Me and Bobby McGee by Chad Coenson

 “Fine, fine,” I said, “We appreciate your business of course and stand by our product and such. But let me cut right to the chase here, boys. You know that we are a respectable underground corporation doing the world a grand service by recycling unwanted human life, giving it a purposeful existence, while at the same time curing the laziness of another more important person,” I paused and looked in all four of their eyes simultaneously to make sure our value proposition resonated clearly in their minds.

Chad Coenson, Me and Bobby McGee

–from page 196, at the very bottom.

 

The above paragraph is the key to this book. I couldn’t have picked a more spoiling excerpt from Me and Bobby McGee—yet I promise—I’ve given you nothing. Not only is Me and Bobby McGee an original satire worthy of several nods, it is also the silver winner of the 2011 Independent Publisher’s Award, and received  honorable mentions for general fiction at the 2011-2012 Los Angeles Book Festival.

 

I’d heard Chad Coenson’s prose and writing were similar to Kurt Vonnegut and Jack Kerouac. Perhaps there is some of that, but I saw clearer influences of Johnathan Swift and Hunter S. Thompson. I mean the early Thompson, before his writing got so angry.

 

Me and Bobby McGee is the story of Keesey Cypher, ex-assassin for the CIA, now washed up and burned out. Despite Keesey being a likeable character, by Mr. Coenson’s narration, I would call Keesey an anti-hero more than a protagonist. He’s a drunken poker player whose blackout antics manage to get him in big trouble with some local hustlers in New Orleans. Little does Keesey know, this mess will lead him into the strangest sort of love interest, an unlimited mountain of wealth, and a (relatively) greater purpose in life than fall out drunken poker.

 

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The title, Me and Bobby McGee, is a little misleading. Being one who greatly appreciates classic rock, I recognized the Janis Joplin association. Coenson’s book inspired me to look deeper into Janis’s tragic life before reading—and then learned this book has nothing to do with Janis Joplin.  Turns out Bobby McGee is an important character. Hot-bodied and packing iron, Bobby’s mission is to escort Keesey across the country to ensure his debt is paid—one way or the other. She is not only Cypher’s ‘babysitter,’ but now his new infatuation and next love interest. As a character, Bobby is both complex and dysfunctional, and Keesey is quite smitten. There were several places in this tale where I had to set down the book just to laugh, overcome with dark humor and deep cynicism.

 

Those of you who follow my reviews know I don’t believe there is such a thing as a perfect book. If Jesus wrote a book, it might have been perfect. Luckily, he didn’t, I’m sure everything else would seem stale in comparison.

 

Me and Bobby McGee is exceptionally good for a debut release, and I look forward to reading whatever else Coenson writes. My only criticism is there were a few places where Keesey gets a little longwinded. I encountered one (only one) character whose voice I couldn’t quite find and/or had difficulty believing. It was a farmer who spoke far too elegantly for the salt of the Earth. Maybe the farmer was educated, but given the setting and Chad’s otherwise flawless characters, I found this one character to being a chink in an otherwise well created story.

 

There is also a giant hole in the last couple chapters, but I’d guess that is probably intended for a future sequel.

 

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Final words–

Me and Bobby McGee is great storytelling and a fun ride. The book has an original voice and potent writing. The peaks and valleys within this tale are delivered sharp and pointed. The tension was masterfully achieved in several scenes, especially the US/Mexico border scenes. Clever, dark humor filled this volume and I will gladly read Coenson’s next book.

 

I found deep satisfaction while reading this book. I’d recommend this book to any reader with an ounce of wit and plenty of bad humor. Anyone who appreciates satire and values cynicism will revel in this story. If you loved the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, this could be your next greatest thing.

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Jake Elliot Suicide

 

I’ve gotten a couple hits on this website looking for ‘Jake Elliot Suicide” or “RIP Jake Elliot.”  I am not dead. Not yet at least. However, if it is another Jake Elliot who has died, for those of you looking for information, all I can say is I am sorry for your loss.

 

As a writer I am prone to deep depression, alcoholism and there is always a chance for suicide. I’d even be willing to make a $100 bet that I’d die by suicide before I die of cancer, or have an aneurysm. We could make a side bet for liver failure, but that isn’t very sporting. Most writers seem to die from one or the other.

 

There is another Jake Elliot who writes in the UK and I’ve joked in the past how he is the imposter Jake Elliot. I would never wish ill-will or an untimely death upon anyone, especially someone bearing the same name as me. That is creepy. Remember the movie, The Terminator? What if the T-1000 model is killing Jake Elliots to stop me from writing a book I haven’t yet started?!?!

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Weird, but it could happen in a James Cameron universe.

 

Again I say, if you are looking for dead Jake Elliot – I’m not him. If I come off  as crass, know instead that I hope the injury from the loss of your friend or family member will heal in its proper time. I also hope my dark sense of humor can be forgiven, I mean no disrespect for your loss, it is just that I find an ironic sense of humor in all of this confusion.

 

Beyond the Veil by Tim Marquitz

Tim Marquitz sent me this book around the time it was released. Tim knows to anticipate an honest review from me. On GoodReads, his was not a ‘rounded up’ four-star, it’s an “I can’t quite give it 5-stars” review.

Although this is book 5 in the series, there are a lot of ‘first times’ to mention. This was Tyson Mauermann’s editorial debut. For those who don’t know Tyson, he is ‘the’ book reviewer for Speculative Book Review– and here I have an opportunity to critique his work– heh-heh. The editing was 5-star quality in Beyond the Veil. (Now Tyson, for such nice words, I expect a 5-star review for my next book. Insert cheesy smile here.) In all seriousness, the editing was nearly flawless––a good editor makes a great author look perfect. Tim’s money was well spent.

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This is also the first Demon Squad book to have Carter Reid’s masterful art for its cover. This cover screams what will be found inside––lots of action is coming––enough that Frank should hide and save his bullets. Frank looks grittier than ever—the cover fits the book. Again, Tim’s money—well spent.

Here is a first for me too. Normally, I avoid self-published books because the quality is often-times amateurish. Shot from the hip and usually without proper editing, self-published books are frequently nightmarish. Of course there are exceptions. Tim Marquitz is one of them but Tim is not new to the publishing world. Due to the grim nature of his series, I think he has made a wise decision in leaving traditional publishing.

Tim’s expertise is shown by the pros who’ve gathered to help produce a book at this high of a quality. Now, what is inside the book?

Beyond the Veil is either the best written, or the best edited in the series to date, perhaps both. This is the 5th book in the Demon Squad Series, a series that began with Armageddon Bound. If you love Dark Fantasy, stop reading this review, go buy the first book. The story changes dramatically in Beyond the Veil, and I’m not going into the back story – we are five books deep. In fact, I’m going to avoid speaking of the plot entirely. If you’ve read book four, you know where book five needs to go.

Let’s talk about characterization. As we expect with Frank’s narration, this story is rich with sarcasm and colorful metaphors. This was one of the attractions that caught me in Armageddon Bound, and it is consistent throughout each book. Sadly, yet understandably, as Tim’s writing abilities have sharpened, so Frank’s lewdness has also been shaved away. Frank’s inability to keep it in his pants (or at least his hand) was a character flaw that burned Frank as a memorable anti-hero. Here in book five, Frank loves boobies as much as ever––he’s just stopped slobbering so much. Frank has grown considerably.

Frank is an anti-hero. I don’t normally read books where the hero is a borderline villain. We see more of Frank’s anti-hero behavior in this book, more so than in any of the prior books. Still, he possesses enough conscience that we can forgive him and keep cheering him forward. His actions are quite ‘uncool’ in the very beginning of this book, but I will leave it for you to decide if Frank is worthy of your forgiveness. I’d probably done the same thing if given the same circumstances. Luckily, my wife probably won’t get nabbed by extra-dimensional fugitives on the run from God and Satan, but if it does happen, rest assured, I’ll follow Frank’s lead.

The imaginative quality of this story is right on par with earlier books in the series. Tim’s vision of magic is easily malleable and its use is enjoyable to read. His delivery is visual––as is expected by us who’ve traveled this deep into the story.

So with all this great stuff to say, why didn’t I give it 5-stars. I enjoyed this book greatly, but in the end, it just didn’t hit me like ‘At the Gates’ and ‘Armageddon Bound.’ My connection to this story wasn’t as strong.

Most readers will disagree, but I thought there was too much action. I was loving the interaction between Frank and Longinus—and then AMBUSH! Or, Frank is having great dialogue with an alien woman, learning more about the world, and DRAGON ATTACK! Frank is sniffing out clues and “IT’S A TRAP!” (Shamelessly, I quote Admiral Akbar, and that particular scene was very important to the plot.) Some readers will see the constant action as a good thing, especially younger readers who don’t appreciate well-written and long-winded dialogues. They will disagree with this critique the strongest.

Don’t read too far into what I’ve said. I expected a high energy action novel and Beyond the Veil is just that. There is a fight around every corner, and at the scene near the 80% mark–awesomely executed. I felt the action-to-story ratio was a little off for my personal tastes—that is the how and why of 4-stars.

All the same, Tim Marquitz has hooked me for one more future read. I hope this review is helpful to whoever found it. If you like a darker story, start with book one—it is still my favorite in the series. Know this journey is daring.