Calvin McGraw has seen and done a lot in his 86 years, a great bit of it illegal. Let’s get one thing clear up front though: Calvin McGraw is no criminal—he’s an outlaw. It’s a distinction that makes all the difference in the world to the McGraw family, who have been the go-to drivers for the Stanley clan’s off-the-books enterprise for almost a century.
Now though, there’s trouble in outlaw paradise, in more ways than one. For starters, the McGraw-Stanley connection already looked to be coming to an end. Though Calvin had successfully passed the shifter to his son, Webb, Calvin’s grandson, Tucker, decided to break the chain, opting instead to go into the insurance business. It was a move Calvin and Webb found both disappointing and embarrassing, but in the end they could live with it.
A bigger problem has taken center stage, however, one the McGraws may not be able to live with. Tapped by Stanley patriarch Hugh for a high-stakes and well-paying job, Webb is reluctant to admit he can’t drive an eighteen-wheeler. Instead, Webb enlists the aid of a driver he barely knows, and things go very badly indeed—the cargo is hijacked from Webb, who takes a few hard bumps in the process. Now Webb has two choices: go on the run, or go back to Hugh and admit he lost the precious cargo.
Cut to Tucker’s living room, where he receives a visit from his Stanley family counterpart. Unlike Tucker, the young Stanley is all-in with his family’s business, and informs Tucker that Webb has gone missing, along with a tremendously important cargo. Being family, Tucker is told the responsibility now belongs to him and is given an ultimatum: deliver the cargo or the financial equivalent—ten million dollars. Unable to get in contact with Webb, Tucker does the only thing he can think of, which is to team up with octogenarian Calvin, who’s more than up for one last wild ride—he’s gonna find out what happened to his son, or die trying.
Rumrunners, the latest from author Eric Beetner, is a wild ride indeed. As he’s demonstrated so skillfully in his previous work (see bio below), Beetner has a rare talent for combining breakneck action, pitch-black noir, and razor-sharp wit. The McGraw clan is one of the most charismatic and engaging set of characters I’ve come across in quite some time, with beer-guzzling, never say die old coot Calvin gleefully leading the charge. And Beetner has given Calvin his equal in Stanley patriarch Hugh, a man who has amassed a fortune by playing every angle possible, even if it means selling out and betraying old allies.
Loaded to the gills with muscle cars engaged in frantic chases, guns-blazing shootouts, drug lab arson, and some laugh-out-loud funny improvised hand-to-hand combat—you’ll never look at your garden shed quite the same way again—Rumrunners is a visual bonanza that reads like it was made for the screen. Not entirely surprising given that LA-based Beetner’s day job just happens to be that of TV show editor and producer. Not lost in the madhouse shuffle, however, is the fact the McGraw family genuinely cares for each other, and does live by a strict moral compass. It’s one that may run afoul of the law on occasion, but never of the outlaw code.
The ending of Rumrunners leaves open the possibility of more McGraw action down the road, and I for one sure hope to get another chance to buckle up with Calvin and the gang and go for another wild ride.
Rumrunners is available from 280 Steps (ISBN: 978-8293326489).