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.


  1. Feed the authors, show 'em some love.

  2. Mark, once again, you are far too kind. Ridiculously readable---pretty sure that's my new favorite thing.