County of Offenses
Robbery, Incest, Grand Theft Auto, Bank Robbery, Assault, Possession of an Illegal Substance, Possession of an Illegal Firearm, Eating Mexican Food in Illinois (OK, that’s not a crime but it sounds like it should be—someone change my mind)
Known Gang Affiliations
Date of Offense
This week we’re reviewing our first novella—part of the Guns + Tacos project from Down & Out Books. Guns + Tacos is a crime serial created and edited by Michael Bracken and Trey R. Barker. The series is composed of six separate crime novellas—one released each month. Each of the novellas is written by a different crime writer, and features a sketchy taco truck in Chicago whereby you can get not just heartburn but also a stolen handgun. Down & Out Books is releasing a story each month, starting last month.
Tacos de Cazuela con Smith & Wesson by Gary Phillips
Three Brisket Tacos and a Sig Sauer by Michael Bracken
A Gyro and a Glock by Frank Zafiro
Three Chalupas, Rice, Soda and a Kimber .45 by Trey R. Barker
Some Churros and El Burro by William Dylan Powell
A Beretta, Burritos and Bears by James A. Hearn
Just to be completely transparent, I also chucked in a novella for this series; but this review isn’t about my story. This review is about the second in the series, Three Brisket Tacos and a Sig Sauer by Michael Bracken.
In Bracken’s story, Joseph “Joey D” Garrett has just been released from Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois. He’d been busted during a robbery gone bad in which his aunt, Sylvia, was his partner in crime. His aunt has actually been his partner in lots of other things. Like, you know, making the sex too. Ew. I know, right?
But in Joey D’s defense, Aunt Sylvia is a young woman—his father’s step-sister from his grandfather’s second and “much younger” wife. She’s taught him all kinds of things over the years, for better or worse. Now that Joey’s back in the world, the two are back together. And Aunt Sylvia’s planning the ultimate heist that will set them up for life: robbing four banks in one day.
Of course, easy money can be pretty tough when it comes to the actual execution of the plan. And, in the meantime, life on the outside of Statesville is more complicated than you’d think. Especially when you add both a workplace bully and Gloria, a sweet young neighbor at Aunt Sylvia’s apartment complex, into the mix.
This story reminds me a little bit of Dave Zeltserman’s men-out-of-prison trilogy. You’re invested in this guy. And, sure, he’s made some mistakes. But now he has a fresh start and you want it to work out for him. A fresh start means hope.
Of course, in the world of noir fiction hope is like a Fiat—sure, it’s fun and a novel distraction, but you just know it’s going to break down when you really need it. Joey D, however, is determined to make it, and not afraid to do what it takes to keep Aunt Sylvia happy. After all, she’s family. Right?
I’ve reviewed Michael Bracken’s work before, back when he had a piece in the Best American Mystery Stories 2018. This guy is a machine. He’s written more than 1,300 short stories and numerous other works—and is the winner of not only two Derringer Awards but also the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement in short mystery fiction.
I love crime serials, and I’m really digging the serialized novella-by-subscription format Down & Out Books is offering. They did the same thing with a A Grifter’s Song last year, and have a number of other great novellas for sale at their website including Dark Duet: Two Noir Novellas by Eric Beetner and Three Strikes: 3 Authors, 3 Novellas by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara and Charles Salzberg.
You can subscribe to the Guns + Tacos series, and read Three Brisket Tacos and a Sig Sauer by Michael Bracken—as well as last month’s story, Tacos de Cazuela con Smith & Wesson by Gary Phillips. Though you can buy each story independently, subscribers get to read episodes earlier than the unwashed masses out in the world.
So subscribe. Do it. Do it now! HANDS IN THE AIR I’M NOT FUCKING AROUND HERE! DO IT! Sorry. Got carried away with the whole bank heist theme. Happy reading.
Verdict: Guilty of delivering a taut, tense crime story that wreaks of gunpowder, Marlboros, sex and regret. And, of course, tacos.
Reminder: Don't be found in contempt. If you read this book, be a responsible reader and leave a review. It means a lot to these authors.