Cracked Asphalt Crime

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Check out Honest Jim’s review of Shawn Cosby’s latest high-octane crime thriller:
 
“Beauregard “Bug” Montage is a man at war with himself, torn between the loving, hard working, law-abiding husband and father he wants to be and the high-octane outlaw he’s trying not to be any longer.
 
Bad habits, bad company and bad luck die hard, though. So do hard times. And Bug, known as the best wheelman east of the Mississippi by hard cases who value this criminal specialty, seems damned to return to the crooked path his long-gone father showed him when he was a youngster.
 
He’s haunted by that man, a Smilin’ Jack hustler who passed his speed demon and mechanical skills to his son, along with a deceptively ugly Plymouth Duster that’s both a shrine to the missing elder and one beast of a street machine.
 
That Duster — and his father’s ghost — puts Bug back on the wrong path when he bets all the cash he can scrape together on a back road drag race with a loudmouth braggart in an Olds Cutlass with a bum valve. It’s Bug’s bid to get out of the financial hole his failing auto repair shop has put him in and it looks like he’ll succeed when his Duster easily beats the Olds.
 
Bad luck has other plans. Turns out the braggart is in cahoots with some good ol’ boys who pose as cops and rip off all the money they can find on the dragsters, including Bug’s winnings. Bug sniffs out the scam, tails the braggart to the nearest bar, beats him to within an inch of his life, but gets back a little over half of what he bet — and none of what he won.
 
This pushes Bug into an unforgiving corner with only one exit — the path of his father, one he had barreled down for years before vowing to his wife Kia to become a righteous working stiff.
 
Bad company shows up in the form of Ronnie and his dim-witted brother, two trailer-trash rednecks with no redeeming qualities. They dangle a diamond heist at a jewelry store in a nearby town — a cache of untraceable stones, probably hot, stashed in a back room that nobody is supposed to know about.
 
Bug doesn’t trust Ronnie as far as he can throw him. But he’s desperate for money and lowers his standards of criminal conduct to work with people he despises to score a fat payday. With Bug waiting behind the wheel, Ronnie and a partner hit the jewelry store. The partner is stoned and botches the one job he had to do — keep an eye on customers and clerks while Ronnie grabs the stones. Gunfire breaks out. A citizen gets dead.
 
But thanks to Bug’s wizardry with the wheel, the crew escapes. Bug’s cut is big enough to pay all his creditors, including the owner of the nursing home where his evil-tongued mother lives, and keep his garage open.
 
Bad luck shows up again in the form of an up-holler crime boss who owns the stones and was using them as a means to launder dirty cash. They want their money back and are quickly on the trail of Bug, Ronnie and his hapless partner.
 
This brief sketch of the author’s storyline really doesn’t do it justice because Cosby is a master at keeping the action fast-paced and bringing to life a weary and desiccated landscape of trailer parks, withered small towns, abandoned farms and trash-heaped countryside. And the worn-out and desperate folks, black and white, who live there.
 
His work has been lauded as being part of a rising wave of rural noir novels. Maybe so. What’s silver dollar real and dead certain, though, is Cosby knows how to tell a rip-roaring tale with lots of violence, betrayal, sex and plot twists.
 
In this book, Cosby shows his deftness at careening the story from one cliff-hanger to the next, all with the odds stacked against Bug, a resourceful, determined and hard-to-kill hombre you learn not to bet against. A helluva lot more people get dead, including Bug’s best friend. But Bug, battered and bloody, is unsinkable.
 
And without being the least bit preachy, he gives his story some moral backbone by showing Bug’s torment — his struggle with wicked ways and righteousness. That brings to mind Samuel L. Jackson’s scene as Jules, the hitman who has seen the light, near the end of Pulp Fiction: “The truth is, you’re the weak and I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m trying, Ringo, I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd.”
 
Buy this book. You’ll smell the burned rubber and exhaust fumes as soon as you crack open the cover.”

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