Publisher: New Pulp Press
Pub date: Dec 20th, 2011

Sometimes you start reading a book, and it’s like driving on a road when all of a sudden the book makes a sharp right turn on a dime and then every so often there’s another sharp right turn or maybe even a sharp left. Your head is whipping around wondering what the fuck just happened. Jake Hinkson’s Hell on Church Street did just that to me.

This is the story of Geoffrey Webb, a natural born con man who uses religion as his main weapon. Now when I say con man I mean it like he knows what people want to hear even if he doesn’t believe in it himself. He uses his words to get him what he wants. He talks himself into a job as youth minister in a small-town Arkansas Baptist church. It’s a piece of cake gig and a very easy life for a man like Webb. He meets with the youths on Wednesday nights to deliver a sermon on the evils of alcohol, etc. He gets a house to himself just down the road from the church and from the home of the church’s main pastor, his wife, and their daughter. The daughter, Angela, is where the plot begins. Angela is a chubby high school nobody. Not somebody you would look at twice. But Geoffrey does, and likes what he sees. Before long they are having an affair. True love is in the air but because of the age difference a statutory rape charge is more likely than wedding bells. Even more so after the local crooked sheriff finds out and realizes how he can use the affair for his own nefarious purposes. Soon enough people are dying bloody and Webb is caught up in the current.

I read this book in a 3 hour period. I couldn’t put it down. I needed to know what was going to happen. It’s not often I find books that do that to me. I really enjoyed this one. At times I felt like this is the kind of book Jim Thompson would have written, a down and dirty noir tale where you know there is a chance nobody will be left standing at the end. The only things I didn’t like were, I felt a few characters could have been fleshed out with more detail and background. The book went almost too quickly for me and the ending wasn’t wrapped up as neatly as I would have preferred. When a book clocks in at fewer than 200 pages, shit needs to be tight. Hell on Church Street is as tight as a snare drum.

Jake Hinkson is going to write some cool shit in the future. I will be looking out for anything he does. He will only get better. This is a writer to watch.

Dave Wahlman