Wednesday, August 15, 2012

11 PM Book Review: Shotgun Gravy by Chuck Wendig

Shotgun Gravy begins when Atlanta Burns disables three bullies with bear mace.

And it goes downhill from there, but fun downhill, like a bumpy go-cart ride. Wear a helmet. Atlanta is a high school junior in rural Pennsylvania. Shotgun Gravy is a noir crime story about bullying set in the ugliest periphery of high school culture. But: Trigger warning. Is that fair to say in pulp fiction? Atlanta is a rape survivor. It seems awful to say that a novella about a rape survivor is fun. She's a strong, nuanced character with a big real life problems: She worries that she's racist. Her mom's on welfare. She has an Adderoll addiction that helps her fend off nightmares, a "reputation" after shooting the testicles off her attacker, and a sense of justice that won't let her back down when she really probably should. It's not like she doesn't scare herself with the shit she pulls. Sure, it's escapist, but it's really glorious, too. Larger than life.

Then Atlanta takes on a commission from one of La Cozy Nostra, the high school's self proclaimed gay mafia: Scare a group of white supremacist gay-bashers into leaving him alone.

The language is crisp and beautiful, especially when the action starts, which is harsh and brutal. The characters are bent ("My Mom didn't dust, but my gun and drug dealer did"). But they could exist... in a world ruled by Quentin Tarantino and RuPaul's love child. The supporting characters: Atlanta's soon to be gay best friend, and their Venezuelan, Dungeons and Dragons playing co-conspirator, are charming in a way that you don't see in noir fiction. They are sweet-natured and unwilling to accept their victimization. The dialog is buffy-quirky. Chuck Wendig is a charming, horrific, and crackerjack writer. I read this novella in two sittings and picked up the sequel, Baitdog, the day I finished Shotgun Gravy (Which you should do, too, because the Kindle edition of Baitdog includes the Shotgun Gravy. Save yourself a buck).

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