All Due Respect Books
Review by: J.B. Stevens
The 2020 quarantine has thrown a bit of water on my creative fire. Working on my longer fiction is not going well; I feel unfocused. Lengthy walks, too many drinks, and nights with Chandler and Faulkner aren’t helping. I even started reading Dickinson and writing poetry (things got weird). Luckily for you, Dear Reader, I am an enthusiastic book reviewer, which leads me to the work of Rob Pierce.
Before reading Blood by Choice, I’d heard of Pierce and read his interview on Story and Grit but had not experienced his novels. Pierce is the former editor of Swill Magazine and a co-editor at the Flash Fiction Offensive (Full disclosure: I’ve placed fiction with the Flash Fiction Offensive. I never spoke or dealt with Pierce). Pierce has published with all of the gritty crime-fiction websites readers know and love, even been nominated for a Derringer Award. All that is to say, Pierce is accomplished.
Pierce’s latest work, Blood by Choice feels like a wave crashing over the reader: tight prose, quick pacing, and sparse descriptive writing. Pierce doesn’t use chapters, opting for Acts with scene breaks, creating an aggressive, continuous forward momentum.
The opening two paragraphs set the tone well:
Dust runs the first red, before anyone’s in pursuit. He slows in a couple blocks, takes off his shades. Tearing off the fake beard hurts like hell and he yells in the car but his windows are up and the yell’s part celebration. He shouldn’t be pulling jobs while he’s on the run but no one knows him in Missouri and if he doesn’t rob banks he might as well be dead. It was stupid but he’s done stupid before, that’s why there’s a hit on him.
Music loud, he drove into one of the million middles of nowhere around here, ditched the car for a stolen job with already swapped out plates and traded his thrift shop leisure suit for jeans and a t-shirt. He hadn’t used his pistol so all he had to drop in the river was the robbery costume. The money wasn’t much but it’d get him to a bar to wind down, another stupid move for a guy with a record who’d just pulled a job, but he knew a place where he’d blend in.
Pierce wastes no time introducing Dust as a man of action and propelling this Oakland-based story:
Dust shook his head. “I’ll be back.” He turned toward the door, spun back fast and punched Willis in the neck. The pistol dropped to the floor and Dust squeezed Willis’s neck with both hands, pushed him against the wall.
“You got twenty-four hours, asshole. Tell me where this motherfucker is or I find him myself and feed you to him.”
He let go and Willis fell to the floor. Dust walked away, kicked the pussy’s pistol toward the door, picked it up before he left. Emptied the magazine, flung the cartridges around the room, took the pistol outside with him and threw it across the street.
Dust tries to figure out who killed three people, his chosen blood, and avenge the murders. Teaming up with a fellow tough-guy, Karma D’Angelo, Dust also joins forces with Kitty, a local bartender.
Dust and Karma work through the bit players and discover their probable killer, Volmer, who works for crime boss, Keene. There are lots of gangland double crosses and bar-room meetings. The ending is surprising. The story didn’t turn out how I expected.
The action scenes are well constructed and remind me of Lee Child’s less is more style as shown here:
The little white man with the receding hairline looked up. He had plenty of soldiers who backed him but none of them were here. He relied on no one being crazy enough to do something that would bring their vengeance.
“Dustin,” he said. “What brings you here? Have a seat.”
“You little shit.” Dust pulled the .45 from his coat and put a bullet in the middle of Carelli’s forehead. Carelli toppled back and the chair fell to his left. The next shot entered through his temple. Someone screamed as Dust holstered his piece and ran through traffic across the street. Horns blared and brakes skidded but that was nothing new in Oakland. He hit the sidewalk and slowed to a walk, went through the donut shop fast and got to his car.
Blood by Choice’s pacing and prose are top-shelf, created for a less-commercial audience with no real “good guys,” and violent — reminiscent of Victor Gischler’s Gun Monkeys.
Pierce is a practiced writer, and his command of the craft shines. If you like stories fast and violent, as I do, you will love this book— Blood by Choice is a winner.
His writing has been featured in Mystery Tribune, Out of the Gutter, Close To The Bone, Thriller Magazine, Punk Noir Magazine, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Criminal Element, and other publications.