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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. . .

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Selena is Back -- and Looking for Revenge

By Greg Barth
388 pages
(All Due Respect books; December 2015)

ISBN 10-151614845

ISBN 13-978-1519614841

For sheer hard-boiled pulp entertainment, I thought Selena, Greg Barth’s first novel in the Selena trilogy, was as good as it gets. It was one of the best books I read in 2015; It had sex and violence, a troubled but winning heroine and enough really bad bad guys to justify the bloodbath at its end.
When I finished it, I put my Kindle aside with a smile and said, “it really doesn’t get much better than this.”
  That was before I read Barth’s third installment in the trilogy, Diesel Therapy. I candidly admit my error – it does get better than Selena; Diesel Therapy has even more sex, violence and some of the most reprehensible villains you will ever encounter in print, all served up in a neat, well-written package.
Diesel continues the story of Selena Carson, who was brutally raped and left for dead by gangsters in the first book. Carson has been sent to federal prison after her conviction for a host of violent crimes in the first book and has settled into a quiet life, working as a painter, eating regularly, making a friend or two and getting clean and sober for the first time in many years.
Greg Barth: an excellent story-teller

She remains haunted by her trailer trash upbringing in the rural Appalachians, however, and is unable to clear her mind of the depravity of her pederast father and his disgusting and brutal redneck chums.
A corrupt U.S. Attorney who hopes to use her to win the indictment of an organized crime figure she knows almost nothing about. He sets up a phony escape attempt designed solely to provide a pretext for the Diesel Therapy referred to in the book’s title: endless shuttling from one prison to another intended to break Selena’s spirit and force her to testify against the gangster.
After weeks in manacles on the road, rarely spending more than a single night in a federal prison, city jail or county lock up, Selena breaks. A corrupt federal marshal offers her a respite from the torture in return for sex and Carson uses the fleeting opportunity to escape with the help of a mob hit man who has been sent to retrieve her.
The two of them descend on Selena’s home turf, giving her an opportunity to settle old scores and break up a pedophile sex ring featuring some of the most vile redneck villains since James Dickey’s Deliverance.
The final bloodbath is violent and cathartic, with victims succumbing to deer-hunting arrows, a cattle prod, a police baton, a short hafted knife and a .44-magnum carbine. In the novel’s last pages Barth gives Carson and her hit-man boyfriend a respite from the violence while deftly setting up the final volume of the Selena saga.
This is pulp that is boiled harder than a pool ball, banked with enough spin to sweep the felt clean on most pool tables.  Barth is an excellent storyteller who knows how to lace his narrative with just enough detail to give the reader a clear picture of each character, each locale, but keep the all-important story marching forward at a constant pace.
And that’s exactly what it does. I am almost afraid to read Barth’s final installment; if it improves on Diesel Therapy, I am going to run out of superlatives to use in writing the review.

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