I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for ‘Riding Shotgun and Other American Cruelties’ by Andy Rausch. This collection of three very different but all equally gritty and gripping noir stories makes for exciting but thoughtful reading. The intriguing title immediately piques the reader’s curiosity, and the cover certainly catches the eye.

As the title implies, there’s a Western theme to this book and we meet a selection of outlaws, both criminal and social, dating from the 1930s to the present day. Our first, in the first story ‘Easy Peezy’, is Emmet Dalton, one-time bank robber now author. Reading in the newspapers about current bank jobs going on tempts him back into his old lifestyle, if only to show these youngsters a thing or two. So he recruits two sidekicks who, like himself, aren’t in the first flush of youth, and thus the Old Timers Gang comes into being. That’s not the name Emmet has chosen for his gang but it’s the one the public have settled on, to his extreme annoyance. Melvin Purvis, FBI agent, is also something of an annoyance too.

‘Riding Shotgun’, the second story, sees Joe Gibson, mystery writer, finds himself in a truly nightmare scenario where he is forced into taking actions he really doesn’t want to take in order to save the life of his kidnapped daughter. Despite keeping his side of the agreement, Emily is not released and this drives him further into the depths. He teams up with an assortment of unsavoury characters to track her down and gain revenge at the same time. Mertis Whitlock is the cop relentlessly on his trail. This is a bitter-sweet story, very grey morally as who of us wouldn’t take extreme actions to save their own child.

‘$crilla’ (scrilla is a slang term for money) is more of a romp, but no less destructive. Charlie Grimes, ex-cop with a roving eye, finds himself trying to solve the kidnapping of Davis Cartwright, a record producer specialising in promoting gangsta rap stars. Some of these turn out to be true gangsters, and another complex and riveting tale of revenge, deception and misunderstandings ensues.

These are all no-hold-barred stories. Many of the characters are amoral and dangerous, with hair-trigger tempers. Some are just plain dumb. Others are thoughtful, deeper, more complex but just as tough. What emerges clearly from all three stories is how situations can rapidly spiral out of control, how unintended actions have disastrous consequences. The pointlessness of violence is illuminated too. What have the deaths achieved, other than some personal satisfaction for the killer, but not even always that. There’s a truly tragi-comic face-off between two characters in one of the stories: they’re as aware their actions are as futile and life-wasting as the reader is. But it’s what they have to do.

There’s redemption amongst the chaos and bloodshed. Our main characters are empathetic despite being deeply flawed. They’re likeable rogues, much as we might try to not be won over by them given the bad things they do. They’re capable of good, of recognising that what they do isn’t the right thing. The last words of one of our villains is “I’m sorry,” and he genuinely is, but, of course, it’s too late.

Engaging and entertaining, with plenty of wry humour alongside the splashes of horror, this book shakes you up and makes you think. Excellent.

 

Riding Shotgun: And Other American Cruelties

RIDING SHOTGUN AND OTHER AMERICAN CRUELTIES is a unique collection of quirky, Tarantinoesque crime novellas, representing three very different sub-genres. In the first story, “Easy-Peezy,” a band of elderly Old West bank robbers return to their wicked ways robbing banks in the 1930s John Dillinger era. The second story, “Riding Shotgun,” is a bitter tale about a man pushed to the limits of human endurance and forced to take up arms to protect those he loves. The third tale, “$crilla,” is an urban crime fantasy in which a fledgling hip-hop group kidnaps a record mogul in the hopes of finally making the kind of loot they’ve always dreamed of.

Purchase Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Riding-Shotgun-Other-American-Cruelties-ebook/dp/B073RT1353/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Riding-Shotgun-Other-American-Cruelties-ebook/dp/B073RT1353/

Author Bio –  Andy Rausch is a freelance film journalist, author, and celebrity interviewer. He has published more than twenty books on the subject of popular culture, including The Films of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, Making Movies with Orson Welles (with Gary Graver), and The Cinematic Misadventures of Ed Wood (with Charles E. Pratt, Jr.). His work has appeared in Shock Cinema, both Screem and Scream magazines, Senses of Cinema, Diabolique, Creative Screenwriting, Film Threat, Bright Lights Film Journal, and Images: A Journal of Film and Popular Culture. He has written several works of fiction including Mad World, Elvis Presley: CIA Assassin, Riding Shotgun and Other American Cruelties, and the short story collection Death Rattles. He has also worked as a screenwriter, producer, and actor on numerous straight-to-video horror films.

Twitter – https://twitter.com/writerrausch1

Hugh Fitzgerald is damaged, physically and mentally. Invalided out of the army after being blown up in a vehicle in Iran, he’s now in a downward self-destructive spiral of drinking too much, smoking too much, depression and apathy. His ex-girlfriend is about to get married and he feels he has nothing in his life.

Then comes an unexpected plea from his over-achieving younger brother, Nick. The son of a friend of his has gone missing in Thailand. Knowing that Hugh has been there several times, and that he can handle himself when the pressure’s on, thanks to his army background, Nick suggests that Huge goes to try and find Jack and bring him home. Hugh is reluctant at first, then motivated by the fee alone. However, after some reflection he realises this mission is exactly what he needs. It seems that saving Jack may also be his own salvation. He can prove that he still has value.

He hits the ground running in Thailand, where he soon becomes immersed in its seedier side. He picks up Jack’s trail and doesn’t like where it’s leading at all, but he’s an honourable man and will see his commitment through to the bitter end. Flawed as he is with his addictions and failure to take better care of himself, at heart we see he has a strong moral code. It may not entirely agree with that of the general populace, but he plays by  his own rules which he has thought through. He’s intelligent, surprisingly empathetic and loyal. He’ll do whatever it takes to get this job done.    

Events take him from Thailand into the no-man’s land of between that country and Cambodia, namely Poipet, which has its own rules. Hugh has to track down The Chairman who is ruthless in the extreme. It’s going to take all his courage and determination to survive, and succeed.   

We experience the glory and the horror of Thailand. The writing is no-holds-barred, and stunningly beautiful imagery is found next to the shockingly jagged and brutal. We see our hero’s finest moments as well his lowest. We get a real sense of the desperation of so many lives, and yet sense the optimism and spirit of these same people. You can feel the humidity, the energy, the tension. Christopher Bardsley takes you by the throat with his writing and hangs on for dear life. The book is unputdownable, combining thriller, social commentary, politics, travelogue and self-discovery, and it stays with you long after you’ve finished it. It’s a haunting, challenging and powerful book.