Written by Steve Myers – Clocking in at just under a hundred pages, All In, All Out is just the right size to be read in one sitting, and that’s the way it should be read. This fast-paced, twisted little pulp novella packs a punch that’s best absorbed in one blow.
Dean Powers is out of a job, in an unnamed city somewhere in the Midwest with no jobs going. His brothers, Roy and Earl, are out of work too. The only job around is the kind that lands you in prison – the kind that is keeping big men like Rio and Lobo in fancy cars, shiny jewellery and fast women. Fast women like the twins Nana and Anna. The two groups – the wannabe criminals and the real ones – are rounded out by a couple of gang leaders, a couple of girlfriends and a couple of thugs.
The real criminals are planning a big drug deal, and Roy gets word of a bust, a plan to relieve the drug dealers of their money. It’s easy cash – everyone knows the drug dealers won’t be able to tell the police. Roy, his brothers, and the other men in on the it will be able to split the loot between them.
Most of All In, All Out is dedicated to the planning of this heist, the schemes and double-crossing that invariably happens with this type of operation. The bust itself is over in a few pages, but then there’s the aftermath – the mess to clean up. And there’s a lot of mess. Roy was always the happy-go-lucky one, and Dean more cautious. Roy was always keen on the bust, Dean was always reluctant. But Dean is desperate, and Roy is so sure that nothing can go wrong. What could possibly go wrong?
With all those criminals, wannabes and hangers-on, this little novella suffers a bit from a surplus of characters. There’s certainly no time to get deeply into their personalities, no extra words to waste on backstory. What Myers has written is the bare minimum – action, a little dark humour, the creeping sense that everything is about to go to hell, and then some more action. Everything about this book is short by necessity – the chapters, the sentences, and the novella itself are all tight.
Yet the brevity doesn’t prevent each character from having their own individual story to tell, only it’s told through their actions and some brief passages of description. Too brief, perhaps – blink and you’ll miss them – making it easy to forget who’s who, which is not a usual complaint in a story as short as this. It can be confusing, but that’s another reason why you should read it all in one go, so this doesn’t become a problem.
This novella was released last year by eBook imprint Damnation Books, whose website allows readers to choose books by their sex and violence ratings. All In, All Out gets a 3 for sex and 5 for violence – the highest the highest rating offered. If pulp is your thing, then this publisher is well worth checking out.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars