I had been jonesing for some Matthew McBride and was happy to find this story on Plots With Guns. If the title alone isn’t enough, Mat gives us a buffet of dark humor, splatter punk violence, and a unique style and approach that make him one of the best. Those of you who read his first novel, Frank Sinatra In A Blender, will recognize a part of this story, but it still stands on its own. McBride is also the author of A Swollen Red Sun, our MysteryPeople Pick of the Month for July 2014.
“In 1974, STIHL Incorporated began manufacturing the 015 chainsaws at their new facility in Virgina Beach. I, myself, had always been a fan of their products. They don’t just make a good chainsaw, but a variety of equipment that comes in handy for a guy like me. A guy who doesn’t tolerate standing…”
Seems like dogs are marking their territory (so to speak) on crime fiction as of late. With the popularity of the Chet and Bernie series and Dennis Lehane’s short story Animal Control being turned into the film, The Drop. A few years back Thomas Pluck wrote this pitch black hard boiled for Plots With Guns about the love between a tough guy and his dog. Not for the squeamish.
“I like hard work. It keeps my mind right. A cool day’s best for it.
It’s cool this morning and still dark when I park by Earl’s house. He’s got a place on Frelinghuysen. He’s not on the porch like he usually is, waiting to waddle to my truck in his overalls, with a list of jobs on a scrap of yellow paper. Not today.
I eyeball up and down the street. It’s quiet, barely dawn. I like this hour, have since I was a boy. Feels like it’s just me in the world, and nothing hurts. I climb out, and a lady hurries into her car, fear in her eyes.
I don’t blame her none. I know how I look. Six and a half. Three fifty. And I got a dent in the side of my head like a bruised apple. But I never hurt no woman.
I walk up Earl’s driveway slow. Maybe he’ll come out, tell her I’m good. I slap his front door, her car squeals off. It needs a fan belt. I could fix it. She won’t let me.
‘That you, Denny?’
‘Yeah.’ I put my face by the little hole he looks through.
His locks open, sound like a good break in pool.
Earl’s a head shorter than me. Big belly fills his overalls. Horseshoe of gray hair on his shiny brown head, and a beard to match. I shave everything clean; probation officer said it made me less scary. I been with Earl six months now, moving junk and scrap. Officer Fiore was right…”
If Bruce Springsteen wrote crime fiction it would probably be like Dennis Tafoya’s. Full of working class pathos and hard won emotion that’s never sentimental, his work makes you feel for the junkies, criminals, and everyday survivors on the bottom rungs. If you like this short story that appeared in Plots With Guns, immediately find copies of his books Dope Thief and The Wolves Of Fairmount Park.
Doe Run Road by Dennis Tafoya
Junior Knapp was driving east on 30 as the sun went down, going home to see his mother one last time. He had pieces of a bullet lodged under a rib and when he breathed deep it was like there was broken glass moving around in his lungs. The stupid guard had gotten excited, and Junior shook his head again to think of it. They weren’t supposed to pull their guns. It was against the insurance, he’d wanted to say when the old fart was there with the smoke standing in the air between them, the man just as surprised as Junior to hear the heavy report of the gun and see the blood pouring out onto the linoleum. Junior remembered the man making an ‘O’ with his mouth, a witless, surprised look that he still had when Junior jerked the .45 free of his jacket and worked the trigger until the old guard went down.