The radio in the big, sleek vintage Dodge Charger plays Eat a Peach by the Allman Brothers as Boss MacTavin and his hapless, grifter hostage drive through the night, headed for Atlanta and a little Southern payback.
This is crime fiction noir at its very best: Chandler, Hammett, Spillane — all fused into a terrific tough-guy tale worthy of the telling. Its gritty characters compete with a carefully crafted plotline to hold you spellbound for hours.
Boss, in fact, is more than tough. He’s scary-tough, reminiscent of The Gunslinger in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series — but more ascerbic, and with a crack in his armor for a love long lost. In addition, Boss had been a brilliant Scottish athlete in his early years and had developed a serious crush on the South, which ultimately failed to return his affection.
Dodge Cunningham, the con man connected with a brutal beating received by Boss five years earlier, evolves into a sympathetic victim himself as the novel unfolds. The intricate text often doubles back on itself to shed new insights into the motivation and actions of the principal players, and the result is a richly layered piece of fiction that will sate any fan of this genre, which switches seamlessly from crime thriller to mystery to outright, violent horror.
It’s not a novel for the fainthearted. It is rather, alive with dark humor and bloody, graphic action scenes that are truly cinematic. Consider the following lyrical prelude to the decimation of a biker gang:
“Thunder rumbled in the sky as he moved in, his fists raised. Boss stood and watched him come, his own hands dangling at his side. The biker’s fist shot out — at air. For Boss had shuffled to one side, his right glove streaking in an arc. The biker screamed out in pain. . . Then (Boss) whirled around into a series of bitch slaps and back slaps that sushied his face. A hard, brutal shot with one palm to his chin sent his teeth flying. He fell like a stone.”
In San Francisco, they pick up Vivian Aquino, another outré character who facilitates their entry into the bleak world of porn in order to exact revenge for the death of Vivian’s sister — the sinister and sexy Dr. Wu — and Boss’s own disfigurement by goons in a one-flight walkup years earlier. Step by step, a plan is laid to right many wrongs.
You’ll learn new words for age-old acts along the way to this novel’s stunning conclusion — words like Primer, Mother Lode, and Differential. Ah, but what does the INS have to do with that Darth Vader of skin flicks, Ramsey Michaels — the man you will, as they say, love to hate.
Five-plus stars to Southern Scotch and its gifted writer Reb MacRath. Seldom have we seen a book so artfully written and immaculately edited. Hell, even the cover is first class.
Buy this book right now. Aye, you’ll be rrrright glad you did.
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