I’ve seen many horror authors transition into crime with varying degrees of success. In a way, their move makes sense; both genres can be dark, scary, and gory. However, author Steve Lowe was coming from a very different place. Lowe is one of the funniest, most unique voices in bizarro fiction. The author of novels like You Are Sloth!, King of the Perverts, and Samurai vs. Robo-Dick, Lowe is a smart writer with a knack for hilarity-infused weirdness. That makes him an outstanding purveyor of wild, entertaining tales, but none of it sounds like he could give crime a shot and pull it off with flying colors. Surprisingly, with The Fix, released as part of the last batch of Broken River Books goodness, Lowe does exactly that, and spills a lot of blood in the process.
Buster Grant is an up-and-coming fighter with a ridiculously powerful right hand. Everyone knows he has the talent to make it big. Unfortunately, Buster also has a heroin addiction that has kept his potential at bay. One night Buster fights Ronnie Piccolo, a guy with more rep than skills. He’s supposed to throw the fight in the fourth round, but he can’t bring himself to go along with the fix. The money is calling to him and anger makes him ignore the repercussions. He cracks Piccolo with a right and the man goes down for the count. The win puts a notch on the W column and some really bad guys on Buster’s tail.
Buster’s story is about to mirror that of Jimmy “Two Tickets To” Paradise. Jimmy also had a promising career ahead of him, but dreams of the big time where cut short in a very painful way when his best friend Sully tried the same scam on the very same bookie. It cost Jimmy the use of his right hand. Now he’s working in a machine shop and trying to save enough money so his pregnant girlfriend can quit her shitty waitressing gig. Things are tough but moving forward, until Sully shows up on his doorstep, dying of ALS, begging to make amends, and asking for a ride. Jimmy knows no good will come of it, but he always had a soft spot for Sully and agrees to take him to Chicago to see his dying mother. The story, as with everything that comes out of Sully’s mouth, is a lie, and the duo end up in a dark alley in a bad part town trying to collect some money Sully things will square things between him and Jimmy. Sadly, they aren’t the only ones with their sights on the cash. In a short encounter full of blood, Jimmy, Sully, Buster, and every bad guy who knows the bag full of money exists will clash in a very violent mix of death, vengeance, greed, and something akin to closure.
Readers may know Lowe as a funny man, but Lowe knows two unfunny things very well: sports and violence. The first one is obvious because his career as a sports journalist informs this novel and the sweet science is treated with appreciation and respect. The violence, on the other hand, is what pushes The Fix into must-read territory. While many authors would pussyfoot around the ultraviolet scenes, Lowe tackles them with an almost palpable relish. In fact, I think he crosses the line that’s supposed to divide crime and horror. I love both genres, so I can’t say enough good things about this. With incredible nonchalance and the same quick-paced prose that he uses throughout the narrative, the author delivers truly vicious/brutal/gory scenes that will make many readers cringe. In a world too full of bland noir, Lowe’s unflinching brutality is a very good thing.
The best noir is about bad people going through bad circumstances, and Lowe knows this. The man has studied the genre and knows how to make it exciting without trying to reinvent the wheel. The Fix is about lowlifes who think they can get a big payday and cross the wrong guys. They end up paying for it, and so does everyone around them. Most of Lowe’s work has been hilarious up until now, but this novel is the literary equivalent of a psycho in clown makeup walking into a school with a shotgun and wasting a dozen kids before pulling a Kurt Cobain.
The Fix is yet another outstanding release by Broken River Books. It’s short, wonderfully gritty, fast, and hard. It’s also packed with sharp dialogue and populated by believable characters. Lowe is proof that writing chops are writing chops regardless of genre.