Dave Matthes’s irreverent, profanity-laced, often hilarious novel, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard, is a fascinating work of writing. It’s half sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, and half a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at suicide and how it affects family and friends around the incident. Sleepeth Not, the Bastard follows two separate but surprisingly intertwined characters: Lew Ferranna, a deadbeat dad, drunkard, and generally unsavory character, and Sarah Fox, a famous drummer and rockstar from the all-female rock band, The Bastards. Matthes reveals in the opening pages of the story that Lew’s son committed suicide at the age of seventeen, and spends the rest of the novel’s tumultuous pages examining how that incident affected not only Lew and his family, but also how Sarah’s hardcore band, The Bastards, and their wild, rough-living producer, Wolfgang Stephanopolis fits into the mysterious puzzle of life.
I have had the privilege of reading several of Matthes’s works, and he has a skill that I have only seen before in Kurt Vonnegut. He is able to create completely unlikable, frustrating, and obnoxious characters, and turn them into protagonists that, for some unknown reason, you find yourself pulling for. The two stars of Sleepeth Not, the Bastard are superficially very unlikable: Lew has abandoned his daughter and wife after their son’s suicide; Sarah is standoffish, erratic, and crude. But perhaps what’s appealing about Matthes’s characters is the fact that they are so relatable. Though hopefully few of us know people who would commit some of the frankly horrible acts that Matthes’s characters perform, it’s a fact of life that everyone has flaws. It is refreshing to see characters dealing with problems that we, as readers, have likely seen or experienced ourselves: the demise of relationships, parental-child fights, addiction, depression, and death.
Fortunately, though, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard is not all doom and gloom. In his solid novel, Matthes manages to create humor (albeit dark) in the absurd situations he places his characters in. Whether it’s a tiger outside of Vegas, a minivan driving through the garage door, or the insanely gaudy (and proud of it) producer Wolfgang Stephanopolis, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard manages to bring a smile to readers’ faces in the most surprising moments. The story lacks only in a few small facets that irritated me personally, specifically the lack of double L’s in all of Lew’s parts of the story (meaning “walls” would be written as “wal s”).
Though it covers potentially disheartening topics, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard will not dishearten readers. Similar to Matthes’s other works, it manages to address the most unpleasant topics of life while also instilling a positive and motivating force in readers. It often feels as if Matthes’s charactesr are saying to readers what we all know but sometimes want to forget: Life can be ugly, hard, and miserable; but life can also be beautiful, surprising, and wonderful. As a reader whose family has experienced the pain and loss of unexpected death by suicide, I found this novel to be painful, at times, but overall uplifting and a reminder to appreciate the beautiful moments in life.
Pages: 453 | ASIN: B00N53IMWW
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A sterilization syrum is being inserted into genetically modified super bulls, threatening to hurt the profits of the beef industry. Semi-retired, former Special Forces bad-ass Joe Garner is hired by a private security firm to track down the culprits, a cell of Islamic terrorists, and to take them out by whatever means necessary. Joe and his crew of ex-military tough guys track down the scientist who created the syrum, all the while getting in plenty of gunfights with Jihadists. In the end, they team up with a Russian General, with whom Joe has a history, and together, they take down the Imam, and restore the scientist to the cattle industry.
The 2016 Presidential election has made it very clear that there are two United States of America existing simultaneously: the coastal, liberal thinking, urban populous, and its white male dominated conservative counterpart. Taurus, Taurus, Taurus, a novel by Gordon Rayner, will appeal to the latter. It is chock full of espionage tech, a litany of government organizations bumbling through red tape towards a collective goal, descriptions of guns, and derogatory terms for people of Middle Eastern descent. America, fuck yeah!
Most of the book follows the protagonist, Joe Garner, a former special ops tough guy extraordinaire with too much integrity to toe the company line, who goes to work for a private black ops security company. (Bruce Willis could play him in the film). Joe’s got a bad leg, drinks a lot, and makes frequent mention of other men’s cowboy boots. Joe’s wife is also some kind of operative who goes on “spooky wooky missions,” though her character is for the most part left unexplored. In one of the least plot related, and kinkiest scenes in the book, Joe and his wife go to Jamaica, get “ganja” from the “tall black porter,” and then they end up back in the hotel room with his wife dabbing cannabis syrup on her nipples?! The sexy talk doesn’t stop there. There is a physical therapist who reads porno mags at his desk, and at some point the operatives are implanted with scrotum tracking chips.
Not surprisingly, this book is about sperm. In a meeting with a client, Joe discovers that a big beef conglomerate based in Houston is the top provider for cattle worldwide, and has developed a “dream sperm machine.” But, the plant where the super sperm was being developed has been blown sky high. Years later, a mysterious ransom note appears from the dream sperm’s creator, Dr. Gambil, who turns out is in cahoots with terrorists from Kyrgyzstan, setting the plot in motion.
Joe and his highly paid team of former special ops trained killer-cowboys travel around the globe chasing down the doctor and the Jihadists. From New Jersey to Argentina to Kyrgyzstan, Joe and his guys are always one step ahead of the Islamic Brigade, whose attempts to sterilize the super bulls continue to be halted by American bullets. They win every battle in overwhelming fashion.
In one section, Joe and his guys realize that since they are a private organization, the Geneva Convention can be disregarded. They discuss the best ways to torture an Islamic militant, including making him watch a pig get slaughtered and then covering him in its entrails, and having a naked woman attack him.
This book is for meat eating, red-blooded, cowboy boot wearing country boys. Fans of John Le Carre and Robert Ludlum will enjoy the way these all American heroes kick tons of ass.
Pages: 271 | ASIN: B01H8WPPNE
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Return to the Madlands follows Arlo in the final chapter of the Mire Man Trilogy and brings to a close Arlo Smith’s wild and messy journey. What was your inspiration for the wild journey you take readers on in this novel?
Trilogies, by definition, usually sum everything that has transpired throughout the course of the story, if not most everything up in the final entry, and while that was of course my drive for finishing the story, it wasn’t necessarily the inspiration behind it. I once considered not writing it at all, and simply leaving the ending to Book II the way it was, sort of like a… “…and he got away” type of ending. Maybe it was out of greed on my own part that I wrote a Book III, because I wanted more of the character, I wanted him to engage more in the world around him at a different time of his life. I wanted Arlo Smith to finally be presented with the fact that death is in his, quite possibly near, future, and what that would mean for him in terms of deciding which one of these new, completely unprecedented paths he would take. I wanted Arlo to be presented with a final choice concerning Constance, and work in also the idea that there are no actual “final choices” in life, or at least there doesn’t have to be. And I think that reflects in a few of the supporting characters throughout the book.
Arlo often meets many interesting people on his travels. Were there any characters that you especially enjoyed writing for?
Arlo’s father, most definitely, considering the parallels of their individual existences and their already established roughness in what they think/thought of each other. I toyed with the idea of writing more for Arlo’s father in a separate novel, or short story, and even considering throwing in a twist at the end of “Madlands” that tied Arlo’s father to a character in a past novel of mine. There’s so much time that has passed since Arlo’s father left him until now, so much history and mystery that anything could have happened. I like to think though that sometimes it’s best to leave the mystery as it is; the idea of ascertaining the truth is not always as romantic as wallowing in the unknown.
Arlo meets his estranged father and forms a tentative relationship. Why was this event important to Arlo’s development?
Arlo’s chaos stems from his youth, and by extension if unintentional or not, his father had a hand in that. At this point in time, Arlo and his father, one has always assumed the worst had happened to the other, and in some ways, assumed they had been dead. So when they finally reunite, neither one of them wants to part with those assumptions because those beliefs have become such an essential part to their existences, that any interruption in said life has the potential to cause an insanity-driven rift. Neither Arlo or his father, in the beginning, wants anything to do with the realization that they are both still alive in the world. But as the story progresses, through intended subtlety and background “what-if’s”, Arlo’s father and Arlo himself in their own way begin to wonder if their reunion is fate, and even if it isn’t, why would that stop them from taking a chance at rewriting their futures?
How do you feel now that the Mire Man Trilogy is done? Did you accomplish everything you set out to?
I think I’ve said what I set out to say. The story’s been told and I don’t have any intentions of returning to Arlo’s world. That doesn’t mean any of the other supporting characters may or may not get a spot somewhere down the line, though it’s mostly unlikely. For me, “The Mire Man Trilogy” is a brief glimpse into the mind and heart of a people-watcher; someone who enjoys the company of people only as much as he can tolerate them. It’s a story within a story within a story within a story, and it could be that, more or less, to anyone who reads it. And even though it was me who wrote the story, I’ll never look at a glass of whiskey or listen to a piece by Miles Davis the same way again. People have said to me that they could never expect Arlo to have a happy ending, and maybe they’re right. I like to think of the ending of the trilogy as a reminder that it’s not important whether or not you leave the world on a happy note, but rather you instill in the people around you, and the people you’ve crossed paths with, some measure of self-inquiry, instead of simply letting the world and everything that it could be, slip through their fingers. Finding life’s answers isn’t as important as never giving up the search for them.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will that be available for readers?
Currently, I’m working on another volume of poetry and short stories alongside a novel. My fourth volume of poetry/short stories is titled “Slaughterhouse After-Party” and the novel is tentatively titled “He Showed Me All the Neon Tombstones and Together We Embraced the Abyss”, which is written in episodic form, in that each chapter deals with a different story in the life of the main character, who writes obituaries from the point of view of the deceased. Every chapter has to deal with a different client/family. The main character also has horrible anxiety and depression, for which he takes medication for. That medication has had a strange side-effect in that it more than occasionally causes him to hallucinate a version of himself, calling himself Chauncey, speaking in an English accent, with skin painted over its entirety, a deep, royal blue. Chauncey basically exists with the intention of mocking or critiquing every move the main character makes. So there’s some psychological bafoonery at play, along with the melancholy, always-present scent of death. Neither of these two books will be available for a while…maybe not for another year or two, depending on the stability of my own particular sanity.
A decade or so following the events of “Paradise City”, Arlo Smith finds that he is still somehow clinging to life. Fueled by the revelation that Constance may also still be alive and waiting for him somewhere out in the world, Arlo Smith, now feeling older than ever, decides to make one last stand against himself. Obliging to the last wishes of a recently-deceased love one, and perhaps succumbing to his own obsessions, Arlo embarks on an open road quest one last time in hopes of finding what he’s been searching for since that fateful day near the end of his high school years. What he discovers is an unexpected , and obligatory companionship with his estranged father, self-exiled in a lonely Nevada town, and more revelations that could either cement his perception of his very existence, or tear it down completely, rendering him beyond saving. Feeling the promise of death in one direction and the lure of Constance in another, Arlo is forced to decide to stay or leave… to obey the itching bones of his lusts, or to do what is right… and finally put to rest what may have started him on his path to damnation all those years ago.
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Arlo is on a journey across the country to find Constance, a long lost love. Throughout his trip, the reader is treated to his interactions with random individuals, many of whom this reader wishes he could know more about. However, the brief glimpses are more than entertaining. The owner of a motel and the story behind his sword on display, the female police officer who pulled Arlo over for swerving while driving, and Lenny, the former man of faith who shoots a gas station iguana, they all help Arlo along on his journey. Aside from the cast of supporting characters, Arlo is also dealing with his health. With the years of whiskey catching up to him, it made this reader wonder if he would survive long enough to find Constance.
This story is more like a collection of stories, rather than a novel with a driving plot line. While Arlo is technically on a journey that has a defined ending, the real value of the text comes from the small stories that Arlo collects from the people he meets along the way. Many of them share experiences that give the reader plenty to think about, but too many of them are too ready and willing to give “advice”. Most readers will anticipate this pattern of meeting, backstory, lesson. Because of this pattern, many of the lessons lose their weight due to the seemingly formulaic inclusion. If these lessons had been blended into the story with a bit more tact, then they would have a stronger impact.
Regardless, there is still some beauty in watching Arlo learn from these characters. Many of them are from walks of life that do not get much respect in our society. Hookers, drug addicts, hitchhikers. All of these people are human, and they have experiences that Arlo asks about. When he asks, and if the character responds, then the reader is treated to some of the most well-thought lessons in our society
Overall, the novel is entertaining. Arlo is a main character that everyone loves to hate, with his poor decision making skills and general negative views of the world around him. His interactions with the side characters tell a different story, though, and we get to see him grow as a person because of them. Perhaps it is a wisdom that has come with the aging of his character, but Arlo’s transformation from the previous entries, and even from the beginning of this entry, is something to behold.
Pages: 302 | ISBN: 1530041619
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Bar Nights is a chronicle of the life of Arlo Smith who walks away from his life after finding his wife in bed with another man. Arlo’s finds his life in a troublesome spot in the beginning of the novel. What was your inspiration for his family situation and how he removes himself from it?
The inspiration never really came from anything first hand. One day I just started writing the book because I had nothing else to do, and I had already scrapped several ideas for other books, some of which became short stories. I think mostly though, that feeling of desperation that comes with having had enough of a certain situation that’s been going on for far too long, was something I’ve been through before. How Arlo feels, that sense of apathy, but also pleasure, with starting over, was my biggest takeaway from my own personal life that applied to the birth of the character “Arlo Smith”.
The plot to Bar Nights seems simple, a man tries to bury his pain with alcohol, but there’s complexity in Arlo’s pain and the people he meets. What was your writing strategy in terms of plot design when writing this story?
Thoughts and thought processes. A lot of the time we don’t actually think about the process of “thinking”, and sometimes the point in which we change direction in our thoughts is lost completely. The way I employed the use of “chapters” in Bar Nights and the rest of The Mire Man Trilogy reflects that. The plot design really had no design, at least while writing Bar Nights. I just started writing it one day and kept going with it. There wasn’t really a story, in a literal sense, I was aiming for. Bar Nights was originally intended to be just a short book about a guy living in a bar and all of the people he met there, nothing more.
Arlo is locked in a vicious cycle of self-hate, addiction, and depression that is reflected in the people he meets. Did we get to meet everyone you planned to write or did you take out any characters?
I did take out a few, but at the time that they would have existed in the story of Bar Nights, they were very minuscule. Once I decided to make Bar Nights the first book in a trilogy, I placed those characters in the following books in the trilogy as supporting characters that would hopefully help Arlo more on his journey.
I feel like Bar Nights is an examination of addiction and desperation. How do you feel Arlo deals with these things that’s different from other people?
Different? I think that his methods of madness are only different because at first, he really doesn’t have much to lose. Once he finds his way to the bar “Purgatory”, that’s it for him. He really doesn’t have anyone who cares enough to tell him to stop. And if he never met Constance, for all we know, he would have died there. So in a sense, all he really uses to deal with his addictions, is apathy. Complete, pure, remorseless apathy. He knows he has problems, and he reflects upon them constantly, but he really doesn’t care enough to examine them on a level that may or may not lead to his redemption. Not yet anyway.
Bar Nights is the first book in the Mire Man Trilogy with Madlands being the third book. How do you feel Arlo has developed over the series?
Well, in Bar Nights, even though it’s the first book, we sort of meet Arlo at his middle. In the second book, Paradise City, we’re taken back to “where it all began”, so he’s still a child in those days, and definitely hasn’t reached that purified level of “sheer apathetic asshole”. By the third book, Return to the Madlands, Arlo is pushed passed his “breaking point” in the first book, and beyond to a point in which he is literally faced with the choice of “live your life like this and die like this” or “live your life like THIS, but still… die like this”. The difference being in the choice of the latter, he’d be taking a chance, forsaking what he “set out for” from the very beginning altogether. His story arc definitely reaches a point he never expected (and I never expected while writing it).
“Bar Nights”, the first volume of the “The Mire Man Trilogy”, is a story revolving around Arlo, a man who’s just turned 39. Fed up with the way his life has turned out thus far, he leaves his cheating wife, out of control preteen slut daughter and her “fiance”, his unbearably demeaning job, and hits the highway.
It isn’t long before his car dies on him, and he’s forced to take shelter in the only place available at the time: the for-rent room above a dive bar, named “Purgatory”, positioned seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
Convincing the owner to let him work off his rent, he spends his days drinking and care-taking the bar, running odd jobs for his boss, and spends his nights tucked away in his room drunkenly passing out to the sounds of whoever is playing the music downstairs…until one night he ventures out into the storm eternally encapsulating his world. And their paths unexpectedly converge.
The meeting sets in motion a relentless and remorseless onslaught of emotions, bringing Arlo to the absolute breaking point of insanity and introducing him to a realization that redefines why he ended up at “Purgatory” to begin with.
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