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Review: Accidental Outlaws, by Matt Phillips

“You’re the dirt in which you stand. You’ve never been anything. You’ll never be anyone. You’ll always get taken, be brought down, get kicked in your ribs. …the truth is in your bones- you’re a nobody”

It has been said bad news comes in threes and Matt Phillips proves it true by offering three bad-ass hits of noir in his ass-kicking new offering, AccidentalOutlaws. These three stories contain reoccurring characters who help link these tales of misery and despair. It has been a while since a new All Due Respect book crossed my E-Reader, but the wait has sure been worth it. Phillips and ADR is a match made in heaven; both are known to focus on the fringe players of society and both prove novels and stories work best when they are left without a bow to tie them up, instead they reflect the truth that life rarely has neat ending.

My favorite of the three stores was Mesa Boys. Phillips paints a bleakness in this story which features no good men doing no good crimes. When Ronnie aligns himself with the untrustworthy Marl in an attempt to steal from his uncle, he sets a series of fallen dominoes into action and in true noir fashion, there are no winners when the chips are down. I really liked the manner in which Philips sets the stage with characters no one can root for. This story needed characters who play off each other and the reader has no vested interest in seeing one character emerge as a victor, instead you find yourself immersed in the story and just enjoy the misery each character inflicts on themselves and others.

The Feud is the second story and it is a doozy in its own right. Rex finds himself seething inside as he reflects on his shitty life and his anger finds a target in Garrett, a local pot dealer who Rex deems as a no-good piece of crap who holds no job benefits off the misery of others. As Rex finds his anger boiling to the point he can’t contain it anymore, the wheels of fate begin to dish out punishment and retribution to the lowlifes that inhabit this tale. The ending comes out of nowhere and leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction.

The final story, Bar Burning, has a fairly likable character Packard, who believes “A man has to make things burn. He’s got no choice about that. But what he burns, that’s what tells you who he is”.  Packard overhears local bar owner, Sketchy, disparage another man and something about that doesn’t sit right with him. His decision to burnt he bar down sets off a chain reaction that has Packard pick up the bar owner’s former girlfriend, which adds fuel to their new war. With each man intent on getting the upper hand, the potential for violence ratchets up to a fever pitch level and keeps the reader flying through the pages.

Phillips writes in a style which is authentic, true, and meaningful. His characters jump to life and are well-fleshed out. The reader will find their actions understandable, if not inevitable. The truth of the noir lifestyle is evident in every story, paragraph, sentence, and word Phillips choices in include, and exclude. While there are no winners in the pages within this collection, the true winners are the readers of these tightly written masterpieces and Phillips himself, who continues to impress me with each new offering.

Highly Recommended.