All right y’all.
I got a review copy of Lamentation by Joe Clifford recently and finished reading it last week. I’ve been a fan of Joe’s short work for a long time. I don’t remember where I saw it first, maybe Shotgun Honey or the Flash Fiction Offensive but yeah I dig it.
Let’s go in.
First of all the hardback has a really beautiful dust jacket. I just love it. And we know I’m kind of a sucker for good book design.
Look at it.
Now overall the short review is that I really like this book. I’m going to give it a name in terms of how the subject matter is dealt with and call it Dirty Pastoral. Not dirty like perverse, but dirty as in grimy, it’s a glimpse into the ugly side of living in a small town. This isn’t Charming Small Town America, this is decaying America where if you gotta be there, you have to fight for your bit of okayness.
It is very well written. Had I not known Joe wrote it, I would know he wrote it. The pacing is nice and tight and y’all, the end…I won’t spoil it but I was not ready and had I not been on the bus I would have yelled at the book because that’s how I handle things I love.
Overall, if you like crime fiction and you want something that isn’t just gangsters or big city drug fiction pick it up. (Affiliate link sorry)
Time to get nerdy because there are some things going on that tickled my writer nerd.
First of all I want to talk about the character Jay Porter. Jay is our low key hero and the way he’s written gives me an Everyman who isn’t just bland.
When we first meet Jay he is ostensibly a loser. At first blush, he’s that guy we all know, has a kid and an ex he’s hung up on. He has a shitty job and we’re tired of telling him he can do better. He’s the guy we all know who half the time you don’t know if you want to punch or hug or both.
What I really love about how Joe write this character is that we get that loser Everyman vibe but he isn’t pathetic. I personally really am not into the pathetic anti-hero trope. It’s boring.
The thing I find masterful and intriguing is that in the start of the book we get flashes and hints that Jay has an inner life that is beyond his current position in life. He’s not an undercover badass, he doesn’t suddenly find big brass balls, there’s a very tangible realness in Jay’s character that is upheld through the book and I really appreciate that.
The plot revolves around Jay, his speed freak shitbag brother Chris, murder, an ex girlfriend, a baby and a lot of douche bags.
One of the other things that I really love about this book is the lack of machismo. I’ve read too many crime stories and books where regardless of where the hero starts out, at some point he hulks the fuck out and suddenly can do shit. He can shoot, he knows how to handle any situation. He’s like Stallone in fuckin Cobra. (SHUT UP don’t judge me I love that movie)
Most of the main male characters aren’t written to be bad masculinity tropes. There is vulnerability, hurt, there is depth in the presentations of hetero masculinity that I appreciate. It takes someone who can write from a place that is secure in their masculinity to present other men that way.
There are few women in the book. And with those few women they are different from each other. I feel like this is something that was paid attention to. They weren’t all hot versions of the same chick.
I think one of the appeals for me of Joe’s work overall is that it feels rooted. It feels real because things are grimy. This book takes place in this lovely New Hampshire place in the dead of winter and I felt the sadness, I felt being a guy like Jay living in a shit town, with shit circumstances and a dirty life.
Again, I don’t mean dirty in a pejorative sense.
This is dirty like hood life is dirty.
I think for me my enjoyment of this book comes down to the fact that it feels authentic. Granted, I doubt there’s a lot of Black ladies in this town, I feel like I understand it because I like the grimy. Hood dirt is comfortable for me.
Like his book Junkie Love I will come back to this book. This is a world I can get lost in comfortably.
The bottom line is the following:
- Read this book if you like crime fiction.
- This is the type of shit I like.
- Joe Clifford is a fine damn writer.
- Read his work.
Keep your eye out. The next book I review will be by Kola Boof and I’m probably going to babble about some really awesome things going on. AND some updates on Self Care Like a Boss coming soon.
And let me mention before I forget that if you are one of my Patrons or if you’re interested, head on over there and check it out. I put out a letter and the first in a series of new stories, like serious Urban Fantasy stories that my Patrons get first dibs on. So come drop a dollar in the bucket and get a download.