It’s hard to imagine a better cover for the collection of stories inside Blood and Gasoline. In this case, what you see is what you’re gonna get. Bullet holes, gunfire, busted windshields, and racing motorcycles. There’s mayhem on the cover and tons of mayhem inside, many with a sci-fi flair. John Hartness’ blurb on the back (Hartness wrote the foreword) about says it all: “Mad Max meets Sons of Anarchy.” Desperation abounds. And when you’re desperate, what better means to remedy the situation than hop in the nearest manmade machine and let it roar?
This is a revved-up collection. The writing is solid first story to last. Edited by Mario Acevedo, Blood and Gasoline is a hot-rod of action, no dragster parachutes allowed.
Gabino Iglesias puts the pedal down first with “Faster Than Weeping Angels,” about a just-released ex-con named Jaime who quickly finds himself behind the wheel of a 13-year-old Impala with the cops hot on his tail. Jaime isn’t going back to jail. Iglesias leaves us hanging, but that’s okay. We know what’s coming.
Carter Wilson’s “Escobar Style” focuses on the fate of Tyson, a military contractor who is being held captive in Iraq and witnesses an execution before making a bold escape, one that confronts him with tough choices regarding the lives of others and his own. When his escape vehicle Jeep blows a tire, Tyson is out alone in the desert. “I stare down the path from which I’ve come. There is a very obvious end of the road metaphor here, but I force that from my mind and suck in the night air. In the moment the world is as blissfully silent as the inside of a snow globe. In this silence I think about life and about death, how all of us will be one of those things much longer than the other.” The one-two punch of Iglesias and Wilson is a great starting combo; Jaime and Tyson would have much to discuss about making decisions.
Angie Hodapp’s “The Taxi Man” is a gritty, swampy, water-soaked sci-fi tale about a woman named Bendrix who is trying to escape the Escopeta River. “Who is she kidding?” she thinks. “She’s never leaving the Escopeta. This polluted swath of bilgewater is her home, and someday, it’ll be her grave. She’ll die here. And she’ll probably deserve it.” Her chance for escape comes along and Bendrix zooms out on her Flug (jet ski on steroids?) across the trash-infested waters. She takes advantage of an opportunity that presents itself on board the taxi, only to realize, much too late, that she took for granted the power of her own desires and the problem of keeping steady routines. “The Taxi Man” takes place in a well-imagined world ripe with backwater details.
Merit Clark’s “Rescue” is set in the very real world of New York and the world of revenge, told from the point of view of the jilted ex. “I lost my mind when he left, when he ghosted me, driving off to points unknown towing a U-Haul. I realized for the first time how possible it was to be stupid, to not see the signs, to be blindsided.” Our first-person narrator has a fix for her oversights. A GPS tracker helps. So does a beater car, a disguise, and a plan. A very heavy plan with wicked consequences. “Rescue” (a great title) is a gem.
Manuel Ramos’ “Sitting Ducks” is a strong story about bank robbers on the run and there are fine entries from Gary Phillips, Jedidiah Ayres, James R. Tuck, and many others.
Blood and Gasoline rocks. And it’s one book you can judge by the cover.