Written by Tom Pitts — Steven has a job. He’s a drug mule, carrying weed to San Francisco, travelling there by bus. However, Steven is robbed and the weed is taken. If he doesn’t get them back he’s in big trouble because the drugs aren’t bought and paid for. Then, from nowhere, comes Quinn, willing to help Steven out of his spot of bother, provided Steven helps him in return. Quinn is trying to find his daughter, Teresa, in the city. She’s in trouble. But first they head to the vineyards of Napa Valley to look up an old friend on Quinn’s called Oulilette.
Leaving Steven in the car, Quinn goes into the winery to see his so called friend and casually stabs Oulilette to death. Quinn calmly cleans himself up and steals Oulilette’s BMW. Quinn and Steven continue their journey to LA, and Steven still unaware of Quinn’s true nature.
Ex-cop Maurice Tremblay arrives at the scene shortly after and finds Oulilette’s body. He calls it in. After being interviewed by a cop called Peters, Tremblay skips town. He’s on a mission too and doesn’t want to be delayed. Tremblay is looking for the same girl and knows Quinn is after her. He needs to get to Teresa first. Peters, keen to understand what Tremblay knows, follows in his tracks to San Francisco.
Soon, Quinn is on the girl’s trail, torturing a drug dealer with a fork to get information on where she may be. Quinn heads over and spots Teresa going into a squat where she’s trying to score some drugs. He sends Steven in to go and get her. But Teresa has a revelation for him, after which they both go on the run.
Tom Pitts has been writing about life on San Francisco’s avenues for a while. Hustle, republished in 2016, is particularly good. American Static is a welcome return. There are a handful of American authors pushing the boundaries of noir crime including Joe Clifford (recently nominated for an Edgar), Les Edgerton and Tom Pitts, along with the publisher of this novel, Down and Out Books. All producing edgy, dark and gritty material. Street level stuff with a hard edge.
American Static is initially a slow burn tale. There’s clearly something very wrong with Quinn. In fact everyone seemingly has something to hide in American Static. Only Steven is an innocent… well, apart from being a drug trafficker. When Quinn’s murderous intent becomes clear, what follows is a cleverly constructed cat and mouse trawl around the seedier parts of San Francisco, with Teresa the prize. Pitts slowly parcels out the revelations until a hugely satisfying conclusion.
The characters are all really well drawn, the utterly sociopathic Quinn being the best. San Francisco and its grimy undertone make for an excellent backdrop against which the story plays. A really great novel which fans of this particular genre should lap up.
Down and Out Books
CFL Rating: 5 Stars