Paperback: 142 pages
Publisher: Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
A new drug called Mojo is tearing through Southeast Texas, directly competing with Juney’s own product. What starts as a minor annoyance quickly spirals into something much more serious once Juney discovers his cook murdered and his brother mysteriously missing, the Mojo trademark left at the crime scene. Mojo Rising is a strange trip through a world of thugs and junkies, hallucinations and apocalypses. Some doors you walk through, you can’t come back in. Includes the bonus short story, “Pork Chop.”
“Motel, money, murder, madness
Let’s change the mood from glad to sadness
Mr. Mojo Risin’, Mr. Mojo Risin'”
The Doors – L.A. Woman
Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing has been one of my favorite publishers for awhile now and the reason is simple: they’ve got huge cajones. They’re willing to take risks, publishing books that many other publishers would shy away from. Because of this, the books they publish are often groundbreaking, frequently shocking and, in the case of the works I’ve read by them, outrageously entertaining. Bob Pastorella’s new book, MOJO RISING, is such a book, falling firmly into the “outrageously entertaining” category.
“Chance wasn’t answering his phone. All calls, straight to voicemail. Texts unanswered as well, but they had a rule about not texting one another anyway. It wasn’t a big deal, but considering Juney hadn’t talked to Chance in a few days, and he really needed to talk to him now, it was irritating. There was no product to deliver, and no one there to pick it up. The gears were slipping in a bad way and Juney needed answers fast.”
That opening paragraph does several thing simultaneously that prove that Bob Pastorella is no stranger to story and has studied his craft well. It raises multiple questions right from the start. Who is Chance? What product are they missing? What does he mean by, ‘the gears are slipping?’ This creates intrigue and mystery, grabbing your interest straightaway and making you want to know more. The opening also serves the purpose of introducing the protagonist and starting the process of investing you in his plight. The story is in motion from the very first sentence and the main character is already in conflict. This is how a good author keeps you reading beyond that first paragraph.
The trick then, is to keep us interested and Pastorella does a great job with that as well. For those of you who haven’t read my reviews, I should tell you that it is not my habit to synopsize a story. You can read the synopsis above and learn enough to pique your interest, and to tell you much more would risk spoiling it. What I will tell you about the story is what moved me and, in my opinion, made the book really work. There are a couple things that Bob Pastorella did that kept this thing moving and kept me moving right along with it. To start with, his main character, although fucked up and initially semi-unlikable, is interesting and real and he grows on you as the story progresses, eventually becoming a character you care about and find yourself cheering on as his goals change and his mission becomes a much more noble endeavor than the one he initially set out on.
And that brings me to the second thing that really kept me engaged in the story. The pacing is as rock solid as it can get, driving the narrative along through the use of damn near perfect description and dialogue that is both captivating and natural sounding:
“Good thing Chance wasn’t there. Any word from him?” Ian sounded like he was from around New Orleans, maybe Houma. Good old southern boy with an education.
“No, but I’ll find him.”
“He’s done this before, right? Kinda flighty?”
Juney stirred his coffee, thanking the waitress with a nod. “Guess you could say that. He’s not going to be a problem.”
“Then we won’t worry about him until it is a problem. What’s the story with these Mojo guys? They’re fairly organized. A little bold actually.”
“Bastards. I got some friends, and friends of some friends. We’ll round them up, take them out. Nice and quiet.”
There’s silence on the line for a second like Ian was thinking. “No, that’ll just bring the heat. Arrange a meeting.”
Juney gently placed his spoon down on his napkin. It took every ounce of willpower not to stab it into the table. “Why? They killed Garrett.”
The above is an example of how masterfully Pastorella handles dialogue. There are no ‘he said, she saids’ in there anywhere and yet, through the use of interesting exchange and intermittent exposition, it flows smoothly and you never become confused about who is speaking. Couple this with almost non-stop action, danger, and violence galore and you’ve got a story that keeps you reading to the unexpected, surreal and tantalizing finish.
I haven’t read Bob Pastorella’s work before but I’ll definitely read him again. MOJO RISING is a rocket fueled, white trash pulp-noir story that was over much too quickly. Add in a couple splashes of weird and surreal and you have a hugely entertaining book that leaves you longing for more. And I think/hope there’s a possibility of eventually seeing more from the Mojo universe, but I won’t tell you why I think that. You’ll have to read the book and find out for yourself.
Best when paired with a fifth of Night Train and a pack of Lucky Strikes, MOJO RISING is solid proof that Bob Pastorella can write his ass off. If you haven’t read his work, you should fix that. Soon.