White Knight Deserves a Big Audience

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She walked into the office ahead of her boyfriend- the leash visible to everyone but her. …The fading bruises on the woman’s face and arms, the lingering swelling around her eye, and the scabbed lip all said that she was one of mine.- White Knight by Bracken MacLeod

 

I just read a book that floored me. I mean really sent me for a loop as I thought, “Where the hell did this guy come from?”. Although I have never read anything by him before, I have finally had my eyes opened to the great writing of Bracken MacLeod.

This novella packed one hell of a punch and has left me loopy and seeing stars. It centers on a white knight, a local prosecuting attorney who tries to secure convictions against spousal and child abusers. As this white knight tries to help all those who can’t help themselves, he eventually tries to help the wrong woman and pays a hefty price for his trust. He finds himself in a race against time to save the love of his life and attempting to avoid his own demise.

The beauty of this book is it asks the question what would you do if the ones you love were threatened? How far would you go to help those who have no voice to stop the violence around them? Not only does he bring those questions to mind in this book, but MacLeod also wrote a book that will have your fingers burning as you fly through the pages towards a climax that leaves you satisfied and looking for more books from MacLeod.

The aspect of the story that I loved the most was the notion that a man with a moral compass that is set to do the right thing is sometimes left with choices that don’t allow him to choose between black or white. This story shows how life is usually lived in the grey area in which we rationalize the actions we take and skew them to fit our perspectives.

This book is strong; strong in plot, strong in characters, and beating with intensity. If the goal of an author is to entertain a reader and also get them hooked as life-long readers of their future works, MacLeod won on both levels. I was invested in the book and couldn’t stop reading if my life depended on it. Even better, I found an author that really showed me he has writing chops and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into all the books he has written and will write in the future.

Highly recommended.

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Pitts throws a Fastball and Hits a Homerun at the Same Time

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Knuckleball by Tom Pitts really showcases how great Pitts’ writing has become. His last book, Hustle, was an outstanding display of a character driven story that left the reader begging for more from Pitts. Well he delivers and it is a fastball right down the middle of the plate.

This offering from Pitts is so powerful; a simple review cannot do it justice. The plot is tight, the characters have secrets that are slowly revealed, and the ending is such that it leaves the reader thinking about the book long after the last page is turned.

I think what I liked best about this novella is it is rooted in something everyone can connect to…baseball. If you have read Pitt in the past (and if you haven’t where the hell are you living?), then you know from the beginning of the story that things will not end well for the characters involved. Pitt has a fantastic way of using his words to paint a picture that develops in the reader’s mind and gets more and more detailed as the book continues.

The story revolves around the murder of a police officer at a baseball game and the city that deals with the aftermath of suck a brutal crime. Although I usually enjoy my stories dripping with violence and gore, Pitts is wise to leave much of the violence to the reader’s imagination…instead he primarily focuses on the aftermath of the crime and the layers of damage it does to the psyche of his main characters.

This is one of the books that you read and you just can’t put into words what makes it so wonderful. It has all the components of a great read, yet somehow the book is greater than all the parts combines have a right to be. This is a book that I am sure you will be hearing about come awards time. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy now so you seem like an educated noir reader when everyone starts to talk about it in the upcoming months.

Highly recommended.

CS DeWildt Does it Again

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The Louisville Problem is the third piece of writing from CS DeWildt that I sampled and I am definitely acquiring a taste for his writing. This is a short, quick piece of fiction but it packs a bunch and is sure to leave a bruise that you will be thinking about for a while.

There is something about this piece of flash fiction that left me with the notion it could have been written back in the days of the pulp novels. It has great components of noir fiction: dames (a mother and a daughter), a suave conman (who is bedding said mother and daughter), a double-crossing that is planned far in advance of its happening, and well-written criminal minded behaviors.

Being that it is a quick read, a synopsis may give too much away. If you are reading this, odds are you enjoy noirish books that are dark, having twisted characters, and you like disturbing characters. If all that is true, throw down the few dollars it costs to read this beauty. Soon DeWildt is gonna break in a big way and you will be scrambling to read his “old stuff”. So why don’t you get ahead of the curve and be able to say you read him when he was on the way up.

Highly Recommended

Thuglit 16 is Impressive

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I finally got around to reading Thuglit 16 and I am wondering what planet I have been on to let this volume of stories slip so far down in my TBR pile as to have not read this much sooner. This is a super-strong collection of stories that blew my socks off. There is not a weak story in the bunch and it is impossible to pick a favorite. Here is a quick recap of the collection:

The Split by Eric Beetner: If you’re not reading Beetner, shame on you. His stories are tight and always entertaining. This story proves that the church may have the most powerful, yet evil men in their ranks. Beetner has intertwined the church and the local crime syndicate and come up with a tale that is both engaging and memorable. When you put a story like this in the leadoff spot in your collection you are either destined for a letdown (not a chance with this collection) or setting the bar high for the rest of the collection. Beetner is not your ideal leadoff hitter because he is more of a power hitter…and this is another home run for him. Great story.

Alchemy and Atrophy by Devon Robbins: This was one of the authors in the collection that were new to me and I was not disappointed in the offering. The story opens with a badly burned man being aided after a fire has ripped through his house. You would expect that he is a character who deserves great sympathy, but we quickly learn that the fire may have been an act of revenge and perhaps he is not the sympathetic figure the reader would expect him to be. This story plays out well and had me glued to the action. I will be looking into more stories written by Robbins.

The Beard by Ed Kurtz is exactly the type of writing I have come to expect from Kurtz…great plot, characters that are believable, and a breakneck pace of story telling. This story centers on what happens when revenge goes too far, even if the motives for wanting revenge are understandable. When sleazy lawyer, Larry Stockland, is seen in a local homosexual club despite being married to a woman, the main character of the story decides to out him through the local press. His motives? Stockland was the lawyer in his sister’s divorce and he had demonstrated morals would not stand in his way of getting his client the better end of the divorce agreement. When Stockland’s wife (the beard) decides she wants revenge of her own for her husband being outed so publicly, the plot kicks into high gear. Great read!

It Bothers Me by Erik Arneson was another great tale of revenge. Years ago, Carol lost her husband, Seth, to a violent encounter that left her heartbroken, widowed, and vengeful. Years have passed and she is back in the small town she grew up in, looking to extract her revenge on Mason, the man who took her husband away from her. But alas, our best-laid plans rarely come to fruition in the manner in which we envision them, and this holds true for Carol. This was a fun read and I really enjoyed it.

Blood Makes the Grass Grow by Bracken MacLeod was a hell of a good trip. During a trip to their local veterinarian, Sam and Callie Cooper get sucked into a situation that is way over their pay grade. This tale has drugs, guns, bear traps, and blood…a sure recipe for a winner! This story was so great I immediately bought another book by MacLeod and, dare I say, he could quickly be becoming one of my top authors to read. Awesome addition to this collection!

That Time by Scott Loring Sanders tells the tale of a son dealing with the death of his father. Any son tasked with the duty of burying his father and cleaning out his home, which in many ways means sorting through his father’s life, has a tough, emotional job in store. But this tale mixes in the twist of finding a dead body frozen in the father’s freezer…quite a twist indeed! I found this story to be a highly entertaining read and was happy to read a great tale by an author that was new to me.

Drone by Rob Hart takes a look at how technology can be used to a criminal’s advantage. When brothers Billy and Richie team up with Melinda to learn to use drones as a way to deliver drugs around the city, they think they have a business model that will propel them to the top of the drug dealing food chain. In order to promote their new business venture, they take meetings with high-level drug dealers and in typical nourish fashion; what can go wrong does go wrong. On the hook for over $40,000, they have to scramble to find their way out of the hole they have dug for themselves. Rob Hart is a great novelist and I am beginning to see that no matter what type of genre he pens, he is a writer to watch. Killer story by a great writer!

Overall this is a great collection of stories. I was initially drawn to it by the names of a few authors I had previous exposures to and I am walking away from it with a few new authors to keep tabs on. Add that to the fact that I got a few hours of entertainment from the book and you have a winner! Big Daddy Thug, Todd Robinson sure served up a hell of a winner. I will be gobbling up more Thuglit offering in the near future!

Highly recommended

Redbone Hits Hard

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When you swing, swing hard. When you close your fists, make sure to clench them tight, tight, tight. When you step, step hard and leave a deep boot print….When you clock in, work until the clock says ‘time to go home’. …When you imagine love, imagine your palms touching cream-white skin and conjure some kind eyes and soft lips. When you swing, swing hard. – Redbone by Matt Philips.

There is just so much to like about Redbone by Matt Philips, which is a great read from beginning to end. The thing that I liked most about this book is that while the main character Calvin is pushed too far and he snaps, he does it for reasons of moralistic integrity. He does it for friendship, for honor, for his hometown, and most importantly, he does it because he truly feels a man needs to stand up for something and someone. In many ways Calvin is painted as a hero and an anti-hero in the same paragraphs. While that statement might seem contradictory, Philips’ writing is so multi-layered and deep it fills his characters with a realness that is usually lacking in novels.

Calvin is a character that will have you sympathizing for him and his plight. What seemed like it was going to be a “man goes crazy” plot became so much more as we learn more about Calvin. This book left me with a sense that Philips will be an author to watch out for. While his writing style was perfect for this book, there is an underlying sense that he will be getting better and better as time goes on, and I for one will be marveling at all the books he comes out with in the future.

Recommended.

All Due Respect 6: A Gift

Every time All Due Respect puts out a new issue of short stories, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. The excitement as the big day of publishing gets closer and closer. The wondering of what treats will be in store for me. The absolute thrill when the big day finally arrives and of course, the excitement as I rip into the gift to see if the anticipation was worth all the hype.

Well, with All Due Respect Issue 6, the answer is a resounding, “Yes, the wait was well worth it”! This baby is packed to the gills with great stories and great reviews that added some more depth to my TBR pile.

The party kicks off with Rib Eye by Preston Lang. When a poker player who is owed thousands of dollars hires Medley to retrieve his money for him, he quickly realizes he is getting more than he bargained for. Not because Medley is a woman who won’t stop till she gets what she is after, but because she will go to any lengths to get what she wants. Medley is one tough lady who will hurt anyone, or anything, to get the money she is after.

Next up was The Donut Dealer by Sarah M. Chen. When the Star Corporation decides they want to buy the local lagoon area and kick out all the local Chinese businesses so they can update the area, they don’t realize how far the local Chinese community will go to keep what is theirs. The big corporation sends in their big guns, but the local business owners may have something a little more powerful up their collective sleeve. Drug dealing and murder…a sweet combination. This was a dynamite read!

The party kept rolling along with Wayne Kershaw Goes to Church by C.J. Edwards. Wayne Kershaw is in a loveless marriage and finds his needs met by a local woman named Pearl. The fact that Pearl’s former husband is a convict who is serving time in prison does not dissuade Wayne from having this affair, nor does he care that the affair drives his wife to church as she seeks salvation from the local pastor. But on one fateful night all the pieces to this puzzle collide and turn his world upside down and inside out. In my opinion, this was the best story in the collection.

The Hope Spot by James Queally is the story of a man who is trying to do the right thing even as temptations try to lead him down the wrong path. After losing his job in law enforcement for getting caught in a YouTube video beating a suspected drug dealer, Richie turns to professional wrestling to make a buck. All is going well until one of his friends from the business attempts to get him involved with some shady business dealings.

In The Take by Rob Brooks we get a nifty tale of a bank robbery that leads to a security guard being killed and a robber on the run after his getaway drivers leave him stranded. This story has an old school pulp novel feel and it was a ton of fun to read. I was waiting for the double cross throughout the story, but the ending was even better than I anticipated.

The last story is Joyride by Scott Loring Sanders. I thought this story also had the old school pulp feel to it. The story is a basic criminal takes an apprentice under his wings plot, but Sanders does an excellent job keeping it feeling fresh and interesting. The story had me flying though the pages and I found this to be one hell of a good read.

One of the greatest things about this collection of stories was it introduced me to six new authors and each one had a great story that peaked my interest in checking out some of their other works. Throw in all the excellent book reviews that close this issue up and you have another awesome book form All Due Respect.

Another thing that I love about the publishing of an All Due Respect issue is that it is better than Christmas because you don’t have to wait a whole year to for it to happen again. I for one hope another issue is already in the works.

Highly recommended.

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A Bona Fide Great Read

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Who doesn’t like to read a story that starts strong, ends with a pop, and has nothing but great action between these two parts? Who doesn’t like a story that has sex, drugs, and guns? In other words, who isn’t going to love sinking their teeth into Bona Fide Jobs by Greg Barth?

Weighing in at a mere 36 pages, this tight little piece has enough going for it that it warrants a great review to share with everyone that Barth has written a must read for anyone who has 20-30 minutes of time to get lost in a gritty read. I read this in one sitting and I can imagine most people who have a public transportation commute would love to read this one during said commute; before you know it the book and the ride would be over.

The plot is one that required little set-up and was right up my alley. Carl is hired to help protect a drug deal that is going down with some Mexican drug dealers who may or may not have double crosses on their mind. Carl goes into the drug deal with two eyes opened and a gun ready for a quick draw.

Suzi is his girl, well she’s kind of everyone’s girl, since she is a stripper with a taste for men and any man who can get her drugs moves even higher on her list of favorites. She gets wind that Carl’s latest job may be a set-up and she is left in a position to decide if she remains loyal or switches her allegiance to the next man on the totem pole of power.

This short story is a great introduction to Barth for those unfamiliar with his work, and a great tide-me-over for those of us awaiting the next Selena book. No matter which of those groups you fit into, you would be wise to drop a dollar and enjoy this fabulous piece of writing.

Highly Recommended

DeWildt Can do no Wrong

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A while back I read a great book by CS DeWildt (Love You to a Pulp)and I loved it so much I thought I would try out one of his earlier novels and I am really glad I made that decision. Candy and Cigarettes is as good as its successor is and I loved everything about it.

This offering from DeWildt is a short novella but it packs a punch equal to some longer works of other authors. It centers on Lloyd Bizbang, who has been tormented throughout his life because he was present at his younger sister’s death (and inadvertently contributed to it) and also had a hand in his grandmother’s death. When death follows a young child this closely, a stigma is sure to develop and Llyod has done little in lfe to rid himself of the dark cloud that follows him around.

His main rivals are Terry and Zeke Cutter who are burning a path of criminal destruction through the town and making things appear that Llyod has a hand in the crimes. These two are angry, vengeful brothers who set out to make Llyod’s life a living hell and have succeeded at every turn. Their crimes are becoming more violent and they set themselves onto a path of sure destruction.

The novella also features the Chief of Police who is has found out he is terminally ill and that news has set him on a self-destructive path and he seems set on taking Lloyd down with him. His mental instability made the chapters featuring him a blast to read and he adds a good deal of depth to the story.

The book has a lightening paced plot and the characters all have life to them. If I had to pick out the one thing I didn’t like about the book, I would say it was too short! The writing chops that DeWildt has were on full display here and I am glad I devoured this book. If you haven’t sampled this author yet, you need to rectify that immediately.

Highly recommended.