When con-man Ralph does a runner on the check at a shabby diner in an unfamiliar town, he doesn't expect it to catch up to him. But the waitress Arlene tracks him down and ropes him into a bizarre heist involving ugly family secrets, a violent stepfather, a well-secured safe, and most of all Arlene's mother Gracie—a sultry karaoke queen who tickles Ralph's fancy for older women. Ralph will need all his guile to make it through a job that has him wishing that he'd just paid for his meal.
The Blind Rooster offers a crude slice of American small town Noir, sunny side down, with echoes of Jim Thompson and Elmore Leonard.
I could tell on the very first page this was my kind of book. Ralph our main man is on a bus but doesn’t have a ticket, the driver confronts him…..
“Everyone else on this bus paid the fare. They’re all waiting to get somewhere, and you’re holding them up. They all hate you.”
“A lot of people hate me; my mom hates me.”
Ralph’s a con man and drifter and he’s just landed in the small town of Presser. He pulls a fast one in a diner and when he crosses paths again with the waitress, Arlene finds himself being sold a story about rare stamps that Arlene wants to steal from a neighbour and former family friend.
Arlene lives uncomfortably at home with her mother, Gracie a wannabe singer and her stepfather. She’s had enough of small town life and waitressing and Ralph could be part of her ticket out of town. When they break into the neighbour’s safe, there’s no stamps but a DVD of Arlene’s stepfather and a male college student and he’s not helping the kid with his homework.
Cue blackmail. Can you blackmail a blackmailer? You can try, though it gets complicated when you don’t trust your partner, your victim teams up with his victim to fightback and you end up in the sack with your partner’s mother after a few hours spent in a karaoke bar.
Sex, mistrust, family, singing, bars, motels, computers, cell phones, popcorn, diners, money, secrets, plans, confrontation, revised plans, more confrontation and the inevitable gun. It doesn’t end well for all our combatants.
Great story set in a small town, plenty of twists and surprises. There’s pace and a real cadence and rhythm to Lang’s story that had me reading on and on… just one more page, one more chapter.
A great cast of characters, not all likeable, but all believable and real with their weaknesses and fears, their damaged relationships and perversions and not least the thwarted ambitions.
Ralph, despite his criminality I found to be likeable, intelligent, quick-witted and adaptable. Without spoiling the ending, I’m hoping that Lang features him again in future books.
A tick in every box.
5 from 5
Preston Lang has another published book - The Carrier that sits on the kindle. To be read sooner rather than later, I think.
I received my copy of this from the publisher Crime Wave Press. Their website is here.