The basic plot summary of A Swollen Red Sun, Matthew McBride’s follow-up to Frank Sinatra in a Blender, sounds promising enough. It purports to be the story of Gasconade County, Missouri Sheriff Deputy Dale Banks, decent cop and family man, deciding to rip off a redneck meth cook for over fifty grand in cash and then being up to his neck in shit for that decision. While that sounds like a good enough novel, it is decidedly not really what A Swollen Red Sun is about.
This is not some tight, out-of-the-frying-pan-and-into-the-fire white-knuckler about dead-eyed backwoods mobsters going after a cop and his family over a bag of cash (though, you know, it *kinda* is). Instead it is a loose, ambitious, violent, and evocative crime novel along the lines of something by Daniel Woodrell, another Missouri boy with some chops as well. The novel lets us into the minds of local losers, meth-crazed murderers, and decent folks in a tight spot alike, the book taking the time to really set up this fascinating world before tipping its hand and finally showing us how all these people are connected.
But this is not to say that the book is somehow slow in any way, seeing how all these characters have equally enough compelling shit going on with them to hold your interest. There’s an old widower looking for a reason to keep on going, a meth addict finding excuses not to kick, a hustler afraid of retribution from the insane cook he owes money to- and a helluva lot more. A Swollen Red Sun is another fine entry into the rich modern sub-genre of rural noir and a mature leap forward for a writer whose debut was pretty insanely rad to begin with.