Tuesday, November 1, 2016

LEADFOOT :: Eric Beetner

I am woefully behind on my personal reviews due to the state of the universe at the moment, but I didn't want to miss the release of Eric's new entry in the McGraw series, Leadfoot. You can peruse my love of the McGraw drama here, where I discuss the first book, Rumrunners. This series is high-octane family fun, and Leadfoot is out TODAY, so go get yourself a copy.

"Why do I feel like I'm a pilot on the Enola Gay?"

Leadfoot heads back to 1971 Southeast Iowa to share a bit of the lore about how the McGraws became THE MCGRAWS. Calvin has already established himself as a reliable transporter for the Stanley family criminal empire (by Iowan standards), but his nineteen-year-old son Webb is just getting his feet wet in the family business.

When a transport ends up with bullets flying and a Stanley employee taking a hit, the family hits back at their rivals, the Cantrells. Of course, poor Calvin, who just tries to do his job and stay out of the way ("Never open the package" is the McGraw motto) ends up in the crosshairs of a crime family war.

Although Calvin is tied up trying to stay alive while dealing with messes created by one or more of the Stanley brothers (I'm talking to you, Kirby), Hugh Stanley still has jobs to get done. The need for more McGraws means Webb is about to get his first transport job: go to St. Louis to pick up a girl and bring her back to Hugh.

Naturally, and thankfully, everything goes haywire, and the McGraws all have to rely on their skills and moxie to make sure they come out on top. Leadfoot is full of fast-driving, gun play, explosives and a little bit of torture thrown in for good measure. But it's the theme of family winding through Leadfoot from start to finish that gives it its heart. The Stanleys and the McGraws are very different kinds of families, but each a family that does what it has to do to survive.

I loved Leadfoot's peek into the McGraw homefront. It brought a lot of depth and sweetness (sorry, Eric) to the fray and Calvin's relationship with his wife Dorothy was a great way to shine further light on the McGraw innards. The McGraw men may be the outlaws, but it's Dorothy - "early forties, housewife, General Hospital fan" - who is the most kickass of the McGraws.

STREET SENSE:  Leadfoot is a fast and fun second chapter in what this reader hopes is a long book of McGraw stories from all eras.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  Near the river, in a flat industrial square made of brick, a half dozen men were about to die. They made the mistake of taking a job as criminals and as such they followed orders and set up shop in a state not their own. Calvin crossed a small bridge, saw the cluster of abandoned storage facilities and one-time factories, and wished these kids had just stayed home in Nebraska.

COVER NERD SAYS:  280 Steps does a fantastic job with their cover work. I loved the cover of Rumrunners and love the cover of Leadfoot, which carries the theme through in great measure. These are great pulpy covers that provide a perfect feel for what's inside. They are artworks that evoke a bit of a movie poster and and I would happily hang them on my wall.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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