Nine Toes in the Grave by Eric Beetner

You ever feel like the biggest fucking idiot in the world? Well, you’re not. I am. — Reese

Despite being trapped in a dead-end job at a greasy-spoon diner in the middle of nowhere (Miles away from anything interesting and too far to make a run for it. Boredom was our chief export and business was good.), Reese has been content to just grind out a life and keep his nose clean.

Well, mostly clean.

He’s recently started sleeping with fellow diner employee, Moira, who also happens to be the wife of the joint’s owner. Not the most upstanding behavior, but still nothing to call the cops over. That call is coming, however, because Reese happens to have the worst luck, and the worst decision-making skills, in history.

Moira, you see, has a scheme in the works, one she wants Reese to help her pull the trigger on. When Reese refuses to assist, Moira takes matters into her own hands in a way that points the finger at Reese. Instead of sticking around to try and clear his name, Reese does the first thing that comes to mind: run.

Of course, having no money to speak of and being in the aforementioned middle of nowhere, he doesn’t get far—barely an hour down the road, in fact. As he rolls into a strange town and heads to a dive bar to take stock of his miserable situation, Reese is about to experience firsthand the concept that no matter how bad you think things are, they can always get worse.

A tight novella that clocks in at a crisp 126 pages, Nine Toes in the Grave is a classic Eric Beetner cocktail: one part noir, one part humor, one part action, one part philosophy, viciously shaken, served straight up. Taken at face value, Nine Toes is the story of a man whose own horrendous decisions spiral out of control and push him so far into a corner he has no choice but to finally come out swinging, sacrificing every shred of morality he once thought he held dear in the process. Look a little deeper, however, and one could start to question just how fixed that morality was to begin with. After all, does one really abandon truly held morals that easily just because the going gets tough, or was Reese perhaps a ticking time bomb all along, just waiting for the right/wrong moment to explode? Is his journey really one of bad luck, or self-discovery?

Either way, Nine Toes in the Grave reads like a runaway train going downhill, relentlessly gathering speed as one bad decision builds upon the last. Where Reese ultimately ends up may surprise you, however. Beetner unquestionably knows how to write an adrenaline-fueled adventure, and he’s never been one to be beholden to tradition when he does. With Nine Toes in the Grave, Beetner shows that coming full circle doesn’t necessarily get you right back where you started.

Nine Toes in the Grave is available from All Due Respect (ISBN: 978-1518863028).

Eric Beetner is the author of Rumrunners, The Devil Doesn’t Want Me, Dig Two Graves, The Year I Died Seven Times, White Hot Pistol, Stripper Pole At the End Of The World and the story collection A Bouquet of Bullets. He is co-author (with JB Kohl) of One Too Many Blows To The Head and Borrowed Trouble. When not writing he lives and works in Los Angeles where he edits and produces TV shows. To learn more about Eric, visit his website.
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