The legendary Billy Lafitte lives in The Baddest Ass, Anthony Neil Smith’s third in a series following Yellow Medicine and Hogdoggin’, though just barely. He’s in protective custody in a new prison in North Dakota that isn’t even finished yet, with seemingly everybody in the joint looking to collect on the fat payday coming their way if they take him out. Though every other attempt has failed, Colleen Hartle, whose fiancee was killed by Billy (kinda/sorta/not really) in Hogdoggin’, is looking to make it happen for real, offering a conjugal visit and eighteen grand to big deal gang leader Ri’Chess in return for Billy’s head.
Also visiting at the same time as Colleen are Lafitte’s Jesus Freak ex-mother-in-law and his son Ham whom she has brought there to show him the cautionary tale that is his father. But Colleen’s hit takes off before she even makes it out of the building, with the power going off and a riot ramping up, leaving her and what’s left of Billy’s family trapped in a half-constructed prison in the middle of a brutal blizzard with a pack of corrupt guards and some of the most vicious thugs in the U.S. running around. Now Billy Lafitte must protect his family until the slow-as-hell cavalry arrives, and you know that shit ain’t gonna be a walk in the fucking park.
This is some gleefully intense stuff, dear reader, with Smith never flinching when this dark-as-hell story demands he go “full-dark,” as we like to say around these parts. At this point in his journey Lafitte is more myth than man and Smith reinforces this perception by never letting us in his head, giving us third-person limited-omniscient perspectives from every major character in the story outside of Lafitte. There’s even a lengthy prologue of sorts that takes up the first fifth of the novel that introduces us to Lafitte via a character who has just arrived on the block and is charged with taking a run at the man. It’s a bracing and off-beat way to start what eventually becomes more of a ticking clock-type thriller, an ingenious way in to this new world and Lafitte’s looming legend before the major action really kicks off.
Smith leaves it all out on the fucking floor with this beast, dear reader, but the Nerd would kill to take another ride through hell with Lafitte toot-fucking-sweet. He’s one of my favorite characters in modern crime and with these three novels Smith has given us a trilogy that approaches the originality and badassery of Charlie Huston’s Hank Thompson series (which, to those who aren’t hip Caught Stealing, Six Bad Things and A Dangerous Man, is about as rad as modern crime gets in the Nerd’s book). So pick up The Badassest Ass and read the type of brutal, exciting shit the Nerd started reviewing books for in the first place