Written by Wayne Epperson — Last year, former marine and journalist Wayne Epperson introduced us to the Atlanta bounty hunter Frank Knott in his debut novel, Crime and Corruption in Texas. Now, Knott is back doing what he does best – chasing bad guys. A hurricane, codenamed Frank, oddly enough, is bearing down from the Atlantic and is scheduled to hit the Georgia coast with winds of up to 130 mph, but Knott has a job to complete. And business is business. The bad guy Frank must track down is Charles Michael Brown, a contract killer who has skipped bail. Knott does eventually run Brown to earth, but not before a police officer has been gunned down, and Brown’s wayward trailer park girlfriend has made an appearance. Gail Bell may be an ex-stripper, but Knott learns there is more to her than meets the eye, as she is married to an army captain currently posted in Germany, where he is a software specialist.
Knott learns of a complex connection between Captain Rodney Bell and the recaptured hitman, but his world is jarred from its axis by the news that Davis Armstrong, a convicted felon who Knott helped to put away, has escaped custody in Dallas. Armstrong has hired a team of ex-military mercenaries, vowing vengeance on anyone who had a part in his downfall. The first victims of this murderous quest for vengeance are a team of Domestic Enforcement agents – including Knott’s sometime girlfriend, Connie Stone. As Connie fights for her life in intensive care, Knott goes after the gang of killers, heedless of warnings from the official law officers. His moral code is uncomplicated. He views the justice system as corrupt, bureaucratic and fatally flawed. Frank Knott has a better solution, and it usually has a diameter of .38 inches, and is made of lead, copper and brass.
In many ways, this is an unusual novel. Those used to a climactic last chapter where all the plot threads are woven together and justice is dispensed will find that Epperson takes a different approach. The action is episodic, in that many of the eponymous Bad Guys who feature in the early pages have been locked up, or shot, by the time the story reaches its final third. Like the mythical amplifier in This Is Spinal Tap, the volume of this book doesn’t stop at 10. It goes to 11 with a defiant swagger.
Chasing Bad Guys will not suit everyone. Readers who enjoy nuance, ambiguity and subtle characterisation will need to look elsewhere. Lovers of atmospheric settings will also be disappointed, as Epperson doesn’t waste words on scenery, unless it’s the landscape of truck stops, roadhouses and neon-lit strip joints. Where the book does score is in the rugged, stripped down prose and constant action. Frank Knott doesn’t do moral musing or soul searching. His black and white, high contrast vision of the world around him might send a shudder up the spines of politically correct readers, but it suits the breakneck speed of the narrative, and the clever plot twists. Dog lovers will enjoy the addition of the forbidding but faithful Dobermann to the plot and despite one or two typos, this is a more substantial – and satisfying – book than the first Frank Knott story. His adventures may still be a work in progress, but I enjoyed the bounty-hunter’s battles with the lowlifes of Texas and Georgia, and look forward to his next appearance.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars