This Desperate City is very proud to welcome Derrick Horodyski to the family. Derrick comes to us from the clutches of the great folks over at Into the Gutter/FFO, where he penned too many reviews to count. He has been gracious enough to adopt the TDC style of reviews which include a slightly deeper dive into character and motivations, and we could not be happier with this first glimpse into the new partnership. We are looking forward to great things in the future as TDC steps into its second incarnation. Welcome Derrick, and now onto the good stuff!
by Daniel Vlasaty
Review by Derrick Horodyski
Despite his best intentions to stay clear of the life that has given him nothing but heartbreak, jail time, and lost opportunities, Ugly is sucked back into the dark grime of the criminal underbelly when his drug addicted brother is accused of ripping off a local drug dealer with big connections. With one foot in the life he desires and one in the life he can’t seem to escape, Ugly is on the verge of being pulled apart.
Ugly/Eric: Known as Ugly in his more reckless days, he now wants to be known by Eric, the name he was given when his life had the possibility of happiness. Ugly’s past shadow casts a pall over every aspect of his current existence.
“A legacy is something that follows you around like a fucking shadow. Especially in Rogers Park. Because people on these streets like to talk and gossip like schoolyard bitches”
Joe: Ugly’s younger brother who has chosen his drug addiction over his safety by deciding to rob the local drug dealer of 100G worth of product. He is the albatross which keeps Ugly anchored to the old life he desperately wants to rid himself of.
“People (are) looking for Joe but right now he’s a ghost…They out for some motherfucking blood.”
Acevado: A local drug dealer who has made his bones to rise to the top of the local syndicate. He shares an upbringing with Ugly, so he can use their shared past to play to Ugly’s sensibility to help him find Joe, the drugs, and/or the money which was stolen from him.
“Acevado’s a little guy. But he could always scrap with the best of them. Dude was a brawler back in the day. Looks different now….He’s cleaned up nice. Got more of a sophisticated and mature thing going on than I remember from the last time I saw him, years ago”
Nicky: Ugly’s old running mate from his past. Nicky accepts Ugly for who he wants to become, but questions his ability to leave “the life” behind. Nicky provides Ugly with an ally in a world where an ally can be as powerful as a gun.
“Like everyone else he’s offered me all the work I could ever need, but we’re tight enough for him to respect my decision to stay away without any kind of hostility or distance between us.”
Ugly is trying his hardest to leave his past behind. He has recently gotten out of yet another extended stay in prison and this time, he wants to make changes in his life to ensure he stays out. He has his eye on working a 40+ hour a week job, starting an honest life with his girlfriend, Kelley, and leaving his street reputation behind. But he is finding out his past has claws which refuse to let him go so easily.
“But what Kelley doesn’t understand in all this is that it’s easy enough to want to do better. Actually getting there is a whole other thing”
Ugly’s hope for a peaceful exit to the hard life is seemingly dashed when he discovers his younger brother, Joe, has made a major mistake. Joe has ripped off Acevado, a local drug dealer who has ties to very powerful men who won’t let this crime go without deadly retribution. Acevado insists Ugly either locates Joe and the stolen goods, or he may just as well have done the crime himself and is now on the hook for it. Realizing Joe is a walking dead man without his help, Ugly must decide between sacrificing his dreams or sacrificing his brother.
In a moral clash between staying loyal to his family and staying loyal to himself, his dreams, and his new responsibilities, Ugly sets out to find Joe, the stolen stash, and answers to questions he doesn’t know if he can ever answer. Can a man live down his past, or is the past something that defines your present and your future?
“You can’t leave the past in the past if it’s constantly thrown in your face every time anyone talks to you”.
Told in the fast pace of a single night, Ugly has to not just find answers to his current problems, but also to problems which have haunted him over the course of his life
Vlasaty writes like a noir master. He captures the essence of a character who starts at rock bottom and seems to have little chance of raising himself any higher. His setting is bleak and characters are flawed and damaged. Stay Ugly unfolds at a perfect pace, adding layers of plot and characters with every page.
What sets this book above a lot of books I have recently read, is the authenticity to Vlasaty’s voice. His prose is on point and packs a hell of a punch. Like a renowned artist, he paints the heartbreak of the human condition, each brush stroke revealing a new dimension and different details which draw in the eye and the heart. The true measure of his genius is when the reader takes a step back and can fully appreciate the scope of the world he has created.
This is yet another Vlasaty masterpiece. His body of work is very respectable and all noir lovers should get acquainted with his body of work. His books continue to show his evolution as an author to watch and savor. His masterpiece memoir Amphetamine Psychosis is still the yardstick for every book I will ever read. If this is your first taste of Vlasaty, I envy you because you are about to be exposed to a true literary treasure. This book is highly recommended.
Blog Author Bios:
J. J. Sinisi started TDC and is a professional out of New York but spends what little free time he has strolling dark alleyways creating and reviewing crime fiction. His work has appeared at Spelk Fiction, Yellow Mama, Spinetingler Mag, Near to the Knuckle, Dead Guns Press, All Due Respect, Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, The Flash Fiction Offensive and others.