Book Review – 12 Gauge: Songs From a Street Sweeper by Dustin LaValley

12 gauge

In these pages you will find a healthy amount of death, gore, and general evil-doing bastards. Dustin LaValley knows how to write violence, he also knows his music, but more of that to follow.

This is a collection of three novellas, two of which I thoroughly enjoyed, one of which I didn’t so much. But luckily my least favourite was the second story, like a sandwich with a so-so filling encased by the most delicious crusty bread, to use a food metaphor. Not that you’d feel like eating much after reading this.

Spinner is the tale of an escaped convict and his girlfriend as they run like demented crazies from the law. Henry is a sick man, in prison for terrible crimes and very much unreformed since his incarceration. When his girlfriend, Lucy, breaks him out from a prison van, the couple leave a trail of bloody bodies behind them in their break for freedom. They even take a hostage, as you would do, whilst the local police begin their manhunt.

Norman, an old man ‘caring’ for his wife who has suffered a stroke, lives in a cabin in the woods close to Henry and Lucy’s escape route. Norman is as messed up as they are, and partakes in a couple of grisly sexy acts. I don’t want to say too much about those, you need to read them for yourself.

This story blistered along. Short, snappy chapters kept the thing in overdrive, until the final showdown between the characters. Things get bloody and then stay bloody.

The second story, H/Armed, as I’ve already mentioned, was my least favourite. The story is non-stop action where a group of people are locked in a department store where they must kill to survive. It’s very Battle Royale, which is great in itself. But the story has so many characters it’s hard to keep track of who’s who and who’s dead. The violence and gore is great and very descriptive, but as a story I have to admit I did check how long was left a couple of times while reading.

However, one thing that had me gripped was the soundtrack. During this bloodfest, The Director, the man responsible for bringing these people together and (obviously) filming every minute detail, plays them music to inspire them to create carnage. And some bloody great music he comes up with, too. It was definitely a ‘ooh I wonder what he’ll place next’ experience for me.

Things pick up, and then some, in the final story of this bloody trilogy. The Deceived is the tale of two would-be thieves as they plan to rob a rich man of some expensive paintings. The thing is with this kind of criminal activity, you have to make sure you plan the robbery to the smallest detail.

Erin and Robert call at Miles’ home, explaining how their car broke down and they need to use his phone. Miles is suspicious of them immediately, what they’re saying does seem a little far-fetched. I feel I can’t say too much about this one as I may give something away. But what I would say is that my empathy switched between characters so often here I was unsure who I was really rooting for, and that’s credit to the writing, of course. Yet more blood is spilt, insanity reigns, and you close the book needing a lie down.

So if you’re after sick people doing wrong things, blood, guts, death, violence, more death, then definitely give this collection a try. There are no unicorns or fairies in it, though. You have been warned.

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