Dustin LaValley joins me via telephone to chat his most recent release (a collection of novellas), out July 1 from Sinister Grin Press, as well as corrections, strong women, and influences.
Review: Spinner is the tale of three men indulging in various degrees of bad. You’ve got an obsessive type, you’ve got predator—both sexual and murderous—and then you have an opportunist who let’s no chances go to waste.
This story is loud and violent, it’s bloody and draws on the cringe sense to raise the hackles. Which, by design, is an easy avenue of reaction. Authors use it because it works and readers like it because, although squirming, because it engages them.
Spinner isn’t Dustin LaValley’s finest prose on display, but it’s an engrossing, fast-paced, sparse, and fluid tale of murder, cannibalism, and human futility.
H/Armed begins with page after page of description. Cars, muscular and roaring, there’s so much of this I could almost hear Tim Allen give him his Tool Man grunt. The vehicles park outside a department store and the tale reveals itself to be something like a so-so nineties crime flick, exaggerated everyday clichés and big booms.
As it moves, there’s action and blood, and a ton more description, so much description, I could hardly tell the how or the why or the who every time a hammer came down or a bullet found a brain. The comedy of it all is probably there for some, but not for me.
I’ve read a good number of Dustin LaValley stories and I can say this is the first I’ve wholly disliked.
The Deceived is the third and final tale of this collection; a misguided and poorly executed home invasion that ends with a befitting bang. Again, LaValley offers up damaged and damaging characters by way of cast rather than just good guys versus bad guys. The telling of this one is sly and yet obvious in direction, nuance and irregularity keep this story quietly rolling towards the inevitable.
It’s all kinds of fun. Green horns butting up against the angus stud in a locked door situation where the end was always on the cusp, ready or not. The humanity of the characters demands a response. It’s not exactly that it’s clear whom to root for, but the battle is constant nearly beginning to end.
Clean and fast, a bit shorter maybe than the first two, this one packs no less of a pop.
12 Gauge: Songs from a Street Sweeper is three crime stories set to bleed mode, featuring realistic and relatable characters for two out of three, and outrageous and exaggerated characters in H/Armed. All three are quick enough, even at their boggiest moments—which takes up hardly any page space as on top of all the other qualities in Dustin LaValley’s bag of tricks, he has little trouble getting to the point. The violence is gruesome and vivid. The damage is suitable and reasonable, not overbearing or gratuitous, not really. For me, this collection worked and would’ve been an undeniable five star read had I connected with H/Armed, but as Meat Loaf said, two out of three ain’t bad.