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Eric Beetner seems to have a formula that he has used for every book he has published:

Fun plot + believable characters + witty dialogue + breakneck pace = novel that knocks you socks off.

I am more than pleased to say his latest, Rumrunners, shows that he is fine-tuning this formula. He has written many good books, but dare I say, this book is his best yet, which is saying a lot. His latest offering is being published by independent publisher, 280 Steps, and is due for release on May 12, 2015.

The plot is a simple one that just seems to get more enjoyable as the book progresses. It is amazing how Beetner handles this story in such a masterful manner. It starts like it is shot from a gun and never seems to slow down until the very end.

The men from the McGraw clan have been drivers for the more wealthier Stanley family for the past 3 generations. The McGraws have driving in their blood and are excited to drive any cargo anywhere it needs to go. As the Stanley’s have their fingers in less than desirable dealings, the cargo is usually of an illegal nature. The latest job calls for Webb McGraw to pick up some cargo and deliver it to an anxious buyer who will be using it to cook meth. What should be a simple job goes off the rails and Webb and the cargo disappear without a trace. In an attempt to locate both Webb and their missing cargo, the Stanleys seek out Webb’s son Tucker, the one McGraw who doesn’t want to live the illegal life of a illegal cargo transporter, and tell him he either finds and delivers the missing cargo for them or pays them the 10 million dollars the cargo is worth.

Tucker is out of his league in this world, but he knows someone who can handle this and more. He seeks out his grandfather, Calvin, and together they search for answers to exactly what happened to Webb and the cargo. They rule out that Webb disappeared on his own volition because “Webb operated under a strict code of ethics on an unethical profession.” They both know that Webb lived for the driving, not for making profit off the cargo. Calvin is convinced the answers they seek can be found if they know who to shake down and how hard to shake them down.

As the story unfolds Tucker learns that sometimes our family is not just connected to us through blood, but their genes can be hidden in our blood and give us the ability to do things we never thought we could. As Tucker slowly discovers he is a McGraw at heart, the reader gets to take an amazing adventure with him and an amazingly tough old man.

This book was an outstanding read that can be read in a few sittings. Beetner has some dialogue that made me laugh out loud and he has a great knack for making his characters come to life. He deserves a wide audience and certainly deserves credit for crafting a great book. I highly recommend everyone grab a copy of this book and all of his previous works.

A Collection of Beauty

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Reading short story collections can be a mixed bag of nuts. You can get a few good stories and a bunch of duds. Or you can get a majority of good stories with only a few lesser quality stories. The beauty of The Deepening Shade by Jake Hinkson is that it contains only great stories. The fact is that Hinkson seems to only write great literature. I have yet to read anything by him that is less than stellar.

Most of the stories in this collection have been previously published in various magazines and collections, but there are 5 new ones within this collection. It is a treat to have them all collected in one work and be able to sit down and enjoy them in one sitting. Some of my favorites from this 15-story collection (stories numbered by their appearance in the collection):

#1: Maker’s and Coke

A tight little tale of a police officer that lets his inhibitions run wild after a breakup and ends up in a situation he could not have foreseen. I enjoyed this story, as it kicked off this collection with an introduction to the fact Hinkson puts typical people into typical situations with less than typical results.

#6: The Empty Sky

I loved that this story shows us that even preachers in training are tempted by the flesh and can find themselves in situations beyond their capability to accept or rectify. Told in a flashback, this story gives you a peek at the ending right off the bat, but the ride that gets you there is nothing you would expect.

#7: Cold City

A story about a cop that is in deep to a bookie to the tune of 30G? A story with a cop looking beyond the law to get himself back to even? A cop that is smarter than he seems and a willingness to use others to even the score? Sign me up pronto! This was a sure-fire winner!

# 9: Good Cover

Perspective is in the eye of the beholder. This tale allows you the beauty of seeing a killer, but depending on the light you see him in, your perspective of him as a man can, and will, change. Another story that I loved from a collection that was full of great stories.

#13: Casual Encounters

What happens when life doesn’t pan out the way you thought it would and you look outside your comfort zone for a way to bring some excitement to your life? Well if you are part of a Hinkerson short story, the answer is nothing but misery and heartache. This was probably my favorite story in this collection!

Don’t be misled that I only listed 5 stories in this recap. Every story in the collection is great on its own merit. The stories are all tight, well-written stories that leave you marveling at Hinkerson’s ability to paint pictures of beauty using only words. This was a pleasure to read and showcases Hinkerson’s ability to write works of wonder, regardless of the word-count. Another winner from All Due Respect Books, but at this point, I expect no less from them.

When You Run With Wolves

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When You Run With Wolves by Robert White is the fourth release from upstart publishing company Number Thirteen Press. This was the first release from them that I don’t think fits into the noir category (much debate can happen over what fits into the noir category, but since this is my blog I will use my interpretation of noir). It was a quick read and will certainly appeal to readers who enjoy crime novels and tales of bad-luck characters.

Main character, Jack Trichaud, has just committed a robbery that nets him slightly under 1 million dollars. Life must be sweet, right? Well not so quick…he has taken all the money from the robbery, despite the fact it should have been a 3-way split between him, his estranged brother, and a white supremacist. As his ex-partners, along with the obligatory femme fatale, try to locate him and force him to hand over the proceeds from the robbery, Trichaud must also deal with an FBI agent who is hot on his trail. His world is getting more closed in as his pursuers start to pt the squeeze on him. The big question is if he will make it through this with the money, or will he end up in prison, or worse, in a body bag.

The plot was quick paced and enjoyable. If I had to pinpoint an area that didn’t fire on all cylinders for me, it would be the dialogue between the characters. There were points in the story that the exchange between the characters didn’t seem to ring true to me. There were times where it seemed the characters were trying to be witty, but the situations didn’t seem to warrant that type of dialogue exchange.

Despite this minor area that didn’t work perfectly for me (I am sure that was just a quirk for me and others wouldn’t notice this at all), I found the book to be another fine offering from a publishing company that is publishing books that are perfectly suited for a noir lover such as myself. I am greatly anticipating the next release from this publisher. As they issue a new release on the 13th of every month, the 13th is starting to become a favorite day of mine and if you jump on their bandwagon I am sure it will become a favorite of yours.

Make No Mistake about it…The Mistake is a Great Read

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“A small pair of blood-splattered feet were the first things Snorri Petursson saw as he swung the beam of his flickering torch across the snow-covered lava fields…When he ran the light further up the legs across the torn black tights and black skirt he could see that the young woman they belonged to was no longer alive. Her eyes were wide open but staring lifelessly ahead at nothing, covered with a thin layer of blood that criss-crossed her cornea like a fishing net. Her startled appearance gave her a look of being taken completely by surprise. By the state of her head that was exactly what happened,” –The Mistake by Grant Nicol

The Mistake, by Grant Nicol, is an atmospheric trip into Icelandic noir that leaves the reader’s fingers blistering as you fly thorough the pages of this well-plotted offering. The plot is lean, dialogue real, the words seem to have been painted onto the page by a master artist and the characters jump off the page.

The plot is a well-known one. Girl is killed and the police find a suspect at the scene of the crime. The suspect denies his guilt and the police rush to find evidence to convict. Basic fare…right? Not in the hands of Nicol. He has added enough to this plot to bring it to life in a fresh manner and leave the reader unsure of what new twists will be coming next. I found that the cold, dark Icelandic setting helped add to the atmosphere that was being painted throughout the novel. It helped create a dark, dreary vibe that served the experience of reading the book well.

The police receive a call that a young woman’s body has been mutilated and the body has been left outside of a local building. The suspect they find near the body has no forensic evidence on him to tie him to the crime, but claims to have no memory of the 15 minutes preceding him seeing the body. The suspect has a lengthy past that explains this blind spot in his memory and the threads to the story are sewn together where nothing seems contrived.

The story has all the golden nuggets needed to have a dark, dreary tale (in the most positive way). Nicol has crafted a tale that has a vengeful father looking for answers and willing to find revenge in anyway he can, a cop who is desperate for answers and will look high and low for them, call-girls and pimps, and he has an eye for putting them together in a book that was enjoyable and a great introduction to this author.

This is the third offering I have read from the up-and-coming Number Thirteen Press, and I am pleased to say it is the third book I have enjoyed! I am hoping this trend continues and I hope they are considering publishing more than 1 book per month…but I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, as I am really enjoying what we are getting from them every month!

Loved This Novel to A Pulp

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“ Most people don’t know the value of a real treasure. They only know how to use something until there’s nothing of it left, nothing salvageable anyway” -Love You To a Pulp by C.S. DeWildt

This novel has all the ingredients of a solid noir novel:

Glue sniffing PI? Check.

Unsavory characters? Check.

Low-lives at every turn? Check.

Quick paced plot that flies by at a blistering pace? Check.

The plot of this beauty centers on Neil Chambers, a glue sniffing PI who is hired to bring the local pill-peddling pharmacist’s daughter back to hm. What makes this different from your typical plot? The daughter is a grown woman and not too eager for any type of reunion. When Chamber’s questions into this matter lead him to what looks like an obvious murder that is mysteriously labeled a suicide by the local medical examiner, he goes all-in during his quest to find answers to what type of seedy connections are being used to hide the truth.

But rest assured, as in any noir novel, our main character is far from valiant in the eyes of others. As he meets a woman who may have some answers for him, he reports “She turned and eyed (me), as if sizing (me) up or undressing (me). Either way she looked vaguely disappointed”. You have to love when a book when its protagonist elicits emotions like that.

As Chambers floats in and out of his glue induced stupors, he offers us flashbacks into his days as a youngster. We witness his mother have a parade of men visiting her bedroom while his father sits by quietly watching television. We witness his father using him as a bare-knuckle fighter to bring extra money into the household. We see his father take his own life for reasons beyond Chamber’s comprehension. We see Chambers meet the future love of his life…which only brings new trouble to him.

Both plot lines are extremely enjoyable to read and the flashbacks offer great foreshadowing into the Chamber’s present day mindset. As the plot continues, we start to see him lose control of is mind and his ability to control himself. The end of the book reaches a satisfying climax and leaves the reader looking forward to more novels by DeWildt. The great news for me is this is my first exposure to him, so I can jump right into some of his previous works.

Another butt-kicking winner from All Due Respect Books. I am starting to notice a pattern, are you?

My Introduction to Rob Hart

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Rob Hart’s new novel, New Yorked, is a great example of why I started this blog. I had never read anything from this author before, but the word of mouth from authors I enjoy and other blogs I read put him on my radar and I am so glad that happened. I want this blog to be my contribution to getting the names of deserving authors onto the radar of like-minded readers.

Hart’s novel is gritty and real. The story centers on Ash, a true New Yorker who receives a desperate phone call from Chell, the girl of his dreams, indicating she is being followed and needs his help. In typical noir fashion, he misses her call and before he hears her message, it is too late to stop the fatal results awaiting her. Having lost his father to the terrorist attack on 9-11, he feels every tragedy needs a guilty party to ultimately be held accountable for what they have done. His quest for answers and resolution lead him through the streets of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. He meets an interesting array of characters and his interactions with them offer great insight into the psychological makeup of Ash and what drives him to do the things he does.

Hart has a nice way with words. I felt his dialogue was realistic and that helped set his characters up to feel real and believable. A great example is Ash’s proclamation to Chell “The way you looked made me want to find religion just so I could renounce it”. Every man has that woman in his life that has made him feel this way and this helped me find a connection with the dark, destructive, yet ultimately likeable Ash.

This novel will certainly bring attention to Hart and is going to increase his name recognition among noir lovers. I am happy to see that Hart is planning on using Ash as a series character.

As for an explanation to the title, which at first I was unsure as to the meaning of, there is a snowstorm that blankets NYC. As they sit in Ash’s apartment, Chell says to him, “We should go down and play before the snow gets New Yorked”. “What (is that)?” asks Ash. “(When) it gets all dirty and slushy” explains Chell. Dirty and slushy…just like a quality noir story. This was a great introduction to Rob Hart. If you haven’t heard about him, it’s time for you to get acquainted with him. You can thank me later.

Factory Town? Glad It’s Not My Home Town

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Bassoff has written a book that defies a simple summary. He has birthed a book that speaks in riddles. He has crafted a book without meaning, yet has given us a novel that seems to speak to us on a deeper level. How can you review this type of book without speaking in riddles yourself? Is it horror? Is it noir? Is it science fiction? It is lunacy. It is genius. It is the future of writing.
While the book flows in a logicless manner and the plot is far from seamless, the plot makes sense in the larger picture and by time the story comes full circle from the prologue to the epilogue, you will be fulfilled as a reader. Bassoff shows he is a genius who creates a story in which each illogical plot twist fits seamlessly into the tapestry of madness and confusion he has woven for his main character. Factory Town, as a book and as a setting, is filled with confusion and chaos, murder and madness, bleakness and beauty, and death and destruction.
A plot summary is impossible. The book jumps, glides and soars in a million directions, but each one makes for its own beautiful trip into insanity. The book brought back memories of Into the Mouth of Madness. If that movie had a love child with American Horror Story, they would create this book. Yet this love child more than exceeds any accomplishment of its predecessors.
A trip through Factory Town is a trip into a mind that is rotting away. I have never read a book that contained so many twisted phrases and images, just randomly thrown together and seemingly out of place. The images of depravity that fill this book make the reader cringe, yet marvel at the genius that is Bassoff. This is the author that will take writing into the future. The book is that great.
The fact that I adored this book gives me chills, as I don’t quite like what that may hint about myself. The fact that I loved reading this book makes me feel sick to stomach. The fact that I loved this book makes me another member of the ever-growing legion of readers that hold our breaths awaiting a glimpse into the main of Bassoff and welcome every macabre word that emanates from his mind. I can’t find the words to say how much this book took hold of me. This book will blow your mind. Enjoy…

All Due Respect Books Can Do No Wrong

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I will be the first to admit that one could question my ability to be objective about a book put out by All Due Respect Books. I mean, come on…look back to the way I raved about them in my Best of 2014 section. Check out how I fawned over them in my last review of All Due Respect 5. I am a shill for ADR, right? Well…not really…I just recognize greatness in the present and have the ability to acknowledge the birth of a future giant in the noir publishing world as they are just getting rolling. Does that make me unique? Just read all the other great reviews they are collecting and you will see that I am merely one of the many who are jumping on the ADR bandwagon before it gains so much speed it leaves me choking on fumes.

Uncle Dust by Rob Pierce is a future noir classic. The character just oozes realism and is the epitome of the 21st century noir character. Dusty is a man who can never seem to win, but he is in touch with his emotions and recognizes his failings and does try to do the right thing in certain situations.

Dusty is a bank robber who just seems to be biding time between jobs as he spends his day playing family man to a girlfriend and her son, Jeremy. But his interactions with Jeremy are the ones that trouble him the most. He has a desire to do right by the boy, from teaching him to defend himself against bullies, to defending him against the dangers that his mother’s former boyfriend may or may not actually present. He is deeply troubled because as a bank robber, he can have no roots. But as a man learning to love having a hand in raising Jeremy, he knows he needs to be grounded in a life in which his presence can be counted on. Jeremy recognizes this conflict in Dustin’s reality and his desire to change and he asks Dustin, “You don’t do anything forever, do you?” “Some kids in school have dads and the dads stay forever. It’s like there’s forever people and there’s people like us.” Strong indication of a character that wants to live in a fairy tale world, but lives in the noir world I love to read about. All Dustin can say to reconcile the differences between these two worlds is “Sometimes it makes sense to leave.”

I loved the way Pierce uses his words to paint the picture of Dusty’s internal struggles of how he sees the world and himself. “It worried me. I didn’t know why a woman like Theresa would have to settle. The competition must have been bigger a**holes than me”. The self-reflection that Dusty possesses throughout the story really made this one great read.

As Dusty battles his own demons and tries to come to grips with who he is, both for himself and for his future with a woman and boy he is learning to love, Pierce consistently shows us how Dusty is destined to lose. No matter how much he aches to become more than who he is, in the end he knows “I’d spent my whole life becoming someone you didn’t want to f**k with, it was hard to change that look now”. If noir is a character that destiny has pegged as a bottom dweller, I submit to you, Dusty, a noir character that may be on the bottom in many ways, but has helped lift this novel to the top.

Strong plot, strong characters, and another strong offering by ADR books. Grab a copy ASAP!