cover image Love and Other Wounds

Love and Other Wounds

Jordan Harper. Ecco, $15.99 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-06-239438-5

Each one of the stories in Harper’s slim debut collection goes off like a shotgun blast of crime fiction tropes: convicts, skinheads, meth mouths, dog fights, crooked cops, barflies, and botched robberies. Doomed men and desperate women paint themselves into increasingly tight corners, where the only choice left is to come out shooting, like a hillbilly Butch Cassidy. Some stories connect dots: the skinhead who takes on a local legend in “I Wish They Never Named Him Mad Dog” is the same man whose failure to show up for a drug deal in “Always Thirsty” allows a gang of Midwestern Bosnians to disembowel the guy who did. Aryan Steel makes more than one appearance, as does Jackie Blue’s, a dive bar with more blood on the floor than booze. “Playing Dead” shifts the action to Brooklyn, where a coke dealer cheats death but takes responsibility for a deal gone wrong by cleaning up the mess—with a chainsaw. And “Beautiful Trash” sets another mess cleaner on a collision course with a publicist for A-list celebrities who are spiraling out of control in the City of Angels. At 17 pages, this is the book’s longest story, ending on the deepest emotional note. But the entire collection is a tight, tough parcel of pulpy, high-octane tales. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber. (July)