Rattlesnake Kisses by Robert Ford and John Boden
Apokrupha (July 2019)
216 pages; $12.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia
This, it appears, is the summer of Robert Ford and John Boden. Both have other releases stirring up notice in the weird/horror world—Ford with his novel (co-written with Matt Hayward) A Penny for Your Thoughts, and Boden’s recent release, the weird western Walk the Darkness Down. At this point, it should come as no surprise that the authors of The Compound (Ford) and Jedi Summer (Boden) continue to produce high-quality horror/weird fiction. Because of this, one would expect that a story co-written by them would offer double-barrels of emotionally gut-wrenching fiction featuring empathetic-but-doomed characters in weird situations. Rest assured, Rattlesnake Kisses fulfills that expectation, and then some.
Ever hear AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds”? Well, Dallas is the “back door man” of that song. He’s the guy you call when someone needs to be “taken care of.” As you would expect from a Robert Ford character, he’s the type of guy you expect to loathe, but really…deep down…you maybe not only like him, you not only feel for him, you kinda wish you were him. As always, Ford draws this small-town hit man with empathy. You wouldn’t think that in such a short amount of space, Ford would able to create a compelling backstory for such a character. But he does, and in a very precise way which dovetails nicely with the novella’s title.
The Kid is the teenage boy Dallas has taken under his wing. With high-functioning Asperger’s, The Kid boasts an encyclopedic knowledge of every kind of trivia known to man. That, and he’s desperate to make Dallas proud of him. Eager also to learn the business. So eager, in fact, when Dallas is out, and the Kid answers the phone and a client mistakes him for Dallas, he can’t resist the temptation to accept the job as Dallas, to show his mentor he can handle the big time. As a parent of a special needs child myself, The Kid hits lots of emotional chords, making him a big part of what elevates this book above simple crime/noir fare.
However, the noir vibe hums here, very strongly. To say much more about the plot would be a disservice. Suffice to say, miscommunication and just plain bad luck turns what should be a simple job into a nightmarish tangle of missteps of misfortune. In some ways, Rattlesnake Kisses is reminiscent of Tom Piccirilli’s crime novels. However, this story is all Boden and Ford, which means that, even though you may dread what comes next, you won’t be able to look away, right up until the very end.