Matthew F. Jones’ Boot Tracks is not your typical crime fiction read. The descriptions are often complex and otherworldly, the sentence structure is sometimes off-putting, the pace occasionally glacial. Nothing is ever spelled out for you and there’s no way to zip through the book in a sitting – though its page count is around two-hundred you’ll invest the same amount of time you would a four-hundred page book. This is very much a book on the more literary end of the genre spectrum, to be sure, but if you stick with it and get into its rhythms, Boot Tracks will undoubtedly fucking floor you by its bloody, horrifying end.
The story follows Charlie Rankin, just released from prison, as he prepares to murder a man for money. He owes the hit to “The Buddha,” his prison lover and protector during his four year stint inside. During his laboriously detailed journey he meets a porn actress with a heart of gold who falls for him and flashes back to his truly fucked up childhood. By the time he commits the act we don’t know what to believe has actually transpired as Rankin is revealed to be more than a little crazy.
Though I clearly keep harping on the slow pace of Boot Tracks, the detailing of every little step of Rankin’s progress toward his destination both brings you into his head in ways you didn’t think possible and also creates some truly agonizing suspense. Jones’ descriptions are often nightmarish, every street corner filled with freaks and sad sacks, every doughnut shop just one shade of despair shy of hell. When Jones lets some hope leak out, the reader scrambles to suck at the drops like its water in a desert.
And the pay-off of Boot Tracks is ridiculously satisfying. Endings are practically always somewhat unsatisfying in fiction (even my favorite book ever, Lolita, has third act problems), but Jones has given us one of the greats. If you’re not emotionally shaken by the way this book wraps shit up, you’re an even more jaded sonofabitch than the Nerd, dear reader, and you should seek some help toot-sweet.