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Still Reading “Hell to Pay”


Hell to Pay Matthew HughesI’ve really been trying to get through this book. It hasn’t been easy, and to be honest, Matthew Hughes, the author of “Hell to Pay”, really hasn’t been doing his readers any favors.

I accidentally selected the ebook edition on Goodreads when I started the third and thankfully final book in the “To Hell and Back” series, so Goodreads mistakenly thought that when I updated my progress to page 196, I was done with the book. I wish I was. I wish I still didn’t have to read another 140-something pages to close this series out.

Why couldn’t Goodreads be right?

Why am I reading about a dinosaur chasing Chesney, our hero, in slow motion? Or he’s super fast, so the dinosaur and everyone else just seems to be moving in slow motion.  But don’t worry, in case you forget that fact, the author will remind you every third paragraph. Why am I reading about how Chesney accidentally broke his girlfriend’s ribs carrying her away from the dinosaur super fast. That’s not really important though, because a half-rate Christ figure who was written out of existence when God rewrote parts of the Bible healed her.  His name is Simon, but that doesn’t matter since he’s been a more or less empty barrel of a character.  It isn’t that you don’t like him, its that you don’t care one way or the other if he’s there. Also Chesney’s girlfriend is breaking up with him. While in the tree.  Where they’re hiding from the dinosaur. Also there’s dinosaur people. Simon will probably become their king after they try to sacrifice Chesney and Melda to their dinosaur gods.  Or something.  I don’t know.  More importantly, I don’t care.

So far, I can’t actually nail down what the plot is or where and to what end we’re supposed to be moving towards. The writing had been repetitive, with certain ideas being repeated over and over again without actually moving the story forward. The book feels like a 331 page run-on sentence constantly circling back to a previous idea because the author forgot he’d mentioned that already.

I enjoyed the first book in the series, “The Damned Busters”, even while I didn’t.  But that feeling of just good enough, that optimism that what the book had going for it would make up for its faults, is wearing off, and I’m not sure there’s enough left to get me through those last hundred pages.

The Damned Busters Matthew Hughes

Costume Not Included Matthew Hughes



To Be Read | Sam Shepard’s ‘Spy of the First Person’

Reading the description for Sam Shepard’s posthumous short novel, “Spy of the First Person”, I’m immediately reminded of Paul Harding’s ‘Tinkers’, and C.S. Richardson’s ‘The End of the Alphabet’. Both novels feature main characters faced with their impending death, and forced to search their pasts and consider their limited futures for meaning and validation. Each goes about it in completely different yet equally beautiful ways and if you’ve read and enjoyed Shepard’s final book, I’d recommend checking both of those novels out.

How do you share the experience of dying? Of slowly losing control, not simply of your life, but of your body itself, and carry on knowing the end is bearing down on you? How does that change a person?


From the Publisher:

“The final work from the Pulitzer Prize–winning writer, actor, and musician, drawn from his transformative last days

In searing, beautiful prose, Sam Shepard’s extraordinary narrative leaps off the page with its immediacy and power. It tells in a brilliant braid of voices the story of an unnamed narrator who traces, before our rapt eyes, his memories of work, adventure, and travel as he undergoes medical tests and treatments for a condition that is rendering him more and more dependent on the loved ones who are caring for him. The narrator’s memories and preoccupations often echo those of our current moment—for here are stories of immigration and community, inclusion and exclusion, suspicion and trust. But at the book’s core, and his, is family—his relationships with those he loved, and with the natural world around him. Vivid, haunting, and deeply moving, Spy of the First Person takes us from the sculpted gardens of a renowned clinic in Arizona to the blue waters surrounding Alcatraz, from a New Mexico border town to a condemned building on New York City’s Avenue C. It is an unflinching expression of the vulnerabilities that make us human—and an unbound celebration of family and life.”

The Obama Inheritance

The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir by Gary PhillipsI heard about this crazy book at the tail end of an episode of NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ and I almost missed out on it, since I thought it was going to be all ads loaded up at the end of the podcast.

The bulk of the episode featured journalist Anne Applebaum; a conversation about her new book “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine” on Stalin’s forced collectivization and the resulting famine in Ukraine that killed millions and was intended to break the spirit of Ukrainian nationalism while strengthening the USSR.  Throughout this period Stalin killed, by some estimates, more people then the Holocaust, and it was largely ignored or hidden from the rest of the world, and effectively erased from history until the fall of the Soviet Union.

Once I finish “Red Famine”, I’ll probably have to pick up “The Obama Inheritance”, a collection of fifteen short stories that cover a variety of insane topics.  The story goes that each author was told to dive into the astounding number of and astoundingly stupid conspiracy theories centering around President Obama and his administration, and pick out their favorite one to go to town on.

I wish ‘Fresh Air’ had spent more time on this book what with the time traveling secret agents, Supreme Court judges who can clone themselves, kung fu androids out for justice, a race of ancient lizard people, and humans coexisting with dinosaurs.  This collection sounds bizarre, quirky, fantastic, outlandish and all the more ridiculous because there are probably more than a few Trump supporters and Fox News fans that will cite these stories as verifiable historical accounts.

I hope these end up attaining a Philip K. Dick meets Ishmael Reed rolled up with some Buckaroo Bonzai levels of entertainment.  In short, these stories sound pretty awesome and from just the few minutes ‘Fresh Air’ was able to spend teasing the collection.

Plus it’s short stories, and we all know that’s about I can handle right now. And I mean… lizard men.

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