Last time I set out to help someone things didn’t go too well. – Ray Ward
Ray’s luck isn’t faring much better in Borrowed Trouble, authors J.B. Kohl and Eric Beetner’s sequel to One Too Many Blows To The Head. Still mourning his brother’s death and the resulting carnage that followed, Ray is disarmed when he receives a package from California in the mail from his sister containing a reel of 8mm film and a plea for help.
The film depicts a brutal sexual assault, and as disturbing as that is, what makes the package truly disturbing to Ray is that to his knowledge he doesn’t have a sister. The letter contains enough details, however, to convince him that it’s legit. Determined not to lose another sibling, Ray resolves to do everything he can to help her.
Being as he’s a second-tier boxing manager in Kansas City, Ray’s not entirely sure how to go about things and so turns to his former nemesis – and now former police officer – Dean Fokoli, who’s working as a private investigator. Making it clear that he’ll be coming along, Ray hires Fokoli to go to Hollywood and track down his sister. Little could they have imagined that the film Ray was sent was only the tip of the iceberg, and that the bright lights of Hollywood only serve to cast even darker shadows.
When Ray and Fokoli hit town they discover that blockbusters aren’t the only films being made in Hollywood. As if the violent porn wasn’t bad enough, it turns out the people making those films have started producing actual snuff films as well. Now Ray and Fokoli are in a race not just to find Ray’s sister, but to save her life.
As with One Too many…, the story in Borrowed Trouble unfolds in chapters that alternate between the first person narratives of Ray and Fokoli. And while each narrative has a slightly different feel, which is fitting given the individual quirks and baggage of each man, the narratives nevertheless fit together seamlessly to bring the overall story arc to fruition. Set in 1941, authors Kohl and Beetner do a masterful job bringing that era to life. From the clothes to the cars to the lingo, the story virtually leaps of the page with vivid details. And this being a noir tale, some of those details are quite dark and disturbing.
The sex and violence in Borrowed Trouble are depicted in graphic, pull no punches fashion, yet it’s done in such a way that is absolutely integral to the story and in no way gratuitous. The utter depravity that Ray and Fokoli are facing must be crystal clear in order to put into perspective the occasionally morally questionable choices they make themselves over the course of the story. But exactly how far will they be willing to go? And what happens when one man is determined to take things further than the other is comfortable with? Help yourself to some Borrowed Trouble and find out.