Friday, October 24, 2008

Gun Work by David J. Schow (Hard Case Crime)

There are friends you hang out with on a regular basis. Then there are your special friends — the ones you can depend on to get you out of a jam you can't solve on your own. Carl Ledbetter is in that kind of trouble.

His fiancée Erica has been kidnapped while in Mexico City, and the ransom is one million dollars. So, who can Carl call but his fellow Iraq War vet, Barney, a scarred yet deliberately nondescript character with the proverbial "checkered past." Carl once saved Barney's life, so Barney accompanies Carl to the money drop and shows he was born to tackle this kind of situation.

But when things go wrong because Barney's aim is too good, he smells a fish ... and someone who was supposed to stay alive doesn't ... and then things get really bad.

Though he's done a great deal in the intervening years, author David J. Schow is probably still best known for (whether it's true or not) coining the term to describe the kind of horror fiction he and his fellow "splatterpunk" writers were producing in the mid-1980s.

Also, though Schow has written half a dozen novels, and about as many Hollywood screenplays, his reputation has been primarily based on his skills at the short story. He deserves for his newest novel, Gun Work from Hard Case Crime, to change that perception.

Gun Work is Schow's first book since his 2006 collection, Havoc Swims Jaded — and his first ever set firmly in the hardboiled crime genre. 250 pages of constant action are divided into five parts and no chapters, with Schow (who was once married to fellow Hard Case scribe Christa Faust) offering up a speedy, grueling, and ultimately satisfying read — as well as a graduate-level education in artillery.

Parts of the story fit well into the usual Hard Case style, but Gun Work is most definitely rawer than anything else they've published to date. Barney has to go through one hell of a struggle to finish the task he sets for himself, all resulting in a blistering confrontation with the person responsible for the whole mess. If you enjoyed how Allan Guthrie put his protagonist through the wringer in Hard Man, you'll love what Schow does with Barney in Gun Work. The Mexican wrestlers are just a bonus.


Unknown said...

Hey Craig! I saw your comment on my blog (sorry, weblog) so I had to come check yours out - very cool! I love crime novels and it looks like I've found a few more good reads to add to my list.

(And in case you hadn't figured this out already - I work right down the hall from you! You know, the writer who recently got married in the Spring... yeah, you know!)

Craig Clarke said...

Yeah, I know. Thanks for stopping by, and for the kind words.

Workplaces are funny. You never know who shares your interests. Now we can talk crime at the bubbler. :)

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