Slow Bear by Anthony Neil Smith
I’m having one of those lazy days when I just want someone else to tear down the walls for me, set the world on fire – on the page that is, so I can feel like a rebel from the comfort of my armchair. So I step into the dark and dangerous world of Slow Bear. He seems like a nice guy, minds his business, drinks his drinks, all the time wondering what it would be like to party with Kylie, the Lady Barmaid, but that’s for later. Right now as we meet him at the Rez casino bar and he looks pretty calm. Things are about change, spiral out of control hardly covers it, twenty four hours from now Slow Bear won’t know which way is up, and that’s before the serious fun starts. A whole mess of mayhem and violence is just around the corner in this deeply cynical, blackly comic, modern noir. Clearly Anthony Neil Smith isnt paid by the word, he’s scrupulously mean with them, not a one out of place – this is taut and lean, as it should be. This is a sprint not a marathon but a lot will happens in a few short strides and all of it is going to be noisy and brutal and raw. Slow Bear isn’t about to pick a fight but he intends to finish what others have started. He could use a friend but I wouldn’t trust one of these guys with your pocket money let alone my life!
Dumb luck – the one time Micah ‘Slow Bear’ Cross tried to be a good cop he got his arm blown off by an angry vet who brought his war home with him. That was a year ago, now he lives off his disability, his meagre pension and a small settlement from the assailant’s gun company. Every day he’s to be found in the casino dispensing advise for chips. Jim chucks two $20 chips in front of him and asks him to find out if his wife is cheating on him. Hell, everyone knows Greta is giving it away to Vlad, the pit manager, even Jim knows. So Slow Bear gives him the advice he’s really looking for, something useful – forget about revenge. That way it pans out with Vlad dead, Jim in gaol and Greta free to shag some other guy/s. Shame faced and beaten down Jim crawls away, maybe he heard, maybe he listened. When Slow Bear gets to thinking about it, he remembers he doesn’t like Jim much so he gives Vlad a call, a word of warning, just in case Jim suddenly gets emboldened. Then Slow Bear forgets about it.
That night back at his trailer he’s contemplating the stars, I don’t think the meaning of life is on his mind but his reverie is cut short anyway by the noise of a car approaching. Vlad stumbles out of his vehicle all excited and shouting something about not meaning to do it. Do what? It’s only on the way back to town that Vlad admits what he’s done that he didn’t mean to do – he killed Greta, Jim too, but Greta’s the thing. Slow Bear is angry as he takes in the scene of carnage at their house. No way this was self defence, no way it can be made to look like self defence; three in Jim’s head, more in Greta’s body. She was getting off on playing the two guys against each other that must have hurt vlad, that or the blow job she was giving Jim when he burst in on them earlier in the night. Slow Bear says he can’t help, Vlad needs to call the cops, confess and plead temporary insanity or something. Vlad doesn’t see it that way, he turns on Slow Bear, he’s gonna tell the cops it was all his idea unless he helps. So now Slow Bear has to come up with a plan to save his own ass. As a former Rez cop he knows they aren’t going to investigate too hard as long as there are no loose ends so he puts Vlad through a scenario.
Next day Trevor Cross, chief (of police), catches up with Slow Bear. Trevor is smart, he’s figured out what Slow Bear done and there’s a price for that. A little job Slow Bear can do for The Hat, (The Chief/Chairman), tribal leader and oil tycoon. The Exile is back, The Hat thinks Santana still has his finger in the oil company pie and he wants him gone – permanently. There’s too much at stake to have Santana rocking the boat. Slow Bear is about to suggest he wouldn’t know how to help when Trevor snacks him on the skull with a bottle as a prelude to a classic demonstration of police brutality. Slow Bear is now, like Santana, an exile, persona non grata, trailer and car impounded, cards blocked – he’s going undercover, like it or not. Now he has plenty in common with Santana, might as well get used to the idea of helping The Hat. Turns out Santana has some nasty side-lines, when Slow Bear finds that out it all gets very personal, he wants to take him down big time. Let the PAIN begin.
Slow Bear has more arms than scruples – one. He’s a tough cookie who makes enemies easily. This is a novella bursting at the seams with attitude, gruesomeness and thrills. More of this I could stomach, heads down no nonsense, mindless noir – let the chips fall where they may.
Farhenheit Thirteen, Farhenheit Press, paperback, 9781912526673, available now.

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