Goddamn does Roger Smith know how to get the blood pumping, dear reader. With just two books available in the US so far, his debut Mixed Blood and his equally nasty follow-up Wake Up Dead, dude has earned (or been cursed with, I suppose) a ferociously devoted fan in the Nerd. I mean, I wish I could read a fucked-up tale set on the Cape Flats of South Africa every month – fuck this once a year business. But until Roger Smith has a team of writers pumping shit out for him like a Patterson or a Clancy, the Nerd’ll just have to suck it up and fucking deal with it.
Mixed Blood opens with Jack Burn, an American hiding out in Cape Town after a Milwaukee bank heist he was involved in left a cop dead, killing two methed-out home invaders in front of his family and you better believe shit only gets more harrowing from there. Unable to go to the police due to his, you know, international fugitive status, he disposes the bodies out past Cape Flats, figuring nobody will miss two mixed-race ghetto gangsters. Unluckily for Burn, insanely corrupt cop Gatsby, a Boer relic of the apartheid era, does take note of their deaths and, after some off-the-clock investigating, quickly discovers Burn’s true identity. Not long after that, Burn quickly discovers that Gatsby’s the last guy in the world you want holding shit over your head.
It should be noted, dear reader, that the Nerd is struggling with how much to actually divulge about the plot of Mixed Blood. The summary above actually leaves out two major characters in the story and barely scratches the surface of the horrifying places you’ll go in the novel, hardly gives you a glimpse of the agonizing suspense and disgusting violence to be found within its pages. But naturally, the wild-ass turns and sick connections made in this noir-soaked beast are half the fun, with Smith’s talent for out-of-the-frying-pan-and-into-the-fire tension and escalation (not to mention, you know, massive fucking pay-offs) rivaling that of another “Smith,” one of the “Anthony Neil” variety.
But for all its cattle-prod-to-the-sphincter intensity, Mixed Blood is also informative and witty, as Homer Simpson once said of Ted Koppel. The chance to safely explore the hellhole that is Paradise Park, the sad ghetto to the rich tourist mecca of Cape Town, is a rare one in fiction indeed. Smith evokes the Cape Flats as a place that makes David Simon’s Baltimore or George Pelecanos’ D.C. look about as scary as the ballpit in a fucking McPlay Place. (Actually, those ballpits are pretty horrifying now that I think about it, what with their sneaky pockets of toddler pee and/or poop.) That said, don’t mistake Mixed Blood for some preachy social reaslist tome because this is some often blackly comic shit to be sure.
So the Roger Smith bandwagon has arrived and you, the discerning -yet-devious reader, are gonna want to hop on that motherfucker toot-sweet, ticket in hand or no. I mean, it’s bad enough that it took the Nerd, a self-proclaimed noir tastemaker, so long to jump on said dubious mode of transportation for christ’s sakes. But you can learn from my mistakes – human beings are capable of betterment! Kick all the other shit off your TBR pile and shove some Mixed Blood into your eyes right now!