cover image Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life

Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life

Rob Roberge, Red Hen (CDC, dist.), $19.95 (104p) ISBN 978-1-59709-165-7

Seedy characters find themselves in even seedier situations in Roberge's debut collection. In the title story, a young film student is asked by a corrupt producer of religious memorabilia to kill the producer's son, left childlike after a botched suicide attempt. "Whatever Happened to Billy Brody?" is about an ex-child star trying to buy some pain pills who gets caught in a meth-lab drug deal gone bad. These stories and others get off to solid starts, but are often undermined by excessive detail meant to be colorful ("a woman whose teeth are going in every direction except for ones you'd expect from teeth"). But "Border Radio," which begins, "When I was thirteen years old, my father killed a man in front of me," mercifully bucks this trend, thanks to the detachment and authority of the narrative voice. And the best piece, "The Exterminator," the story of a pest exterminator, could easily become a larger work. Roberge has the raw talent to approach Bukowski and Dennis Johnson territory; time will tell if he can arrive. (Oct.)