Book Review: SELENA by Greg Barth

SelenaCoverPrint Length: 452 pages
Publisher: All Due Respect Books (June 12, 2015)
Publication Date: June 12, 2015

Scatter shot revenge.

Selena is living the dream on her terms – carefree and sloppy and all in the pursuit of pleasure. When a careless act of petty theft puts her in the crosshairs of a violent crime syndicate, her choices are clear – either curl up and die, or tear down the whole damned organization one bloody shotgun blast at a time.

Nothing will satisfy her but savage retribution. Nothing can stop her. Get ready.

Recently I was reading through my daily feed–which consists largely of other reviewer blogs–and I came across a review of a book called DIESEL THERAPY over on Tom Lein’s
DirtyBooks blog
. The book is written by Greg Barth and is the second book in a series. I’ve had the first book sitting on my Kindle since it was published last summer but hadn’t gotten to that level in the TBR stack yet. After reading Tom’s review, I was intrigued and had to go sample a few pages to see what the deal was. That first book is titled SELENA and the number of pages I ended up “sampling” were approximately 450. And I did it in one evening reading session that lasted until sunrise.

SELENA is dark, bloody pulp noir at it’s brutal best, with what is possibly the toughest, meanest, most amoral, and somehow immensely fucking lovable female protagonist I’ve encountered in noir fiction in maybe forever. Upon beginning this book, it was immediately evident that what Greg Barth was aiming for here is character, letting all the other pieces of storytelling fall into place around Selena, his eponymous antihero. In an interview with Gef Fox (over at Wag The Fox), Greg said:

“My sole intention in writing Selena was to have the character totally own the point of view of the story. Readers would not get to be a spectator watching her being attacked or her taking her revenge. The reader would be inside her head for both experiences. I made every effort to elicit the same emotion in the reader that Selena felt.”

And he nailed it. As far as so-called unreliable narrators go, Selena is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. She’s fucked up in so many ways it’s hard to list them all, a barely functional alcoholic whore with a penchant for whiskey, drugs, and danger. And shotguns, as it turns out. But she’s so well developed, so incredibly real that you can’t get away from her, and you can’t stop cheering for her as she visits bloody vengeance upon her enemies. Once you start reading you’re in for the duration, and it’s solid action and pure, unadulterated fun to the very end.

There are so many things about this book that make it work. The pacing is rock solid, the settings perfectly detailed and real, the language as somber and unflinchingly brutal as the scenes it depicts. But the people are without question the glue that holds this thing together. As with any good book, if your characters are perfect, so will your story be, and Barth’s characters are perfect in each of their own fucked up ways. SELENA is a tour de force of unapologetic sex and violence, not for the faint of heart but definitely for hardcore fans of fast paced, unrelenting pulp-noir in the fashion of nobody except Greg Barth.

I hadn’t read, nor even heard of, Greg Barth, and I’m thankful to Tom Leins for drawing him to my attention. SELENA is one of the most entertaining books I’ve read so far this year and Barth is unquestionably the real deal. I’ll take a chance on anything the guy writes with pretty high confidence that I’m not going to be disappointed. If you like your fiction pulpy, bloody, and violent, SELENA is the right place for you and I strongly encourage you to go get it. And while you’re at it, pick up a copy of DIESEL THERAPY. When you finish this book you’re going to want more and that’s the place to find it. Also, keep an eye out for my review of that book tomorrow and watch for SUICIDE LOUNGE, the third book in the series, due out on April 1st (no that isn’t a joke) from All Due Respect Books.

You can get a copy of SELENA right here, and DIESEL THERAPY right here.

 

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