Tuesday, November 14, 2017

THE SAVAGE :: Frank Bill

When Frank Bill writes something new I pay little attention to what it is, I just sign up and strap in. When I cracked open The Savage, I was immediately taken aback and gleefully entranced. Frank Bill, master of the nitty-gritty here and now of working class America is taking on the nitty-gritty of a future gone horribly awry. It's a very timely look at an America that might have seemed untenable a mere year ago, but now feels like an all-too-near fork in the road.

A follow-up to the bare-knuckled badassery of Donnybrook (currently being made into a motion picture, praise 9 pound, 8 ounce sweet baby Jesus), The Savage is set only several years on but light years away. The U.S. dollar is worthless, the power grid useless and power-and-land-hungry hordes are savaging what and who remains.

Against a kill-or-be-killed backdrop, Bill explores the competing interests of (mostly) men living in the madness and how they survive in light of their histories and what type of men their respective fathers taught them to be. One of the things I love about Frank Bill is the reverence he pays to those who work with their hands and ply a trade. The theme of how sad and dangerous it is to continue to destroy and leave that part of us behind runs deep in his writing.

The Savage is soaked in vengeance and unapologetic violence, and Bill easily holds the World Record for the number of different ways to describe a bullet separating mind from matter. His form and cadence vary like jabs and hooks and stray gloriously from the "norm," always with a sure foot beneath them. As cliche as it is to say Bill has a unique voice, I have a hard time describing his style. The best I can do is to liken it to watching Ali fight or listening to him speak. It is a savage ballet that twists your brain with its creativity and leaves you in wonderment. 

STREET SENSE: If you're a fan of the grit lit, do not hesitate, Frank Bill is a master.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  I really want to list a few of my favorite bullet-meets-bone descriptions, but those should not be spoiled. I used almost a full tin of book darts marking passages in this book, and to avoid having to make a difficult choice I'm going to quote from the opening, which provides a look at what goes down for the next (almost) 400 glorious pages.

They wanted change, so they'd taken out the grids, the world's power switch, eliminating lights, sounds, and anything that warranted electricity and what followed was the images of men being kneeled in front of women and children, homes besieged by flame, a pistol or rifle indenting a face enraged by fear, hurt, and anger. Trigger pulled. Brain, skull, and hair fertilizing the soil with departure. One man's life taken by another without mercy.

COVER NERD SAYS:  I was pulled to this cover at first sight. It's simple yet piques the curiosity. I'm always a fan of clean, stark imagery, and this cover does that superbly while also pairing well with the paperback cover of Donnybrook. I might have been able to nail this as a Frank Bill book just by looking, and that's a good thing.


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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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