Those who’ve had the courtesy to follow even a small measure of items I give my most favorable scores to know (and probably appreciate) my love of hard-boiled prose. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up on old-time radio serials and the ‘dime novels’ of Mickey Spillane, and I’ve rarely encountered a classic tough-guy movie that I didn’t like, maybe even love. Still – as our contemporary culture really only allows men to have solid emotional cores – true tough-guy tales have kinda/sorta fallen at the wayside: at best, they’re an anomaly meant to be ignored by people around the world mostly because these confident, red-blooded men have been squashed by politicos and feminists who favor the touchy-feely metrosexual constantly in search of his feelings.
Thankfully, there are still folks like Shayne Youngblood who couldn’t give two squirts for his much less your feelings. Youngblood’s hard-core attitude is what propels A MAN FROM RIO through some dark alleyways and forces him to come face-to-scarred-face with the true nature of evil: it’s ugly, it’s vicious, and it’ll see you dead with your bones being gnawed on by an old dog before it’ll let you enjoy one more sunrise.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Youngblood – a nameless man with little to no known history throughout much of A MAN FROM RIO – spends his days and nights wrapped up in one incident of drunken revelry to the next. He has few friends, not because he isn’t relatable, but mostly because friends are a commodity he just doesn’t need. However, the comely daughter – Mayara – of a woman he ‘represents’ finds a small, secret, private place in his heart, he doesn’t so much open up as he goes with the flow and allows a spark to ignite. Once she goes missing, he’ll turn over every stone to find out what happened to her not because he fell in love but because circumstances allowed someone who got close to him to go away.
What does he find?
Death at every corner.
Shayne Youngblood’s A MAN FROM RIO doesn’t make perfect sense. This isn’t necessarily due to any fault of the writer; rather, I chalk it up to the unbridled criminal chaos that goes hand-in-hand in countries where sheer lawlessness prevails. Sure, it’d be easy to chalk up a few misunderstandings due to the cultural differences of where I’m from versus where the story takes place (any cursory search on crime stats of Rio de Janeiro should open one’s sheltered eyes); suffice it to say that the government, the military, and the gangs and cartels are engaged in a constant struggle for supremacy. (Those who want a refresher, check out the films ELITE SQUAD or ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN and get back to me. Or, better yet, check out an amazing entry from the Philippines, ON THE JOB.)
Stylistically, Youngblood’s prose may likely put off some readers. It’s quick and occasionally irreverent (unnecessarily so in a few tight places). In many ways, I found it similar to Charlie Huston’s vampire novels – the dialogue is superb, and it’s all delivered with a kind of noir-lite flash-and-sizzle mentality – and I think that strengthens the narrative in ways the average reader may not appreciate. In this world, dialogue isn’t meant to propel the book to untold heights; rather, it helps set a pace, giving characters something to do while even they’re waiting for the next moment of explosive revelation. These people don’t have deep, dark motivations about what they do and why they do them; instead, one has to accept that their intent is simply to ‘be’ the best they can be. If that means ‘be’ the best thug, then so be it.
If anything, Youngblood relies on one-too-many convenient knock-outs for his lead narrator. This isn’t to say that they don’t work within the constraints of the quick story unfolding before his and the reader’s eyes – it’s just that, in life unlike in fiction, knocking a person out cold is extraordinarily difficult. Our MAN goes down often enough methinks he’d be hospitalized for head trauma much longer than he’s getting a surgical makeover, but that’s chump change against the breadth of what happens from cover to cover. This is meant to be a blistering read, so I’ll forgive the occasional reliance on one of the genre’s over-used clichés if it means I get a gangbuster finish.
Which I did.
MAN delivers. No, it ain’t perfect, but it’s still pretty damn good. I read it in a single sitting as it caught my interest and I didn’t want to put it down until I was done with it.
A MAN FROM RIO is written by Shayne Youngblood. It’s available as an ebook on Amazon Digital Services for a ridiculously affordable 99 cents. And, to be frank, it’s the best buck I’ve spent this year.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Tough guy fiction has to be in your wheelhouse to appreciate A MAN FROM RIO. Otherwise, you might be put off by Youngblood’s style and a ceaseless exploration of violence from start-to-finish. But for those who read this stuff regularly it’s probably exactly what you’re looking for, delivering a bankable, quality experience … and maybe even a closing chapter Spillane would be proud of.