Book Review: Selena by Greg Barth

SELENA

Author: Greg Barth

Publisher: All Due Respect

Release Date: June 2015

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After an apparently meaningless act of petty theft, hard-living good-time girl Selena is set on a violent collision course with a powerful Appalachian crime syndicate. Their response is swift and merciless, and she is raped, brutalised and left smeared across a strip club parking lot. Rather than curl up and die, Selena decides to fight back, and vows to take on the men who almost destroyed her. What she lacks in stature, she makes up for in sheer willpower, and her bullet-strewn quest for revenge takes her deep into the heart of enemy territory. Suffice to say, revenge is a dish best served extremely bloody…

Selena is a visceral pulp thriller that had me gripped from the outset. The brutal revenge storyline is undeniably gruelling, but Greg Barth oversees the carnage with a steady hand, and stitches together a series of bloodily memorable scenarios. Dark humour bubbles beneath the surface, but retribution is the name of the game here, and Selena’s quest for vengeance is rendered in queasy, unflinching detail throughout.

Violent and provocative, Selena was one of the best crime novels I read in 2015 – and represents a major feather in the cap for US indie crime publisher All Due Respect. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Tom Leins

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Book Review: Down In The Devil Hole by David Jaggers

DOWN IN THE DEVIL HOLE

Author: David Jaggers

Publisher: Near To The Knuckle

Release Date: December 2015

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Down In The Devil Hole by David Jaggers comprises a series of interlinked short stories set in Bronson, Kentucky, a small town populated with addicts, psychopaths and degenerates. The book unfolds against the backdrop of a terrifying storm, which rips through the town – generating an entirely different type of carnage – and the weather acts as a neat framing device for the volatile stories themselves.

David Jaggers is arguably one of the most consistently inventive short story writers currently plying his trade on the online crime zines, and this debut collection sees him plunge headlong into the rural noir sub-genre. The bulk of the stories may involve horribly damaged people destroying the lives of those around them, but they read like grimly absorbing character studies, which succeed in poking around inside the blistered psyches of their protagonists. The devil, as they say, is in the details, and Jaggers brings a lot of great material to the table.

Two of the book’s longer stories, ‘Full Henry’ and ‘Peckerwood’, were the stand-outs for me, but this is a great body of work, which often recalls Jim Thompson’s visceral approach to characterisation. Dripping with Kentucky-fried menace, Down In The Devil Hole is a well-thought-out collection that should see Jaggers take another step up the crime fiction ladder.

Reviewed by Tom Leins

 

Book Review: Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias

ZERO SAINTS

Author: Gabino Iglesias

Publisher: Broken River Books

Release Date: October 2015

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As Zero Saints gets underway, enforcer and drug dealer Fernando is snatched off the street by a posse of heavily-tattooed gangsters and bundled into their car. They drive him to an abandoned house, where they proceed to dismember one of his associates in front of him. Disturbed by the sheer brutality of what he has just witnessed, Fernando warns his drug-lord boss, and then enlists the help of a Santeria princess, a Russian hitman and a number of other local luminaries – all of whom agree to watch his back.

While, on the surface, Zero Saints may seem like nothing more than an enjoyably violent pulp thriller, it is elevated to something far more striking by the author’s genre-trampling approach to the supernatural. The grisly, inexplicable elements of the book are among the most memorable, and yet they never feel unwieldy. Iglesias manipulates genre tropes to create something highly original, and the regular use of ‘Spanglish’ language heightens the alien mood yet further.

From the traumatic opening through to the stomach-churning finale, Zero Saints’ brisk narrative flows effortlessly – like blood in the Austin gutters. This is a gripping novella that marks Gabino Iglesias out as one to watch.

Reviewed by Tom Leins