As this site evolves, I’m going to start looking into more original content (and obviously less of a focus on the comic). To that point, I'm starting periodic reviews of crime/noir related media. These will most definitely not be the most current pieces of cultural significance, but they will be on point and hopefully in depth. I'd also like to focus on slightly more obscure, out of the mainstream works.
The first review is a review of a little ditty called Hustle, by a veteran short story crime writer who's making his bones in novels now. You can get your own copy HERE, or just dig a little for the Kindle version.
by Tom Pitts
Two junkie hookers with nothing left to lose attempt to frame their biggest client. Unfortunately for them, someone’s already beat them to it and he’s not ready to share.
Donny - The one with the smarts to know he shouldn’t be here, but doesn’t know enough to get out. If I had one request of this story, it’d be that we got to delve deeper into this poor kid’s past.
“Donny smiled, “Get a couple grams, at least. And let’s get some blow this time.”
Big Rich - It’s his client, and therefore his hook. Sure he’s got a family somewhere up north, but we’re never really sure if he’s using the blackmail to get straight, or to just have to hustle a few less days a week.
“He felt two thin streams of warm blood trickling from his nostrils … The first thing that crossed his mind was, is my cell broken? The second was, sh**, I’d like to get high.”
Bear - And ex-biker with a good heart and a checkered past. He’ll save the day if he can just stay sober long enough to put the pieces together. A classic Chandler character with the stones to go the distance.
“Bear reminded himself he gave his word. If there was one thing he tried to cling to in life, after all the bullsh**, it was his word. Being a man of your word meant that you were a real man.”
Gabriel - An old man with a mountain of money and a habit of drugs and boy hookers to lead him into a pit of despair. His connection to Bear is probably the book’s most interesting relationship, his willingness to be pulled through the entire plot is probably the book’s only weakness.
“Then the old lawyer brought out his party favors to show the boys, about a gram of crystal meth so clean it looked like a bag of crushed glass.”
Dustin - Every inch of your junkie horror nightmares. His twisted motivations cue up wonderfully grotesque solutions to his problems, and it’s a joy to be disgusted by him.
“He knew he had no real talent. The drawings were just a way for him to unseat some of the sickness that lingered in his damaged head.”
“Donny and Rich’s lives ground on in a short cycle of copping, getting high, turning tricks, hiding from the world, then getting sick. Their time was marked by hours, not days.”
It’s not that this book is grimy, though it is. It’s not that its violent, or endearing, or bloody, or wrought with the painful reality of the streets, though it is all of these things.
What Hustle has that a lot in the genre don’t is urgency.
And not the noir urgency of a missing character struggling to stay alive in the hands of a speed-freak killer, or the desperate need to obtain that one last treasure that’ll get a man off the streets for good, (although you guessed it, Hustle has these in spades as well).
The urgency in this tale bubbles from the streets itself, and the addictions buried in the people there. At no point in Pitt’s yarn are we more than a few moments away from the desperate and oppressive need of the next hit, just to get us right, just to get us through the next two hours.
That’s reality on the streets and that’s what makes this novel so compelling. Noir/Crime pieces will always (although don’t have to) spin around the dirty folks skirting the fringes of the law. And some have dark histories and others are getting their hands bloody for the first time, but rarely do we see them so pre-occupied with one singular thought, and even more rarely is this thought a true reflection of reality.
Addiction strangles us at every turn, pressing on our windpipe as Big Rich and Donny turn their tricks with dark men in nice cars just to score some cigarette money, as Bear tries to figure out his next move and how far he should go to save the life of a man who saved his, as Dustin tweaks his way through existance.
It never leaves and just when the countdown hits zero, shakes start, the vomiting and the cramps and the pain, so much pain. It’s not hard to get lost in Hustle’s reverence to addiction, and it’s the book’s most endearing quality. Because in the end, we want Big Rich to be reunited with his chick and their kid, we want Donnie to smarten up and stop getting raped. And most of all, we want Bear to relax on the beers and just settle down with a broad who gets him. But we also know that’s not going to happen. The pull is too strong, the claws too deep. It was always going to end this way, we just needed to see it happen to know for sure.
Business is picking up!
The awesome folks over at The Flash Fiction Offensive (Out of the Gutter Books) have picked up my story Legacy. It’s a sordid little ditty about a Camaro, a pair of handguns, and unresolved daddy issues. And the best part? It’s free and short. So get your asses over to this great site and read it, and while you’re there, give them some clicks and read the rest of the great stuff over there. These guys know crime fiction like few others and it’s a real milestone I was able to get my foot in the door there.
Legacy – Flash Fiction Offensive
And just to spice things up, they include pictures (!) that go with the theme of your work, which is, of course, awesome. Love the care they take with their authors.
Thanks everyone for taking the time and stick around here in the next few weeks, because there’s one more announcement in the barrel just waiting to be fired!