After the wholesome adventure story The Devil and Daniel Boone - which could almost pass for YA by some standards - the hard left turn made by the new novel might be jarring to some readers. It's filled with copious cursing, violence, misogyny and misanthropy - but hey, it is a hardboiled pulp-noir crime novel, after all, so caveat emptor, kiddies.
"What we need here is a fool-proof, airtight, stainless-steel unfuckable plan." - Sappy in The Moleskin Checklist
The story concerns a failed private investigator named Jack Cottonwood whose life is in a dwindling spiral after a divorce. He lives out of a small office in a small city whose name we are not told, barely scraping by on menial cases. After Jack receives a mysterious anonymous package in the mail with grisly contents, his adventurous lowlife friend Sappy encourages him to take aggressive action in high cinematic style. But Jack and Sappy soon learn that real life is nothing like the movies, and real villains do not behave as predicably as on TV.
"Men shouldn't try to keep plants. They never water them." - Jenny in The Moleskin Checklist
Meanwhile, Jack tries to keep a lid on the chaotic events threatening to uproot his already troubled life - which is complicated by the presence of his good-ol'-boy policeman friend Merle, and women whose affections he mostly finds smothering and invasive. Jack's primary love is his vast collection of jazz, blues and rockabilly records, which he meticulously keeps track of in a diary he calls "The Tract of Blood". Passages from Jack's musings in "The Tract of Blood" are intercut with the story and shine a revealing spotlight on his personality and state of mind.
"We're all poorly wired by a drunk electrician called Mother Nature who isn't Underwriters-approved." - Jack in The Moleskin Checklist
The next two JSH Book Club installments will follow in April - The Bartender is a rather Bukowski-esque tale of a bartender who looks upon his noble profession as being part of a grand unbroken fraternal secret society passed down from antiquity. Solar Station A is a science fiction epic set in the not-too-distant future when technology just starts to reach the point when individual citizens can get their own spaceship to go zipping around the solar system. But with this new freedom comes the gradual realization that everything we've been told about the true nature of the Universe is a lie.