Showing posts with label negative tilt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label negative tilt. Show all posts

Monday, March 18, 2024

NEGATIVE TILT, by Bobby Mathews, reviewed by Wes Browne

Bobby Mathews’s story collection NEGATIVE TILT is brimming full with bangers that run the gamut from literary to crime—the best of which straddle the line. Sentences hum, sharply-drawn and layered characters propel the action, and the pacing and plotting are right on point, luring us along as he pours out a trail of the good stuff.

Mathews is at his best when he treads the ground he knows well: the death throes of the newspaper industry. Several stories explore this territory, but none better harnesses that strength than the title story, NEGATIVE TILT, when a pragmatic lifer who has been cast out of his position as a writer continues his relationship with a former colleague from behind the wheel of a tow truck. The story is certainly a noir, but it hues more literary than crime, to grand effect.

The first purely crime story that grabs you by the shirt and gives you a shake is THE GHOST OF BUXAHATCHEE CREEK. As it turns out, even a righteous kill can haunt the doer, and in this story of seedy vengeance, what can’t be undone can still be doubled down.

Mathews proves himself adept and versatile, weaving lanes between lovers done wrong, to tales of double cross and vengeance. He flexes his hard-earned newspaperman chops time and again by sticking to what’s interesting and building suspense all while moving stories along on the way to a final payoff.

If I had one wish for the collection, it would be that it was a little bit tighter. At 263 pages and twenty-eight stories, NEGATIVE TILT feels more boxed set than greatest hits. There are just a few “B” stories included that that don’t quite measure up to the rest, and a couple other stories are similar in structure and theme. Hard choices could have been made. In the back half there are also several consecutive flash stories, all of them good. Interspersing them throughout would have provided a welcome change-of-pace.

NEGATIVE TILT has staked its claim as one of the standout noir collections of the year. Fans of the style will eat this one up and ask for more.

Wes Browne's new novel THEY ALL FALL THE SAME will be published January 7, 2025 by Crooked Lane Books. His 2020 book HILLBILLY HUSTLE was named one of Merriam-Webster's 17 recommended lockdown reads. He is the founder and host of Pages & Pints Reading Series at Apollo Pizza in Richmond, Kentucky. He has practiced law as a criminal defense attorney, prosecutor, and public defender in Appalachia for over 24 years.