Texas Two Step by Michael Pool

County of Offense

Teller (Fictional), Moore (Dumas, Acquitted), Alleged Out of State Violations in Colorado

Character Charges

Possession with intent to distribute, drug trafficking, Paying $13 for a Manhattan, reckless communication


Debt Crusher (Novella) 
Midnight at the San Franciscan
New Alleys for Nothing Men: Noir Short Stories  

Known Gang Affiliations

Down & Out Books
All Due Respect

Date of Offense

April 2018

Reviewing Officer

William Dylan Powell
Growmasters Cooper and Davis are Texas expats living in Colorado. They've had a damn good run-making fat bank growing off-the-grid premium marijuana, following their favorite jam bands and living in the fast lane. The thing about the fast lane, though: there's always someone faster. 

All signs are pointing toward them getting out of the game, quitting while they're ahead. They've had close calls in the past. But the bills are piling up and they've got one more score to make that could set everyone up to go straight in style (or at least in solvency). When Cooper's girlfriend tells him she's pregnant, and threatens to leave if he doesn't clean up his act, it drives Coop and Davis to run their last big load down to the fictional county of Teller, Texas. Back behind the pine curtain, their old buddy Elroy "Sancho" Watts has a buyer for them. It should be easy money. Of course, when it comes to noir, the only thing that comes easy is the bleeding.  

This quest for "one last score" sets Cooper and Davis on a collision course with not just their old friend but also an ex-UT quarterback now known as Bobby Burnout, the Texas Rangers, the local police, a couple of red dirt party gals, a 'roided-out MMA enthusiast, a Travis County Sheriff's detective, the local police, a senator out for revenge and the looming realization that we all have to grow up sometime. 

Like all good stories, the book is really about relationships; how people feel about others and how they feel about themselves. The characters are well motivated; everybody wants something. Davis wants to help his buddy Cooper, who wants to sell their crop ASAP and make a fresh start with Josie--who wants a better life for her baby. Sancho wants to have a good time. Bobby Burnout wants to go back to his good old days of UT football glory and Bobby's Uncle Troy wants to rip off Davis and Cooper and, preferably, rear-naked-choke a motherfucker in the process. 

Pool is a good storyteller. You can tell he's earned his chops, and not just writing fiction but specifically writing noir. His characters are broken, likable and hate-able but always believable. The story is fast paced; he sets it up, sends you on your way and keeps you wanting more. But much like a Houston Oilers game, you know somebody's bound to lose. To me it felt sort of like a mixture of Joe Lansdale, Ben Rehder and Hank III song. 

And Pool's Texas game is strong. Teller feels a lot like Tyler or Nacogdoches (I went to Tyler Lee myself--no, I didn't get teed). Cooper's talk of not wanting a job running wireline, as well as the usual Texana from Whataburger and tacos to the ubiquitous A&M vs UT rivalry, was all on point. He even does a bit of God's work outing garbage pop country from Nashville. 
I'm not the kind of reviewer to give spoilers, but as the story progresses things come to a head with an F5 tornado of cocaine, sex, betrayal, deception, gunfire, handcuffs, throwing up, covering up and manning up. 
If you don't think Pool is a .50 cal player on the Texas noir scene after reading Texas Two Step, you're two tacos short of the combo platter. A Tyler native who grew up in Colorado and spent time in the Northwest, Pool was the perfect guy to write this book. You may know his name from his previous work, or from Crime Syndicate Magazine, which Pool founded, and for which he now serves as Editor-in-Chief. (Be sure to pick up a copy of Fast Women and Neon Lights: '80s Inspired Neon Noir). And apparently Texas Two Step is the first in a series, so no need to hoard your stash--there's more to come. 

Verdict: Guilty of bad-assery

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