Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Aww, Duke. Pull yourself together. Learn a lesson. The risk is so much higher than the reward... Treat your wife a little better.
"You never know what you're gonna bring home."
STRAY BULLETS is the best crime series by several prison blocks outside of Brubaker and Phillips' CRIMINAL and THE FADE OUT. Each of those books has been reviewed extensively so I'm going to keep this one relatively brief.
In this particular car crash of self-contained but cunningly linked short stories set in Los Angeles moving backwards and forwards in time, it's all about adults having affairs except 'While Ricky Fish Was Sleeping' in which you fear an affair is about to be thrust on a woman unwillingly.
It is absolutely terrifying.
Our homes are our castles where we're supposed to feel safest, but when Ricky Fish collapses drunk as a skunk outside his, Kathy makes the mistake of opening the door to drag her husband inside, only to find another man's got his foot in it. Roger forces his way in, claiming Ricky owes him big bucks which they need in order to go out dancing, and brings with him another barely conscious inebriate, Puncher, and a girl who's all over the dozer. Roger careers from seemingly reasonable and complimentary to volcanically furious, bellowing and bullying and, more worryingly still, Kathy spots a gun under his jacket. He claims to be a policeman but that's far from reassuring. It's as tense as hell, but you wait until it's reprised in 'Little Love Tragedy' during which some of the cast have moved on.
If "the real secret of being a writer is learning to be a convincing liar" as Nicholas Hardiman posits in Posy Simmonds' TAMARA DREWE then David Lapham is the most convincing liar I've ever read. He will mess with your mind something rotten there and yet you will love him for it. You'll see!
In 'Two Week Vacation' hen-packed Hank, a middle-aged mouse of a man, stupidly steps into the road between cars without looking left or right and is almost knocked down. He then makes the mistake of "retaliating" for his own carelessness by throwing a broken bottle through the car's rear window and the driver gets out.
"Man, that was the worst thing you ever done."
Like letting Roger in through that door, those opening pages are the ultimate in regret, that terrible feeling of "If only I hadn't done that". How this fits in with affairs I don't want to spoil for you but that tale too is reprised (everything is connected in STRAY BULLETS), this time in 'Live Nude Girls' where we meet Amanda, a serial marriage-wrecker. She's a textbook case of jealousy, insecurity and self-delusion right to the end.
This volume also features the very finest Amy Racecar episode, and if you marvel as I do at how intricately Lapham links everything up in this series (it's a chronological cat's cradle on its 250th twist) you will be staggered further still at this private-eye spoof in which Amy is hired to spy on a wife by her husband. Simple enough you might think, but nothing - absolutely nothing - is what it seems as one reveal leads to another then another, each successively bigger reveal upending the previous pair until the dozen or so characters have back-stabbed the others too many times to be true.
Well of course it's not true, but that's the whole point of the Amy Racecar interludes. Have you guessed why yet?