Review of HANG TIME by S.W. LAUDEN

 

 

 

HANG TIME

S.W.Lauden

Rare Bird Books

January 16, 2018

 

Someone once said, “Noir is watching someone make mistakes that they know are mistakes, but they continue to make them anyway. Regardless of the consequences.” That is by far the most satisfying answer that I’ve yet found for the “what is noir” question, so I’m sticking with that. With that being the case, HANG TIME, the final book in the Greg Salem trilogy by S.W. Lauden is so damn noir it hurts.

After doing battle with a deranged cult leader/drug kingpin in GRIZZLY SEASON, ex-cop/ punk-rock-front-man Greg Salem is literally getting the band back together. Yup, seminal California punk bank Bad Citizen Corporation is hitting the road for the first time in years, appearing at clubs that they last visited over 20 years ago. It’s an interesting place for a middle-aged man to find himself: literally reliving his teenaged fantasies, but now acutely aware of both his own mortality and his very shaky sobriety. Climbing aboard the tour van with Marco, his drummer and partner in their newly formed PI firm, Greg runs off to live the rockstar dream while his wife Kristen is left at home with baby Timmy on her hip.

This is very much the theme of HANG TIME. Greg running from one thing to another thing without dealing with the first thing first. He is acutely aware that he’s making mistakes, but he keeps doing it anyway.

Lauden shows us a very different Greg Salem than the cop who is trying to reconcile his punk rock roots with his adult responsibilities that we first met in BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION. Or even the lone hero that was doing battle with a madman in GRIZZLY SEASON. On the surface, this Greg Salem seems to be in a good place: back home with a wife that loves him and a beautiful newborn baby. His best friend Marco is clean and sober and may have finally found a woman who loves him, too. And the band that defined his life for so long is back together playing in front of paying audiences. If a man has everything he could possibly want, why is he angry all the time? Why is he always running from one thing to another?

Greg’s brother Tim committed suicide back when Bad Citizen Corporation was on the verge of hitting the big time. Greg’s relationship with his brother was always volatile: laughing one moment, fist fighting the next. Greg’s relationship with his brother’s memory since his death has been the same: volatile. These feelings of rage and unrest roar to the surface when a tell-all book about the band becomes a monster hit. Everyone once again is talking about Bad Citizen Corporation, and asking questions about Greg and Tim. And Tim’s suicide.

Things really reach the breaking point when a series of what appear to be copycat suicides start occurring on the new Bad Citizen Corporation tour. The record label quickly shuts the tour down, but lives have been lost, with bodies wearing signs that say, “I AM TIM.” These are suicides that mirror the hanging suicide of Greg’s brother, Tim. It’s horrible and heartbreaking and could cost Greg everything: his wife, his son, and maybe even his sobriety.

How can Greg Salem come to grips with these copycat suicides, when he’s never really dealt with the suicide of the most important person in his life: his own brother? Lauden tackles very serious emotional issues, and that is to be applauded. However, the book sails by at a very brisk and tidy 226 pages. Salem’s internal strife could have benefited from a few more pages.

HANG TIME brings together all the dangling plot points from the first two novels, giving the reader the answers they’ve been craving. But the twists, turns, and shocks are enough to leave the reader gasping for more.

 

Dan Malmon