I first came across David James Keaton’s writing via the short “Mosquito Bites,” which was included in the outstanding Pulp Modern (Alec Cizak, Editor). The story is told from the perspective of a recently paroled con whose determination to stay straight is immediately derailed by a betrayal, and includes a passage so descriptively disgusting – and I mean that in a good way – that it still makes me shudder when I think about it.
I immediately began seeking out other work by him, not too difficult considering he has appeared in over 50 publications, including Noir at the Bar, Chicago Quarterly Review, Thuglit, Beat To A Pulp, Needle and Grift. Still, I wanted more, and so was very happy for both Keaton and myself when he announced awhile back that he had been signed and would be releasing a collection of his works under the title Fish Bites Cop! Stories To Bash Authorities (Comet Press).
As the title implies, the collection of 30 stories, which includes the aforementioned “Mosquito Bites,” all revolve in some way, shape or form around people in positions of authority, specifically police officers, firefighters and paramedics. Unlike the heroic light in which those first responders are often cast, however, Keaton’s stories all explore a decidedly darker aspect of those in uniform, taking an unflinching look into the shadows at the occasionally less than honorable motives some men have for seeking positions of power and authority.
Of course, the other characters populating the stories aren’t exactly upstanding, mentally stable individuals themselves, the result of which is a collection of train wrecks waiting to happen as seriously flawed antiheroes hurtle headlong through their screwed up lives on collision courses with even more flawed villains, often leaving the reader wondering exactly whom the real criminal was. The stories range from short bursts of just a couple pages to a few that have some significant heft to them, and vary in tone from borderline horror to surreal to unapologetically pulpy.
Over the course of the collection, Keaton deftly demonstrates that he’s at home writing the intense as he is the irreverent (also check out his novella Zee Bee & Bee (a.k.a. Propeller Hats for the Dead) for a serious shot of the irreverent), as the tone easily drifts from tongue-in-cheek humor to in your face brutal, with a solid backbone of intelligence and incisiveness running throughout it all. Packed with dark humor and even darker violence, Fish Bites Cop! Stories To Bash Authorities is not a collection for the timid.
It is, however, a powerful showcase of writing, one which should prove the awards Keaton has garnered thus far (Spinetingler Award for Best Short Story on the Web, storySouth Million Writer’s Notable Story Award, Chuck Kinder Feared Fictioneer Award) have been no fluke, and which should solidly establish Keaton as a “must read” author.
Fish Bites Cop! is available at Amazon.