Saturday, November 24, 2018

Book Reviews: Hell on Church Street

Hell on Church Street
by Jake Hinkson
This is a short book that is under 200 pages. It was good to read this book during the shortened holiday week, not because it has anything to do with kindness to your fellow man or woman, but because it moved fast and didn't take up a lot of my time. Since I didn't have a lot of time to spare this was a perfect fit. It was an unexpected bonus that the story was so good. This was another example of how writers can use the same themes and tropes to very satisfying and even surprising ends. As befits the book I think that this review should be pretty short. 

Somewhere in Oklahoma a vicious unnamed man from Mississippi is on the run. It's only been three weeks since the man, upset when his foreman jokingly questioned his work ethic, demonstrated that he had a very low tolerance for insults, even in jest. He beat his foreman half to death and maybe to death. He didn't stick around to find out. The reader learns that this is not the first time the man has been on the run. He's no stranger to violence, jails, or prison. But the man isn't worried about the distant future. He just needs to get a car. He needs money. He needs food. 

The man wants to avoid robbing or hurting a woman, not from morality or gallantry but just because cops respond more quickly and more viciously if a woman is endangered. The man thinks it's the same deal with old people or anyone with kids. But the man is happy when he sees a fat middle aged man coming out of the gas station. The fat man looks like a loser. In no short time the man has carjacked the fat man and threatens to shoot him. But the fat man, whose name is Geoffrey Webb, is unafraid of death. No, Webb doesn't care if he lives or dies. But he would like to tell his abductor a story as he drives him out of state.

Years ago, Webb wasn't so fat. What he was was a friendless child of a broken marriage.

"To begin at the beginning: I had an abusive father--I know, my kind always does but we're a regenerating lot of bastards. Sin begets sin...As for my mother what can I say about her except that she was the type of woman who would marry my father. They divorced when I was thirteen. I stayed with her of course, which thrilled her not one little bit, but she did enjoy suing him for child support."

Over time Webb moves in with other relatives and discovers that he has a knack for religion. He's not religious at all. He just thinks that religion is an excellent way to convince people to give him the adulation and money he believes that he deserves. Straight out of college, Webb takes a job as a youth pastor at a Little Rock, Arkansas Baptist Church. He makes a good impression on the minister. Problem is that the minister's daughter makes an impression on Webb. That would be the minister's sixteen or seventeen year old underage daughter, Angela. Angela is portly and unattractive but that matters not one bit to Webb, who's eager to use all of his manipulative skills to rid himself of his own virginity. Webb finds that it's easy to seduce Angela, who is sadly all too well aware of her lack of pulchritude.

However, Webb's not as talented a conman as he thinks. As the saying goes you don't see everyone who sees you. The local sheriff, Doolittle Norris has put two and two together. He has a simple little job for Webb, one that Webb can't really say no to doing. Because not only is Doolittle Norris the law, he's also part of an interlocked meth/heroin dealing criminal family that has branch offices throughout the South. You cross one Norris, you cross them all. And that's usually a death warrant. Frightened and cornered, Webb agrees to the job. But obviously things don't go as planned.

Her pinched face was powdered white, and a thick gob of lipstick sat on her tiny toothless mouth like a drop of blood on a corpse. When the young man stopped, the old woman rose slowly from the chair. A long, snowy ponytail hung over her yellow flower print dress, and she brushed it back.. She looked at me."Goodbye," she said. "Goodbye mister dead man."

I liked this story because like a lot of old classic radio shows it showed how minor details can trip people up. And once you decide to sin little sins lead to bigger and bigger ones. You can never get right. This is a nice little noir thriller. I don't think the reader will identify with Webb but the story is still an exciting ride. If you are at all into this genre you should read the book.
blog comments powered by Disqus