By Todd Robinson
These are stories set on the meanest streets of the toughest towns. (In “Delivery” a drug dealer grouses about having to go out to Roxbury when it’s raining and then admits to himself that even if it were a sunny day, Roxbury is not a place he wants to be.) Death and madness are around every corner and the potential for violence lurks just under the surface, like a snapping turtle just waiting for an unwary toe to dip into the water.
But there are moments of unexpected tenderness here too, moments of light that flicker in the dark like the flame of a votive candle lighted at the feet of St. Barbara. There are stories about answered prayers and karma kicking in and plans that go awry. (And you know they always go awry.)
And they’re all good. How good? “So Long, Johnnie Scumbag,” the lead story in the collection, was selected for “The Year’s Best Writing” by Writer’s Digest in 2003.
The stories are good enough that even when the trajectory of a story is a little too obvious (as with “The Biggest Dick in Brooklyn”), they still hold you captive as efficiently as a pair of handcuffs.
Robinson has a reporter’s ear for dialogue and a novelist’s sense of place. It’s a good combination for a short story writer, and every story here has vitality and verisimilitude. The characters are authentic and their relationships have real depth, and we feel they have a life (or a death) that exists beyond the pages of this book. That’s especially true for “Dirty Laundry” and “Last Call,” which has a totally off-the-wall riff on Liam Neeson and a pink ball cap.
Dirty Money is priced to sell—the cost per story averages out to around 18 cents—and you can find that in your sofa cushions.
Get it. Read it. And get back to Girl in the Gutter with your thoughts.
Gutter Gripe: Girl in the Gutter hates to be a bitch but Dirty Words could have used a proof-reader. There are a noticeable number of typos (and missing words) and a couple of distracting formatting errors and that just looks sloppy. (Granted, now that traditional publishers aren’t hiring their usual crop of Seven Sisters graduates to copy-edit books there are a lot of typos slipping by, but GitG holds indie publishers to a higher standard—because they have no one to blame but themselves!)