Monday, August 14, 2017

Sure, Beautiful by Paul Stansbury

Sure, Beautiful

That’s Zade Johnson’s girl sitting at the end of the bar. Zade’s the Boss around this neck of the woods. But did I call her a girl? She ain’t no girl, she’s a woman. A real woman. The kind of woman you dream about on a winter’s night, then wake up in a sweat. She’s sitting there in jeans so tight, I don’t see how she walked in. She’s all alone cause Zade is spending some time in County for beating some poor sonofabitch into a coma. I can tell you how it’s going to go down.

You know the story. A boss’s girl is left all alone while he’s inside. She’s OK for a while, but not too long. She needs attention. Wouldn’t be a boss’s girl if she didn’t. That kind of girl likes bad men. They need guys to tell ‘em how beautiful they are. They need excitement, to go to fancy restaurants,  the hottest honkytonks. They need baubles and clothes and plenty of them; all those things that are in short supply when their meal ticket’s in lockup. So she’s looking.

She’ll sip her longneck. Won’t have to buy more than one. She’ll pretend to search for something in her clutch, not that what she’s really after is in there. Like I said, she’s looking. Looking for some sap. Some poor sucker who can’t see beyond the blonde hair, blue eyes and those red lips. A guy who won’t hear anything after she sits down at his table and asks, ‘Got a light?’ A guy who’ll open up his wallet without thinking twice. Maybe a guy who ain’t ever heard of her old man, or the fact he’s dangerous. Maybe a guy who thinks he’s smart enough to get away with putting the make on a boss’s girl. Maybe just a dumbass who can’t believe a chick who looks that good is sitting down at his table. So, he’ll just fish for a matchbook in his pocket and say, ‘Sure, beautiful.’

She’ll touch his hand while he lights her cigarette. After a long, slow draw, she’ll gently blow the smoke in his face, marking her territory. She’ll let him buy her a draft while she sweet talks him, then suggest they go somewhere that ain’t so boring. He don’t know it, but he’s already hooked and ready to be gutted. 

They’ll start out slow, meeting once in a while at sleepy joints a town or two over. But that won’t do for long because she’s that certain kind of woman. One who likes Pappy Van Winkle just cause it’s expensive. One who craves bright lights and shiny trinkets. One who likes the excitement of being on the arm of a guy with a pocket full of folding dough. That’s why she’s a boss’s girl. 

Eventually, maybe she forgets about her old man rotting away over in county or what he might do if he found out about her and the sap she’s stringing along. Maybe she don’t care, or maybe she just can’t think about nothing but spending some sucker’s long green on clothes and jewelry and good times at the finest clubs.

And all he’s thinking about is that look she gives him, just before she turns out the light. And it’s not too long before he’s shelling out cash like he’s feeding the chickens. And he keeps it up till he’s broke. But she won’t care. The way she sees it, his job is to get the money and hers is to spend it. So she keeps on spending. Next thing he knows, he’s in hock up to his neck. Not only to his bookie but to a nasty loan shark who likes breaking legs. And to top it off, she ain’t nowhere to be found. That’s when he hears her old man is out. 

So one night, he throws some clothes in a suitcase and slinks toward the alley where he’s stashed his truck. And he almost makes it. Just across the street, he can see the black opening, but before he can get there, a figure steps from the opening into the glare of the streetlight. Before he can turn and run, he sees a flash and hears the gunshot. He feels the sting of a bullet tearing through his gut. He falls to the ground, clutching his stomach, blood oozing out between his fingers. Another figure appears from the shadows. Even with a bullet in his gut, he recognizes her. Before he dies, he watches her blow out a gray cloud of smoke which swirls around like fog closing in on a cold night. So that’s how the story goes. 

Well, what do you know? Zade Johnson’s girl just sat down at my table. She’s putting a cigarette between her lips. 

“Got a light?” she asks.

“Sure, beautiful.”


Bio Paul Stansbury is a life long native of Kentucky. He is the author of Down By the Creek – Ripples and Reflections and a novelette:  Little Green Men? His stories have appeared in a number of print anthologies as well as a variety of online publications. Now retired, he lives in Danville, Kentucky.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: A Better Kind of Hate by Beau Johnson

Beau Johnson writes on the darker side of town. His stories are populated with sleaze balls, grease stains, and bad motherfuckers. His characters are bad people that do bad things and you’ll feel a little bit of guilt for being so entertained by the bad shit they do. There’s a common thread the runs through each of these stories and it’s that the people that Beau writes about are fueled by hate. You’ve got a jaded detective that is happy to take shortcuts to justice, a scorned husband killing his wife a cup of tea at a time, and a wronged mob boss that’ll make you squeamish when he teaches a couple of goons some respect.  

The hate that motivates these characters makes them easy to connect to. We’ve all fantasized about being able to do the things that they do. Maybe we wouldn’t take it to such extremes, but we’ve wanted to. Who wouldn’t want to whack golf balls at the crotch of the dude you hate more than any other human being alive? Especially when he’s wronged you in such a way that it’s ruined your life. Beau Johnson takes those machinations you’ve hidden in the darkest corner of your mind and brings them to life. As you read these stories you’ll feel a little bit of relief because you know someone else has a mind as disturbed as yours.

Better yet Beau’s a damn good writer. His words are razor blades. They deliver a nice clean shave but can cut through flesh, muscle, bone, and marrow. The way he writes brings to mind James Ellroy and Dennis Lehane. He’s ridiculously readable and it’s too easy to lose track of time and read forty or fifty pages in one sitting.

I found myself drawn in by the first-person narrative of the stories. Each of them have a familiar voice but are unique. Known Associates is a story that stuck out to me because the narrator speaks to a character named Richie but it’s told in such a way that it feels like the reader is the one being spoken to. I was enthralled by this technique and have read that story multiple times. It may be my favorite of the collection.

Fire in the Hole is another highlight. It puts the Bishop Rider mythos into motion and sets the stage for what the reader will get themselves into throughout the rest of the book. Bishop’s not a happy camper, he’s got devils he’s dealing with, but he’s a man of duty and honor. Duty and honor just looks a little different to Detective Bishop Rider than it does to us. Oh, Fire in the Hole ends with a little bit of a bang.

When you finish A Better Kind of Hate it’s going to feel like it’s not enough. That’s a good and bad thing. Good because you’re going reread this short story collect over and over. Bad because you’re going to want new work from Beau right away. We can all hope that he pumps them out quick enough to have another collection soon. We’re all going to want it.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Six Simple Questions with Beau Johnson

I discovered Beau Johnson through a short story on Shotgun Honey. As I sat there and read the words I thought, damn, this guy is good, but it was the last line of his story where my man crush developed for him. It was an ice pick that stuck you right in the knee and hurt so good. I commented to let him know how much I enjoyed the story and shortly after we were Facebook friends. This was all apart of my plan to have Beau submit some work to Story and Grit, he'll have a story published on the site in a few months. What I didn't expect is for him to ask me to review his upcoming short story collection A Better Kind of Hate. That I was more than happy to do and that review will be live on Friday. I also wanted to give Beau a voice so that he could talk about his writing and work. It was only appropriate that he do a Six Simple Questions interview. He was gracious enough to agree to the interview.

Yall go find Beau's work and preorder his book! You can get it on Amazon and from Down & Out Books.

Oh, before we get to the interview. Beau doesn't know about my man crush so don't tell him.

This first question may be a lot like asking you to pick your favorite kid, but what’s your favorite story from A Better Kind of Hate or - better yet - which story from the collection is the best introduction for readers to your work?

Nah, not too hard.  Each of my kids knows who the favorite is.  I’m just hoping against hope it doesn’t put the other two in bell towers by the time they turn eighteen.  I’m kidding of course.  Maybe.  Anyway: my favorite piece.  I would have to say I Remember.  It’s a short little yarn dealing with guilt, remorse, and what a parent’s love will allow us to do.  As for which story in the collection is the best as an introduction to my work?  Hmm.  Seeing as Bishop Rider and John Batista are in many of them, perhaps Fire in The Hole or The Only Thing That Fits

What writers, or pieces of fiction, do you turn to for inspiration?

Can’t say that I do.  I mean, I have read and re-read everything by King.  I mean, who hasn’t?  And I have read many others.  But what inspires me most is whatever comes my way.  By “way” I mean the ideas floating through my head at any given moment.  Weird, I know.  Means I’m somewhat of a pantser by trade.

Was crime fiction always your genre of choice, did you start writing in other genres, or do you plan on experimenting with other genres?

No.  Crime fiction wasn’t always my genre of choice.  I think my voice put me on a collision course with it, sure, but in the beginning, I was more of a sci-fi/monster of the week type of writer.  Cujo, Carrie, and the Dark Tower, oh my. 

What’s your worst habit as a writer?

It has been said you are to write everyday if you want to be a writer.  This is all well and good if you can birth ideas at will.  I have never been this type of person.  I have ideas, yes, and sometimes they come in bunches.  When they do I get them down as fast as I can.  But when it’s over, it’s over.  I wait.  Sometimes for a short period.  Sometimes longer.  I can’t force the issue is what I’m saying.  Can’t just sit down and give birth like so many others.  Might not be habit, now that I think about it.  Perhaps failing would be a better word.

What would you do tomorrow if you could no longer write?

Eat cheese, brother.  All.  Day.  Long.

What can we be looking forward to from you?

I have some new stories in the pipe, coming from the usual spots that have been so gracious to have me.  And in case you’re worried you’ll miss one of them, don’t be.  I’ll post about it.  Trust me: I’ll post about it!