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I've been a house painter, dishwasher, broiler cook, private detective, military intelligence analyst, and I spent nearly 40 years as a reporter covering crime, 26 of them for the San Francisco Chronicle. These days I write science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime fiction, and I blog about books, films and crimes that don't receive sufficient attention from the mainstream media. I would like to be Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett or George V. Higgins, but all of them are dead so I'll just stick with what I am already doing. . .

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wasting Away in Tussinland...

By Mike Monson
173 pages
(All Due Respect Books; October 6, 2014)
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00O9E6192

I just spent most of the day with a simpleminded smile on my face while I enjoyed Mike Monson’s newest offering, Tussinland. Those who know me are aware I have a twisted sense of humor – the kinds of things that bring people to teary distress or jaw-clenching rage just make me laugh inappropriately.

Maybe it has something to do with my basically perverse view of the world; I am like the character Bill Murray played in the movie, Tootsie: when the Dustin Hoffman character whips off his wig at the film’s climactic moment, revealing himself to be a man and ad libbing a show-stopping ending for the soap opera in which he has been portraying a female medical center administrator, Murray smiles puckishly and says “That’s one nutty hospital!”

Monson’s Modesto in Tussinland is exactly like the hospital in Tootsie – completely nutty: the novel is populated by the most hopelessly fucked up collection of creeps and weirdos to appear in a novel since Ken Kesey wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

It has hypocritical clergymen, a sex-crazed cop, a grandma who can’t schtup often enough, a psychotic Bosnian emigre and his trailer trash gun moll, a heroin dealing car salesman, a real estate hustler who is over her head because her properties are so far under water, and our protagonist – a hopeless loser who is strung out on Robitussin cough syrup.
This isn’t a cast of characters: it’s a bloody freak show.

The plot, stated briefly, is this: Paul Dunn is a hopeless schmuck – a failed high school teacher, temp worker and short order cook. He is constitutionally incapable of holding down a job or preserving a personal relationship. His last marriage fell apart when his wife, Tina, took up with Mark, a small time smack dealer who runs a used car business with his gang-banger high school chum, Jorge.

Dumped for a heroin dealer; now that is the epitome of pathetic!

Paul is living with his sex starved mother, Mavis, while he recovers from an on-the-job injury at a chain restaurant. He becomes the focal point of a circuitous scheme that involves a couple million dollars’ worth of heroin, the creation of a nascent militia organization, and a pair of ghastly murders in which Paul is the primary suspect.

Two things will keep the reader turning those pages: first, it is not clear until the last twenty pages of the book exactly who has dreamed up the goofy scheme that envelopes Paul or why; and second, every time the reader begins to think he or she knows what will happen next, Monson rolls another hand grenade through the doorway.

About two-thirds of the way to the book’s end, the reader simply throws up his hands and says “go for it!” Better to sit back and enjoy the ride than try to figure out the ultimate destination.

Like I said, this is one nutty hospital.

Monson, along with his partner Chris Rhatigan, is one half of All Due Respect magazine and the mag's new publishing arm, All Due Respect books. This is one of the new imprint's first offering. You are going to want to make room on your bookshelf for others -- this guys are putting out some great stuff.

Mike Monson -- Writer of dark and creepy stories...

The characters in this tale are not all as vicious and depraved as those in What Happens in Reno, the long novella Monson released earlier this year in which there wasn’t a single likeable individual. And there is a more directly humorous feeling to Tussinland than Monson’s other seriously hard-boiled 2014 offering, The Scent of New Death.

For much of his latest  book, Monson is going for laughs. Not laugh-out-loud belly laughs:  just a twisted, sardonic smile and the cavernous chuckle of a gravedigger.

Trust me – he ends up getting them, too.

Still, discussing the story’s various twists and turns would spoil Tussinland, so the less I explain, the better. Don’t worry – you are in good hands with Monson; the man knows what he is doing.

The electronic version is available now at Amazon for only $2.99 and the softcover version will be coming out shortly. Drop three bucks for a full day’s entertainment, then sit back, let the pages turn themselves and enjoy yourself. You will be glad you did.

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