Review: Out There Bad by Josh Stallings

Chris Leek
Independent Reviewer

Buckle up boys and girls, it's a town full of losers and Moses McGuire is pulling out for the win.

This is the second outing for Moses, the moody titty-bar bouncer with a soft spot for a hard luck story and a pretty face. His debut in Beautiful, Naked and Dead rocked so hard I worried it would be a tough act to follow, but Josh Stallings is a dude with some serious skills.

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When we last saw Mo he had just beaten the odds and somehow wound up still breathing; hell, he even got the girl and the sunset. But nothing is forever and Out There Bad finds him alone, brooding and back under the pink neon of an L.A. strip club.

In the best traditions of good noir the troubled anti-hero is often complicit in his own downfall and it only takes one lap dance from the beautiful Anya for Moses to fall in love and back into trouble. The little sister of his new stripper-squeeze is in the clutches of Russian traffickers somewhere in Mexico. Her runaway American dream hijacked by the underground sex trade at the tender age of thirteen.

The author isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Bad things happen to good people here and there are one or two disturbing scenes. These aren’t just tossed in with the intent of shocking the immoral majority. Stallings has lived a little himself and knows real life isn’t all long walks in the rain and warm fires; it’s vicious, mean and no respecter of right from wrong. 
Less time is spent ruminating on Mo’s turbulent past, which gave the first book an atmospheric quality I quite enjoyed. The payoff for this is the extra space can now be dedicated to some more pounding action. However don’t assume that Out There Bad is just a backroom slobber knocker with a little dry humping on the side. To do so would be ignoring the verve and depth that Stallings gives his characters. Not to mention the sweet growl of his perfectly paced narrative which keeps its foot on the throttle and makes this story purr like a Hemi V8.  

Josh Stallings has handled the difficult second novel with consummate ease. Out There Bad  has more scope than its predecessor but still manages to capture the same edginess and nervous energy that I loved in Beautiful Naked and Dead.

If you haven’t seen this show yet, then you had better slip a Lincoln into the Amazon G-string and get yourself a front row seat.