A SWOLLEN RED SUN by Matthew McBride

A SWOLLEN RED SON by Matthew McBride

Release date: June 2014

Publisher: Mysterious Press

The first sentence of a book is very important. This is what draws the reader in to the story and sets the table for everything after it. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and all that. The opening sentence of A SWOLLEN RED SUN by Matthew McBride will either make you want to continue to the next paragraph or you will put it down and move onto the next book on your ever growing To Be Read pile. The choice to read on is up to you, the reader. After you read that sentence, hold on to your wigs because it will be a wild ride.

A SWOLLEN RED SUN, McBride’s second novel, is filled with memorable characters. There’s Dale Banks, Deputy Sheriff of Gasconade County, Missouri. He’s the local boy who stayed in Gasconade County, rising above the incoming tide of meth and making the best out of his life. The county was once known as the “Meth Capitol of the World”, but Banks believes that the people there can one day shake that claim to fame. One day, while checking on parolee Jerry Dean Skaags, Sheriff Banks is tempted to take something is not his. $52,000 stashed in a kitty litter box. An overflowing kitty litter box to be exact. Banks’ young family could really use that money, so he helps himself to it. Sometimes, you need to roll up your sleeve, reach into the shit, and take that brass ring.

Skaggs hid that money in the litter box for a reason. That money was to be split between him and his partners, and now the only thing left to split is cat shit. Skaggs makes a plan to recover the money and sets the book in motion.

McBride’s characters jump off the page. He has a way of crafting people that you know, understand, and absolutely fear. You fear them because they are portrayed in such a way that you can see them walking down the streets of your town. On the way to work. Talking with your friends at lunch. As you walk into a Starbucks. McBride writes real people who stay with you long after you’ve moved onto the next book in that pile on your nightstand.

For example, Banks’ partner, Bo Hastings, is doing everything he can to right the wrongs of his father. Hastings wants his family’s name to mean something good in the county.

The weathered farmer Olen misses the son he lost to a tragedy and the son he lost to prison. Olen has grown old with his dog Gracie and his chickens, and he’s tired, but he continues to tend to his crops.

Then on the other end of the spectrum is the Reverend Butch Pogue. He is nothing but all kinds of crazy mixed with a Venti sized meth-fueled insanity. The Reverend and his flock have holed up on Goat Hill and it might be a good thing that their compound is not easily accessed. The things that happen up on the hill, well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

Finally, one of my personal favorite characters of McBride’s earlier short stories makes an appearance in the book. I was introduced to Darlene when I saw McBride read BIG DARLENE THE SEX MACHINE at the St. Louis Noir at the Bar in 2011 and I’ve been a fan ever since. She’s larger than life, in both physique and personality, and she demands your attention when she’s in the room.

Every good book has a way of getting its hooks into you early in the story. But first you’ve got to take that first step on that journey of a thousand miles. A SWOLLEN RED SUN will grab you from that first sentence. The residents of Gasconade County will take it from there.

Page one.

Chapter one.



Kate Malmon