Greg Salem can be forgiven for being a bit confused about the state of his life. After all, he’s traveled a bit of an unusual path. Currently an East Los Angeles police officer, once upon a time Greg was known as Fred Despair, punk legend/lead singer of the band Bad Citizen Corporation (BCC).
Though he’s pretty much kicked the excesses of his former punk lifestyle, Salem’s still a bit of a square peg in the round hole that is the police department. When he’s not on the job, Salem still appears occasionally with BCC for special one-off gigs, and also enjoys indulging his passion for surfing.
It’s an interesting balancing act, one that starts to unravel after Salem is involved in an on-the-job shooting.
Though Salem swears the young sexual assault suspect he corned in an alley after a foot pursuit reached for a gun in his waistband, by the time backup reached Salem an agitated mob of citizens had formed and no gun was ever found.
Put on suspension while the investigation and consideration of indictment unfolds, Salem seeks solace in a gig with BCC, only to have that go horribly off the rails when his best friend Ricky, BCC’s lead guitarist, is shot dead during a melee at the club where BCC is playing. Now, Salem is haunted by two deaths, left wondering if there is anything he could have done to prevent either. Knowing he can’t get involved in the official investigation of his own case, Salem vows to do right by his best friend and get to the bottom of his murder.
Complicating matters, friends of the kid Salem shot aren’t content to wait for the outcome of the official investigation—they are actively stalking and harassing Salem, bent on handing out their own brand of justice. Needing some off the books backup, Salem enlists the help of BCC’s former drummer, Marco, despite Marco’s ongoing drug habit, a situation that threatens to test Salem’s hard fought for sobriety. And as if that weren’t enough, Salem’s good friend, and old flame, Junior is having problems with her real estate broker ex-husband that require Salem’s intervention. It all makes for a helluva messy state of affairs that’s going to require Salem to dig deeper than he ever has if he’s going to sort it all out.
Taking at first what appear to be several very disparate setups — Salem’s on-the-job shooting, Ricky’s nightclub murder, Junior’s problems with her ex — author S.W. Lauden deftly weaves each plot thread together into a stunning tapestry of a novel. Things that initially seem completely unrelated are slowly revealed to all fit together in ways both Salem and the reader discover together bit by bit as the story unfolds. Along the way, Salem is forced to reevaluate his life, both the past that brought him to where he is, as well as what he thought he wanted for his future. Without consciously intending it, Salem ends up discovering just as much about himself as he does the truth behind the shooting in that alley and the murder of his best friend.
Bad Citizen Corporation is a wonderfully complicated, and accomplished, piece of writing. That it’s Lauden’s debut full-length novel is quite impressive, and serves notice that he will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Bad Citizen Corporation is available now from Rare Bird Books (ISBN: 978-1942600558).