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review 2018-02-26 00:00
Hungry Darkness
Hungry Darkness - Gabino Iglesias Hungry Darkness - Gabino Iglesias Hungry Darkness was a quick, smooth read with few proofreading errors. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into it. I think it was just a bit too short, I never had a reason to root for any of the characters, and I couldn't even find a reason to root for the monster.

Not bad, though.
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review 2017-03-24 00:00
Zero Saints
Zero Saints - Gabino Iglesias Un interesante conjunto y bien hecho cuento de la pérdida y la venganza. ¡Gracias, Kindle Translator! No podría haberlo hecho sin ti. Seriamente.

Por cierto, ¿qué hay en ese cubo loco? ¡Comer dedos, hombre! ¡Dedos! Y Dios sabe qué más. Si Fernando falla en su bendita misión de violencia, entonces tendrá que averiguarlo de la manera más dura.

Looking forward to reading more from Gabino Iglesias.
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text 2015-12-20 11:48
My favorite books of 2015
Peckerwood - Jedidiah Ayres
Brother, Frankenstein - Michael Bunker
The End of the World as We Knew It - Nick Cole
Zero Saints - Gabino Iglesias
The Bastard Hand - Heath Lowrance
Country Hardball - Steve Weddle
Medium Talent - Forbes West
False Magic Kingdom - Jordan Krall
Bad Alchemy - Jordan Krall
Your Cities, Your Tombs (Book 4) - Jordan Krall

There is an odd fascination with End-Of-The-Year lists as if it is rather easy to divide a year in review in the good, the bad, and the ugly. Admittedly, I have never fully embraced the concept myself, but I am more than happy to jump on the bandwagon now. Those are fun, right? 2015 was a good year, reading-wise, and there were more awesome moments than less stellar ones. Still, tough choice to include books as my perception of them changes occasionally. There are a few books I keep coming back to, thinking about them months after having read them, so I guess those are the ones I want to include in my own "best of" list. Your mileage will wary, as those are highly subjective as we all know, but you´re still wrong. :-) In no particular order but since I have to sort them somehow... It goes without saying those books were not necessarily published in 2015, but rather I have read them this year.

Peckerwood - Jedidiah Ayres

Peckerwood is the book that started it all, that is my new found love for crime noir stories. I can´t even remember how I found this one, but I remember I picked it up because I loved the cover so much. Anyway, it made me laugh a lot as the hillbilly characters are nothing short of cray-cray but there is something touching about their nonsense that made me smile a lot too. Told from three different main POVs it is incredibly tight and extremely smart. Interwoven stories of losers and drunkards, who nevertheless are very comfortable in their skins, where blackmail and booze and crime are part of their lives.

My review of Peckerwood

Brother, Frankenstein - Michael Bunker


Brother, Frankenstein falls a bit on the philosophical side of the fence, even it is still fiction, as the main character is an 11-year-old autistic boy who is transformed by a borderline sociopath/genius doctor into an artifical intelligence and deadly weapon. A rather uncomfortable social commentary on the question of makes us human.

My review of Brother, Frankenstein 


The End Of The World As We Knew It - Nick Cole


Nick Cole is the only guy who made me cry this year. Here I said it, you´re welcome. While on the surface it is a zombie apocalypse/end of the world tale it is as much a romance about two lovers hoping to find each other again when most of the population has ceased to exist. Audio transcripts and diary entries fill in the gaps where history has erased their stories. My personal Redemption Song.

My review of The End Of The World As We Knew It


Zero Saints - Gabino Iglesias


Zero Saints was the biggest surprise for me. A novel about an illegal alien in the USA who has to flee his homecountry and is pushed into the criminal underworld of Austin. A large chunk is written in Spanglish but those feels as natural as the supernatural elements, the superstition and loneliness, the crime and violence Iglesias describes. It isn´t about someone taking revenge, even it is, but the transgressive powers of violence all around us and how we deal with it.

My review of Zero Saints 

The Bastard Hand - Heath Lowrance


Apparently a cult novel, who ever made it into one. It wasn´t me, pinkie swear. Psycho preacher plus slightly naive drifter, who has problems to adjust to reality after he gave psychological care the slip, in a small town full of skeletons. The Reverend is abusive and manipulative, taking over a vacant spot as a pastor in Cuba Landing, while Charlie is his sorta right hand. Lowrance dissects the small town bubbles which are about to burst and mocks the abyss under the surface of their lives until old testamentical judgement is spoken, hellfire and all. I am not quite sure what I adore more in the book, the storytelling skills of Lowrance, his fine craftmanship on a sentence-by-sentence basis or the darkly humorous but perfect dialogue.

My review of The Bastard Hand 

Country Hardball - Steve Weddle


A novel-in-stories that follows different characters around in another small town where a failing economy has taken its toil a long time ago on everyone. Weddle uses sparse, almost reluctant, language and comes from unexpected angles to talk matter of factly what is happening. There are simple, even every day events like a busted check, a woman fighting cancer, even some petty crimes but those events are less important than how they deal with it. That is what shapes those characters in Country Hardball. It often reminded me of the visual language of old westerns, and I imagined the book in black/white. No reason, really, just the visuals are reminiscent like that. The atmosphere, the vibe and feel of the place and time are breath taking.

My review of Country Hardball 

Medium Talent - Forbes West

As some may know I was heavily invested in the Apocalypse Weird metaverse (RIP, sort of) and while there were three books I especially enjoyed - The Serenity Strain by Chris Pourteau and Texocalypse Now co-written by Michael Bunker and Nick Cole being the other two - Medium Talent has left the biggest impression. The aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, a halfcrazed main character, time travel, Hemingway, this book has it all. I still hate the book for how it made me feel though. Mainly I´ve included Medium Talent exactly for that reason, and maybe, but only maybe because Forbes West is the most talented of the lot. He is insane, alright, but fucker knows what he is doing.

My review of Medium Talent  

As the story trilogy by Jordan Krall is a different beast as opposed to all those standalone novels I have added it on the bottom. No judgement call about it but more for organizational reasons even personally I see it as one, single unit and entry.

False Magic Kingdom Cycle - Jordan Krall

aka False Magic Kingdom; Bad Alchemy; Your Cities, Your Tombs


No list of mine would be complete without the False Magic Kingdom Cycle. A three part book "series" where traditional or established means of story telling are abandoned in favor of a looser form of interconnected thoughts and surrealistic events. A 9/11 novel, deeply personal in a larger context of the good guys vs the bad guys, who are not always so very different. It is hard to explain what makes this stories so exciting. It is a challening work, emotional too, but how Krall defines metaphors or sounds, while creating an untypical tale of hyperawarness and an odd estrangement to and by his characters - and to the text itself - is nothing short of impressive.

My review of False Magic Kingdom

My review of Bad Alchemy

My review of Your Cities, Your Tombs

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review 2015-12-15 22:04
Zero Saints By Gabino Iglesias
Zero Saints - Gabino Iglesias

I still need to digest what I´ve just read, and I´m not sure I want to fully dive into the madness that is Zero Saints but I have to get some things off my chest. Once in a while I have the good luck to run into a novel where the immediate thought is, how the fuck am I gonna talk about that. Zero Saints is for me one of those books.

While I have no idea what insanity or confidence drove Iglesias to write a novel half in Spanglish, and there are a ton of Spanish words, sentences and prayers in the book, it did not distract me very much. I don´t speak a word of Spanish, and while I am aware that I didn´t grasp a lot of it, I did at the same time. More out of instinct than any kind of intellectual knowledge as those are so smoothly integrated into the prose that it feels natural. As if there is no other way to tell Fernando´s story as an illegal alien in Austin, TX. And it´s the reality anyway, so no need to smoothen out any kind of "non-understanding", or make it more digestable. Simply let do this hybrid culture that exists do its own talking, and accept it for what it is. The Spanglish/Spanish adds this special flavor to the narrative, and makes the mix of the known vs the unknown slightly scary but even so interesting and rich in all its layers.

Zero Saints starts out with a kidnapping of our main character Fernando by some dudes who really don´t give a shit. This is made clear immediately how they treat him and his less fortunate friend who is already in their hands. The violence is immediate and comes at full force. It´s so heavy with gore it made me want to puke out my breakfast, dinner and lunch all at once.

Then there is this sound.

Thud. Thud.

Thud.

Those descriptions were unsettling.

What really hit me like a train at full force was the second chapter. This chapter, among others, is written in second person, no less, and Iglesias uses it to describe a backstory of Fernando, but the language used is one of the most beautiful ones that I have seen lately. I still can´t fully grasp what went on there as it is more, much more, than simply a backstory. It´s more like a life lesson, a philosophical treatise how things can be, or how a life should be lived. It´s full of wisdom and warmth. I went back and read the second chapter a second time before I moved on forward to the third. It knocked every single breath out of me, and I can´t tell anyone why as I have no idea what this did to me.

It´s hard to describe what Zero Saints actually is. On the surface it is a rather straight forward crime noir tale of revenge by someone pushed into the criminal underbelly of Austin. How it came to this is as much worth noting. Born out of love, of honor, maybe even tradition to defend the ones he loves; a desire to do right by his family until his actions went awfully wrong and he had to flee his home town to cross la frontera. In Austin he has to become invisible in front of eyes who don´t care about him, which is Fernando´s best defense against what happened, of what is happening in his life as a bouncer and enforcer or small time drug dealer.

A story which is more than a story of crime, but more about how it is to live a life when everything feels wrong in a place where you should not be, but are there nevertheless.

Loneliness.

Iglesias wraps different realities around a story of hyperviolence, of fear and danger, and melts them together into a larger context of immigration, crime and superstition based on myths, religion and folk tales. There is an paranormal element in Zero Saints which feels as natural as the Spanglish he uses. It doesn´t take over though, but exists as natural next to any kind of rational motives Fernando and other characters in the book have. Even with those elements it is still a crime novel (for most parts), but firmly grounded in reality, that is what any kind of reality Austin and their more shadowy parts have to offer. It is an angry book, but it also emotional to the core as it touches so many things at once.

Fernando is as a character flawed, bent but not broken, and when he has to act against his enemies he does so with his own sense of justice while living a life based on his own code of honor. Even when he admits to himself that being a coward is what kept him alive all this time. He is instantly likeable, violent actions and all, as the character development is just fine and everything feels right at home. The novel doesn´t take much time for breathing in between. The action comes in waves without a lot of warning, the scenery is descriptive and vivid and some things made me questions if they were based on some real events minus the more supernatural parts. There simply isn´t a single misstep in the book, and if there is a book which just feels right at this time, Zero Saints is it for me.

There is probably some irony in it that a book so heavily with guns and violence left such an impact on me; especially so shortly after the recent massacres of San Bernandino and Paris when everybody talks about guns and violence while being fed up with it. I cannot help but thinking this is exactly the reason why. Sometimes we don´t get the heros we deserve, but the ones we need. Fernando is such a hero and Zero Saints might easily be the novel we were asking and waiting for.

Also, dear Mr Iglesias: I want to see a book about The Russian. If not, I would feel the need to haunt you down, cut off your balls and feed them to some random stray dogs. You´re welcome. And yes, I am very much aware of the hyperirony of that. Whatcha gonna do? Make a pact with Indio to get to me first? :)

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review 2015-11-29 11:40
All Due Respect Issue #5
All Due Respect Issue 5 - Steve Weddle,Paul D. Brazill,J.J. Sinisi,Gabino Iglesias,Angel Luis Colón,Keith Rawson,Garnett Elliott,Mike Monson,Chris Rhatigan

After reading Steve Weddle´s ´Country Hardball´ I was looking for more stories by him, and found one, Broken Prayer, in All Due Respect #5, and other authors I wasn´t familiar with. Except Gabino Iglesias whose story in the ´Long Distance Drunks´ anthology already impressed me quite a bit. I can say this with all due respect ;-) that this is a pretty damn solid and fine collection of crime fiction. Impossible for me right now to pick a favorite story, as I have enjoyed them all a ton and some more. Extremely cool and great stuff all of them, and most certainly it makes me want to read more stories or novels by each of those guys. 

Broken Prayer by Steve Weddle

Broken Prayer is actually an excerpt from an upcoming novel, but works pretty damn fine as a short story as well. Very much like in ´Country Hardball´ Weddle´s language is sparse and bleak, and he aims more for the vibe and feeling of the place and time, rural and straight back into the 1950´s or thereabouts, than focusing solely on his characters and their actions. The characters play their roles accordingly as well of course, but what makes it great is the whole existence of a time and place coming back to life. Left me feeling haunted and slightly depressed (no complaints here on my part) due to Weddle´s use of language and story telling skills.

Alkaline by Keith Rawson

A second person narrative and while this is rather unusual it is a great way to tell a story as the permanent "you" makes a personal, even disconnected, connection to the "me". A Friday night trip to Vegas, gamblings, lots of drugs and while at times it seems there is something missing in the story it makes sense due lapses in our main character´s memory. This is it kids, don´t do drugs or you may end up in the desert after a delirious road trip. Drunken and stoned, without knowing what happened, even you might be able to remember the bouncers chasing after your ass. A paranoid story where it is hard to say where reality ends and insanity begins.

The Last Laugh by Paul D. Brazill

A revenge story first and foremost with one of the most merciless killers I have run into recently. Godard (Jean-Luc? probably not) isn´t afraid to pull a lot of punches to get back to old enemies and passers by who just stumble into him the wrong way. Also very much appreciated that is set in Spain and France. Gives a nice contrast to the rest of the stories which are solely based on American soil, with a lot of feelings and marvelous descriptions of Madrid. Including some very touching scenes, memories really, about a long lost love.

First Timer´s Club by Angel Luis Colón

The man with the angelic name, and yeap, I´m sure that joke was told a few times already, is telling a story about a gambling addict in the hand of the mob, who does everything that needs to be done to pay back his debts. And he does so fast and with the only way he can think of. Going after another gambling addict with his own debts to pay. ´First Timer´s Club´ is a short, sharp smack with a hammer. Fast and furious, full of grime but with a loving soul underneath all the cruel decision making that needs to be done. There is only double or nothing at all. Plus it has some beautiful and tender dialogue between our main character, Sean, and his girlfriend. What drives him to get out of the hell he is in is clearly his love for Connie, which makes him everything but a douchebag or loser, but someone really easy to relate to.

Second Chance Cleaners (Reprise) by Garnett Elliott

What happens when two cleaners stumble into an empty flat full of weed? A lot actually, especially when the weed is owned by gangsters. What makes this story funny is what happens before everything goes south. No one here is a prime example of a good citizen exactly, but everyone deserves a second chance. Shit stained carpets and all. You gotta love the felons as you love thy neighbor, including their bad decisions.

Seven Hours To Baton Rouge by Gabino Iglesias

Another gangster with a car full of drugs on the run, even the story itself is mostly set at a hotel room where he tries to figure out what happened to him. Too much booze and drugs most of all, but where is his broken nose coming from? Plus a mysterious woman, coz there is always a mysterious woman behind the scene, and you got a story that turns around its own axis. The only one which had me laughing out loud, having a conclusion that is far from what I expected it to be. Slightly on the bizarre but where there is violence there is lust.

Faces Of The Dead Ones by J.J. Sinisi

The most violent and disturbing story of all. A woman on the search for an old time lover and friend who was living the junkie life in a rundown appartment block full of other druggies. Thug life ain´t for sissies, if there is a lesson to be learned from it. An incredible intense story, dark as the night or a dumpster full of the dead. And then the sadness sets in like a sunset while dealing with demons past and present. This story doesn´t go down with a whisper, but with a bang, as loud as the roaring thunder of a gun.

Included in the magazine is also a bunch of non-fiction stuff. Several book reviews which didn´t particulary interest me, so I skipped those. Way more interesting was the longish and informative interview with Steve Weddle, done by Jedidiah Ayres (author of ´Peckerwood´, one of my fave books I have read this year). Meaty is the word to describe it. Weddle goes in full details about his novel ´Country Hardball´, what he wants to achieve as a writer, where his characters and ideas are coming from. As I already got the impression from his novel, Weddle is someone who has found his voice and writes and tells his stories with confidence and convinction. The interview is more like a conversation of two friends, full of mutual respect, and basically the icing on the cake of my new found love for Steve Weddle. 

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