Review: She Rides Shotgun

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Review for “She Rides Shotgun” by Jordan Harper (2017)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I was about ready to give up on Jordan Harper after I read and loathed his short story collection, “Love and Other Wounds.” Glad I didn’t.

Anyway, “She Rides Shotgun” is a dark story about a father who has just got out of a California prison and run afoul of a vicious prison gang, leading to a ‘green light’ being placed on him, his daughter Polly, and his daughter’s mother. Unable to protect Polly’s mother, he takes his daughter on the run. Fighting for their lives and keeping away from the eyes of the law, eventually his daughter becomes involved in his criminal schemes. I won’t give away the book, but needless to say, I found myself cheering for these two (somehow) until the end. The writing is sparse but beautiful and manages to keep you interested.

Four stars, decent debut novel.

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Review: Love and Other Wounds

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Review for “Love and Other Wounds” by Jordan Harper (2015)

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

This is a book that tries to swagger but isn’t as ‘hard’ as it thinks it is. Crime noir that’s very much in the same vein as Frank Bill’s “Crimes in Southern Indiana” (which I actually liked), but set in different locales and much much worse.

What this is: a collection of short stories with bad ass characters doing the same bad ass things with the same bad ass prose we’ve already read elsewhere. There’s redneck prison yard gangsters, men who breed dogs to die in fighting pits, criminals, hit men, meth addicts, etc, etc…by the third story I was bored out of my mind. It’s not so much the violent content that bothers me as much as the fact that there’s nothing new in this book, just the same old thin, worn out characters and plots in each selection, along with gratuitous amounts of blood and gore. This book is also littered with the n-word, as if it were a Quentin Tarantino movie, without any kind of context whatsoever and I hated every moment of it.

Lemme repeat: I actually like crime noir. I am not indicting stories about low-lives and their misdeeds, because they can be transformative. But this is not good crime noir. Harper goes beyond this label and calls his writing ‘thug lit,’ and while it may be the thing for some, I couldn’t stand this. At all.