and then you call the fuzz. If the cops can’t keep him at bay, then you leave LA (it’s filled with people more fucked up than Stark anyway), and head somewhere safer like Mexico or Colombia.

Despite all of that, though, I actually liked the bastard. I rooted for him to rein hell-on-earth and kick the shit out of evil, and ruin a few more coats. I could almost feel his hatred coursing through my veins, and rather than be turned off, I was actually a little turned on. To be fair, it wasn’t all fireflies and sparklers, and I did manage to cringe once or twice, based on yet another terrible path he took. But if I didn’t see at least a fault or two, I’d probably be in more trouble than I already am. So maybe there’s the slimmest of slim chances I’m not completely fucked up.

In the spirit of Stark smashing a few faces, SANDMAN SLIM smashed together more than one genre, and made it work. The plot and dialogue raced forward (other than enough editing errors that I couldn’t help but notice); all the characters were filled with warm and gooey goodness (smirks); the action made it seem as though I was driving on two-wheels down Wilshire Boulevard (without traffic); and I even discovered another reason to hate a junkie or two (when you read it, you’ll see what I mean).

Like this novel so aptly proves time and again: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

I received this book for free at Left Coast Crime.

Turbocharged Harley

22233311Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

When you slack off for a few days and seek praise in your own writing, bad things tend to happen. With me, my memory went to shit on a stick. So (like Will Ferrell in Old School during the great debate) let me regurgitate DEAR DAUGHTER in a stream of consciousness before I’m even more fucked than I already am.

Janie Jenkins decided to take everything she had discovered over the course of her life—before she ended up in the pokey—and leave it on the side of the road. Her clothes, hair, name, and confidence…broken like a baseball bat. Her ability to mess around until the sun goes down with a semi-famous rock star. Gone. She may have been tabloid fodder with her feet firmly planted in an alternate reality, even as her mom tried to pull the minivan out of the driveway. But she had more than enough intelligence to jam a crucifix in that plan, and stay in the course in that multi-horse town.

With her eyes downcast, and nothing to go on but a place and a date, she seeks justice for a crime she didn’t commit, even if she can’t get those ten years of her life back. But she’s bound and determined to even the score. Her character reminded me of a stray cat that had been kicked a little too much, and missed more meals than she received. Her mom couldn’t have offered a better plug for contraceptives, although she didn’t end up being a total loss.

All the small town and South Dakota atmosphere needed was a six shooter, black hat, cloud of dust, and some western theme music. Yeah, the town nearly became a character in the story, and I reminisced about my brief stint in Rapid City, where the land was flat and the trees were sparse.

The plot nudged along, until Elizabeth Little revved the engine and it took off near the end like a turbocharged Harley, and I nearly fell off and struck the pavement. Other than whiplash and a near brush with asphalt, I managed to keep my butt in my seat. I didn’t even need to dust myself off.

With that being said, I didn’t like the end. It felt like I put my head through a glass door. Otherwise, though, I was good to go. If I pick up another Elizabeth Little novel, I’ll just make sure I walk with my hand in front of my face.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Twelve Round Beat Down

11257455Casino Moon by Peter Blauner
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If the boxing world even remotely mimics what Peter Blauner describes with intense detail in the pages of CASINO MOON—a world filled with intimidation and manipulation, where the main objective becomes the knockout, completely immobilizing your opponent both inside and outside the ring, where a cutting board with several large knives serves as the negotiation table, where greed is the only concept that brings men together in the name of a twelve round beat down—then I’m glad I’m a lover, not a fighter. It’s this world filled with ornate detail, where the good guys are bad and the bad guys are even worse that the reader finds himself engrossed in from the opening bell. A world where women go panty-free, fucking the hero on the rails of the boardwalk, where killing is just another word expunged between breaths and guns are touted around with as much precision as metal lunchboxes. It’s a world I’m unfamiliar with, and yet I was immediately intrigued by it.

This world has no beginning and no end: it lives on with its own life force. And yet I felt as though I had a brief glimpse into it between the pages, savoring every moment of exploding flesh, hard rights, and intense uppercuts. While I certainly understood the needs and desires of Anthony Russo and his ploy to go legitimate, or at least break himself away from his mob ties, most of my sympathies rested with Rosemary. She’s as tough as any male character that haunts the pages of this novel, and without her, this book might have been a shell of itself. This proves an ongoing point that many good and great authors recognize: strong males need strong females. It’s a codependent relationship, and this hard-case crime novel is better for it.

If you’re into interesting reads where you get a glimpse of the street life, along with the high life, and you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, then you might want to check out this book. I know I’m glad I did.

A Bit Of A Guess

9584960The Albuquerque Turkey by John Vorhaus
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I had problems with the voice in THE ALBUQUERQUE TURKEY. It seemed a bit off to me, like my GPS had lost its signal. It took me a bit of time to figure out it related to word choice and some unusual phrases and dialogue. So at various points along the way, I was ready to give it up, and move on to my next read. But I’m glad I stuck with it, and that I punched through the metaphorical brick wall with both fists.

Sure, it was a bit odd, like my friend Snuffy who may have taken one too many sniffs from that superglue container I left out on the kitchen table, but like Snuffy, this novel still had its entertainment value. The plot may have seemed a bit convoluted and possibly a bit coincidental until the story truly found its direction. But the jokes were there, and so was the entertainment value, and so was the group of pranksters that staggered across the page. For starters, there was the cross-dressing absentee father figure, the nude model with the fair skin and feminine charms, the slaphappy artist with a slightly questionable work ethic and talent, and that’s just in the first half of the story.

It was always a bit of a guess as to what would happen next, so if you like being turned upside down and shaken around a bit, then this novel might hold as much promise as spiked Kool-Aid. If not, then you may want to skip out on this circus, and build your own big top in the backyard. And if that’s not enough, I’m sure you can round up a few barnyard animals to help the festivities run a little more smoothly. So to sum up, there was certainly promise, but it may have failed a bit in the execution.

I received this book for free as an early registration incentive for Left Coast Crime.