Capsule Reviews

Killer and Victim

Chris Lambert

King Shot Press

Chris Lambert’s Killer and Victim had the weight of three monsters on its shoulders: it was the author’s debut novel, part of King Shot Press’ first wave, and the first book in a trilogy. Luckily for everyone involved, Lambert writes like a seasoned pro and has a knack for atmosphere and understated dialogue that makes this novel read like a cross between a Don DeLillo serial killer novel and a script about human disconnection in a futuristic metropolis co-written by David Cronenberg and David Foster Wallace.

Alexander is the first crowd-funded city in America, and it’s right up there with New York City in all regards. Within that chaos, artistic performance and a killer who feeds on life serve as the cohesive elements that bring Killer and Victim’s convoluted narrative together. From a massive change that can’t be explained to a man obsessed with filling the emptiness inside him with the lives of others, Killer and Victim walks a fine line between really bizarre literary fiction and noir with a touch of (techno)fantasy. That being said, perhaps the best thing that can be said about this narrative is that it will make readers eager to read the second installment. —GI

***

The Last Projector

David James Keaton

Broken River Books

David James Keaton’s The Last Projector possesses a complicated storyline that mostly revolves around Larry, a porn director who despises bad acting and tattoos and who apparently used to be a paramedic named Jack who now plays a version of himself in movie he’s shooting to get out of porn. Despite the fact that the narrative requires careful reading in order to be understood and almost forces the reader to engage in deconstruction, Keaton’s unrelenting humor, uncanny ideas, and constant action make this an outstanding example of what happen when outré fiction meets crime writing and the two pull really hard in their own direction.

Keaton’s work deserves attention because, more than a text that proves indie lit is the place to find truly satisfying experimental work, The Last Projector is a ridiculously elaborate bizarro/crime novel riddled with pop culture references that ignores reality and chronology and yet somehow rises above it’s own twisted, outré nature to become not only very readable but also continuously entertaining. This is fiction that doesn’t obey any rules, and the result is a playful narrative about movies, music, dogs, ambulances, and identity that deserves to be read. Sure, you will get lost in it, but the trip is worth it. —GI

***

Girl Waits With Gun

Amy Stewart

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

New York Times best-selling author Amy Stewart has already delighted readers with her flair for the deadly and the dramatic, in Wicked Plants, and her lively prose made even those of us with the blackest thumbs fascinated in the sex lives of apple trees and the botanicals used in Campari in The Drunken Botanist. As for her debut novel, Girl Waits With Gun, readers will not need to be as convinced it’s a subject as worth of their attention as the cultivation of the cassava. Even so, Stewart brings her characteristic enthusiasm and eye for detail to make an interesting story mesmerizing.  

Girl Waits With Gun begins, as many crime novels do, with… well, a crime. The Kopp sisters—Norma, Constance, and the youngest, Fleurette—are driving to town one day when their buggy is smashed in an accident with an automobile. The driver, Mr. Henry Kauffman, owns a silk dying plant in town; a drunken lout and brute, he made his character known to all the residents of Paterson, NJ, when he dealt with the silk strikers, and continues to make his character known by collecting rents in person from the young mill women who live in his company-owned boarding houses. But, his reputation does not deter Constance Kopp, who decides she will indeed be collecting the fifty dollars he owes her for the wreck of her buggy, come what may.

Built along the same lines as Mattie Ross from True Grit, Constance knows what is right, and will not be intimidated by hardships or violence in her pursuit of justice. But, instead of Rooster Cogburn and LaBoeuf backing her up, Constance has her sisters, the hard-headed recluse Norma, whose still waters run deep, and the young, talented, beautiful Fleurette, whose safety is threatened by Kauffman and his band of ruffians. The fascinating character sketches of these three women, whose history is far more complicated than any of their neighbors know, make for a fascinating backdrop against which the plot of the novel unfolds. Lush with historical detail that never feels burdensome, reading Girl Waits With Gun is a bit like traveling back in time to 1914 with a calm-headed but deeply passionate tour guide, who takes the time to show you what is interesting, and why you should care about it. It’s not to be missed.

About the Author

The Editors

Jeremiah Tolbert is a web designer, writer, and photographer living in Tonganoxie, Kansas.

Nick Mamatas is a writer and editor living in Berkeley, California.

Seth Cadin is an East Bay artist and editor who also sometimes trades stories for money.

Molly Tanzer writes and edits in Boulder, Colorado.

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