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RonSwansonHunting

(I’ve never written fan fiction or mash-ups before, and I doubt I will again. But I couldn’t resist trying to combine one of my favorite TV shows, Parks and Recreation, with one of my favorite books of the past few years, Frank Bill’s Crimes In Southern Indiana.)

In the cloudy, gravel-gray dusk, Ron Swanson crept past the motel parking lot in his dark red Buick Park Avenue and rolled to a stop. He snatched the .12-gauge double-barrel from the passenger seat, flung open the driver’s door, marched toward the only room with piss-yellow lamplight seeping through the curtains. Didn’t bother to close the car door or even take the keys. No one was around for miles, and besides, he didn’t plan on staying long.

He knew this was serious business. Tom could be dramatic and fragile, sure, but Ron had heard much more than the usual Tom Haverford whining when the little man called him 30 minutes ago in a shrieking panic. Ron heard something he’d never heard in Tom’s voice before: genuine, blood-chilling terror. Ron didn’t even ask what landed Tom in this kettle of shit. He assumed it had to be the fault of Jean-Ralphio, that slimy skid-mark of  a human being. Probably stiffed some gap-toothed mullet-head dealer on a bag of whatever drug he was into this week.

Ron stood before the motel room door and pointed his shotgun at chest-level. He saw a sturdy November breeze rattle the door’s flimsy knob, and figured he could just kick the door open, save a shell. So that’s what he did.

(more…)

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Most of the crimes in Frank Bill’s Crimes In Southern Indiana are crimes of passion, though even the premeditated crimes tend to go awry and lead to more crimes of passion.  All seven deadly sins are accounted for, if you count meth addiction as a form of gluttony.  Villains outnumber heroes by a wide margin, and many of the heroes are heroic simply by default.

A number of these short stories are simply pistol-whipping pulp, or blood-spattered snapshots of the American nightmare.  And more often than not, these vicious vignettes are intensely gripping.  Yet a few stories dig in deeper, richer soil.  “The Penance Of Scoot McCutchen” has one of the book’s most sympathetic characters coping with his wife’s deteriorating health, and his own crushing guilt.  An unfortunate mishap in “The Accident” leads to a surreal and unforgettable descent into madness.  “The Old Mechanic” starts out looking like a one-dimensional portrait of an abusive husband, but soon explores the complications of redemption and forgiveness.

Crimes In Southern Indiana will probably remind you of Cormac McCarthy’s bleak hellscapes, or less comedic versions of the Coen Brothers’ darker tales, or Breaking Bad‘s tweaked-out brutality.  However, the book’s portrayal of Southern Indiana also reminds me of Stephen King’s Southwestern Maine- if only all the references to supernatural forces had been edited out.  In Frank Bill’s world, humans are monsters just because– which is usually way more terrifying.

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