Erik Storey’s new adventure hero, Clyde Barr, hits the ground running in his debut novel, Nothing Short of Dying. The tale opens in the mountains, where Barr is most at home living off the land, and moves quickly to a frantic phone call from a troubled sister he hasn’t seen in years.
Jen, the sister, is no stranger to the wrong side of the law, but the phone call—cut off in mid-explanation—sets Barr barreling down the mountain to take up the trail. Before the gun smoke clears, there’s a long line of dead men, drug dealers, mercenaries, and other bad guys. But Barr loses friends as well.
Storey’s new book has been compared to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series and to Joe Lansdale. While I wouldn’t go that far in either case, the prose and adventure level certainly puts him on the same bookshelves as those authors. Did I mention the violence and bloodshed? I should, because Barr doesn’t pull any punches, and he’s certainly knowledgeable about guns, cars, and physical prowess.
The action is wild and colorful, but fans of the genre will find some familiar moves as they turn the pages, which I couldn’t help but do. The familiarity is fine because when I pick up a book like this, I want to get what I went there for.
A small warning for people who have trouble separating fantasy violence from the real world: Storey writes vividly, so there are instances that might be off-putting to folks who want John Wayne violence—where the hero shoots the villain and the villain just falls down. This book isn’t like a John Wayne movie in that respect.
I loved how Storey describes the landscape in the book. He’s been around those mountains and forests, and he’s an excellent guide to mark the trail for you. More than once, I was in those wildernesses remembering my own travels through rough country.
Barr’s backstory, his childhood as well as his adventurer lifestyle, is gradually released throughout the book, bringing readers up to speed as needed. This narrative style also allows the author to keep his hero mysterious to a degree throughout the novel. At first I just wanted him to bring it all out and be done with it, but the backstory weaves really well into the ongoing mission.
In a few instances, I had to reach harder for the willing suspension of disbelief, but that was because the story needed that forgiveness to maintain the pacing and tension. In the end, Storey delivers a great debut and I’m looking forward to other books about Clyde Barr.
About Mel Odom: Author of dozens of novels in a wide variety of fields, Mel Odom lives in Moore, Oklahoma. His novel, The Rover, was given the American Library Association Alex Award in 2002. In 1995, after only seven years in the business, he was named to the Oklahoma Professional Writers Hall of Fame. He teaches in the Professional Writing program in Gaylord College at the University of Oklahoma. If you want to know more about Mel’s writing, check out Fantastic Fiction.
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