Charlie Huston: The Shotgun Rule

When writing about Huston I have to resist the temptation of tired metaphors: electricity, velocity, whips, blisters. They’re especially inappropriate, because one of Huston’s tricks for avoiding noir clichés is to avoid metaphor and simile almost completely. Huston’s crafts terse, almost reportorial, prose enlivened by a practiced eye for the telling detail, and an ear for vivid (and often very salty) dialogue.

The other Huston novels I’ve read so far have all had first-person narrators. The Shotgun Rule is structurally much more ambitious; it uses a third-person voice that intermittently lets the reader inside the head of a kaleidoscopic array of characters. It’s set sometime around 1983 or ’84 and centers around four teen boys with an appetite for trouble. The trouble they get into winds up being shaped by lingering animosities from their parents’ generation in ways they can’t anticipate. One of the kids, Hector, reminded me of Jaime Hernandez’s “Locas” stories in Love and Rockets, but mostly The Shotgun Rule just reminds me of Charlie Huston: his characteristic breathless pace, intricate but mostly credible plotting, and unfllinching approach to physical and emotional harm befalling his characters are all on display. I generally think it’s an unpardonable sin to call a book “unputdownable,” but I literally did finish this book in almost a single sitting.

Two quibbles: Ozzy’s deceased guitar player spelled his name “Rhoads,” not like Fender Rhodes, and Face Dances was a crappy Who album, not a crappy Stones album (maybe Huston meant Tattoo You?) But these gaffes are forgiven, because, like Hector, I still remember the furious joy of dropping the needle on the first Suicidal Tendencies album for the first time, and Huston gets massive cool points for namechecking deep cut “Memories of Tomorrow,” instead of the more obvious (if still awesome) “Institutionalized.”

needs more demons? nuh-uh, nohow.

Published by therealsummervillain

likes: equality, making things easier to use, biking, jangle, distortion, monogamy dislikes: bigotry, policies that jeopardize people, lack of transparency

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