Reading an Eric Beetner book is lots of fun in that they are original, dark, fun, and there are plenty of them to choose from. Beetner’s Criminal Economics (Down & Out Books), which is a reissue of sorts, tells the story of two bank robbers who escape their prison transport during the height of a hurricane hitting the shores. Slick, a big guy with an ugly mug, hates his partner, Bo, who ratted Slick out less than 24 hours after their successful bank robbery. The prisoners go their separate ways and Beetner’s Criminal Economics follows their journeys over the next 48 hours.
Their haul from the bank robbery was never recovered, so both Bo and Slick chase after the more than half-a-million dollars that is being watched over by Slick’s girlfriend, Emma. But bad news for the guys as Emma has decided to take the money and run. Also on the tail of Slick and Bo is Detective MacKaye, a good-looking cop hunting down fugitives and a bit of a horn dog.
Having read only three of Eric Beetner’s twenty-some-odd crime novels and even with this tiny sample, I can see a humor beneath the darkness. Beetner doesn’t write jokes, his humor lies with within the situation and his character’s subsequent actions. In the opening chapter of Rumrunners (Down & Out Books), an old man drinks a cup of coffee at a donut shop where everything is wrong from the donuts to the guy behind the counter. The first chapter of Rumrunners ends with the old man breaking the finger of the donut man and walking out with his cup of coffee. The fact that this reviewer finds this funny should tell the reader much.
A hardboiled novel, Beetner’s Criminal Economics seeps with blood and laughs. In one chapter, Slick holds up a diner and things get dark as shit real fast, but Beetner makes the reader chuckle before all hell breaks loose.
The walk back down the two-lane highway was so hurricane-wet Slick may as well have been swimming. He saw what he wanted. A diner with nothing else around it and only a few cars in the parking lot stood getting as soaked as he was. Red neon rimmed the top of the metal and glass building. Deep ruts in the gravel of the parking lot collected muddy water deep enough for a midget to take a bath.
Slick picked up his pace despite gaining a few pounds of mud on his boots as he neared the entrance. Shotgun in hand, still empty but he’d never tell, he kicked through the glass door, rattling dusty venetian blinds and cracking the glass as he did.
“Hands up motherfuckers! Now, which one’s got the best car?”
Originally published in a limited run of 100 back in 2013, Criminal Economics has finally come out for everyone to enjoy its craziness. As Slick and Bo search for their money and Emma tries to leave town with it, Beetner takes on this weird and bloody journey where no one is safe. After I finished this madhouse of a novel, I posted the following tweet. I could try and fail to throw more superlatives on Beetner’s Criminal Economics, but saying “It’s Beetnerific!” is all the praise it needs.
— David Nemeth (@nemski) July 1, 2017