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Review: American Death Songs by Jordan Harper

Chris Leek
Independent Reviewer

Welcome to my first book review of 2013. So what if I am a week late and a few dollars short. You may be surprised to learn that I haven’t spent the entire Christmas break binge drinking and watching the re-runs of Knots Landing on CBS. I have also been reading something exceptional by Jordan Harper.
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American Death Songs is a stunning collection of short stories that takes the reader from desert highways to backwoods bars and beyond. Here crime is king and these ballads of bad-ass sing about lives full of dead ends, blown deals and settled scores. Some of them have been played before, others are as yet unsung, but all are remarkable and deserve to be heard.

There is something deliciously poetic in Jordan Harper's gritty prose. Like being hit with brass knuckles while your sweetheart slips you the tongue, his words draw you in, smack you hard and leave you breathless.

Pick any one of the stylish tales showcased here and I'll be more than happy to heap on some praise. ‘Plan C’ is a brilliant and brutal heads up on how things can go real bad, real quick; while ‘Heart Check’ captures the kill or be killed of the prison yard better than anything I have previously read. But I’ll take ‘Red Hair and Black Leather’ as my favorite, because when it comes down to it I’m just an old romantic and any that story starts with the line, “She had an ass like a heart turned upside down and cut in half” automatically get’s my vote.
January may be a little early to be talking about ‘best of’ lists, but I expect to see American Death Songs featuring heavily on those come December. I know it has already snagged a spot on mine.
If you want to dip your toe before you shell out some hard earned scratch, you can get your appetite nice and whet right here in the gutter. The collection opens up with the fuel injected adrenaline rush of ‘Midnight Rider’, which first appeared at The Flash Fiction Offensive last year. If that doesn’t get your motor running, then you must be all out of gas.