Charlie Huston

Monday, December 31, 2007 

Charlie Huston is a new writer who has a real gift for hard-hitting dialog. I ran across his second book, Six Bad Things, in a small bookstore and it reminded me of Very Bad Things, the movie, which I thought was milk-snorkingly-funny. I thought from the cover and title it would be six short stories in the genre of Soft Skull Press, something out of the post-punk hard edge.

Hardcore for sure, the middle story of a trilogy about a high school baseball star who’s bad knee turned him to a life of petty crime and drinking and who ended up with a lot of someone else’s money and of the people who came along to get it and how he kills them.

After reading Six Bad Things I got the others Caught Stealing and A Dangerous Man; they pretty much last a day. The prose isn’t deep or complex, the stories are a little rough in a few spots but the action is non-stop and Huston’s command of dialog and a driving story line is as good as anything I’ve read.

So I ordered his second trilogy, the story of a vampire named Joe Pitt, living in NY (or not). Each of these books is enough to keep you up late until it is done. The stories stand on their own a bit more than the Caught Stealing trilogy, each being effectively a stand alone story about the collection of characters that populate the vampire clans that have divided up Manhattan.

The first, Already Dead, is about rogue vampire Pitt’s encounter with zombies in New York and the way he deals with them and the person who’s infecting them. It introduces us to the different vampire clans of New York–the Coalition, the Brotherhood, the Society, and the Enclave: the leaders of each and each of the drifters and derelicts along the way an exercise in pitch-perfect colloquial dialog.

The next two in the trilogy, No Dominion and Half the Blood of Brooklyn are just as intense. The former is about a new drug making it’s way through the up- and downtown clans the latter about the intercession of off-island clans. Unlike the first series, the vampire series does not end definitively and we can hope that it goes on. Joe Pitt is a great character and you’ll want more. A weeks’ reading would be seven volumes, but that’d make for some long nights and rough days. Apropos.

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The Shotgun Rule is a different sort of book from the rest of the series. It is a stand alone novel about kids in the 80’s in northern CA who get into a little more than they bargained for and have a hard time of it. The same raw prose, the same fluid dialog. you find yourself reading quickly, keeping the pace up, unable to stop. I made it through the book on a short-haul flight from cover to cover.

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