David James Keaton is almost like the Quinton Tarantino of Dark/Madcap/Noir-crimey fiction. But a little less of a pompous asshole. He crams more dialogue and cultural reference--pop and other--into a book than anyone. A lot of the time his books threaten to buckle under the weight of their own ridiculous bravado but the keep trucking and make it to the finish with a smug satisfaction.
With Pig Iron, Keaton treats us to a Western. From the title play on the Marty Robbins classic "Big Iron" to the tumbleweed blowin' winds. But rest assured, this ain't your pappy's Zane Grey material here, No Siree. This is a dusty wasteland full of grungy egg suckers and violent sociopaths, living dead horses and vampiric outlaws. It's a place where water is worth more than gold and guns are not all they're cracked up to be. It does have some of the age old templates of the western trope, there's long lost love and revenge. There's brawlin' and shootin' and spittin'. But make no mistake, this is a book by David James Keaton. This means when you start to settle in and get a bit comfortable, you're apt to get spurred.
The writing style might catch some off guard, Keaton writes fairly lean but throws a lot at you. He likes to hurl fistfuls of stuff at the wall and see what sticks. That is how his style has always struck me, with Pig Iron he seems a little more toned down. Not quite as jumpy but still manages to hold on to that uniquely cinematic style that has become a sweaty calling card.
With his collection Stealing Propeller Hats From The Dead , Keaton assembles a greatest hits record of stories that feature the undead, gleaned from various places. "Greenhorns" is an icy tale of deep sea fishing and treachery, while "...and I'll Scratch Yours" tells the bizarre tale of the utilization of undead body parts in helpful ways. "Do The Munster Mash" is a lovely tale of summer and the boardwalk with undead canines and fraudulent behavior. "What's Worst?" is a dead baby joke turned short story and Zee Bee & Bee is an updated version of his account of the genius-yet-ill-fated zombie themed bed and breakfast.
"Three Days Without Water (Or The Day Road kill, Drunk Driving and the Electric Chair Were Invented" is the story that would eventually blossom and mutate into the novel Pig Iron. And as a bonus, we're given "Send More Paramedics: The Zombie Movie Drinking Game."
I can say in all honesty that there is no one who writes quite like David James Keaton, take that as a good or bad thing. His style and subject matter can be divisive and most likely a love it-or-hate it sort of thing. I happen to love it.
Stealing Propeller Hats From The Dead is available from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, While Pig Iron was available from Burnt Bridge Books. I am not certain of the status of this books availability but if you like wild fiction and weird westerns, it is totally worth your effort to track down.
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