SPFBO 2017: The Saga of Dirt and Poncho by Clayton Baker and Michael Kuecker

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Man did I need a comedy badly, I had hit a long string of fairly violent and dark books and I went out of order from my reading schedule on purpose because I just did not want to read another grimdark book – I needed a break. This book delivered, I really enjoyed most of the humor – it did get to be a bit much at some points, but overall I enjoyed myself a lot. This was also a semifinalist, I didn’t realize I still had some of those left in my SPFBO TBR pile, and I was glad to hit another one. The finalist from Lynn’s Books was Jack Bloodfist, and it had a similar urban fantasy self-deprecating humor kind of vibe. It seems we have similar senses of humor because I enjoyed this one too.

Lynn’s review here: https://lynns-books.com/2017/12/12/spfbo-down-to-the-last-four/


Plot:

The prologue sets the story up in an interesting way, the main character is definitely aware he’s speaking to an audience telling a story. The opening line is, “My name is Frank and this is the story about how everything I thought I knew got smashed to bits by two insane assholes”, the prologue continues where those two insane assholes, (Dirt and Poncho) bicker with the MC and amongst themselves. The last line of the prologue is, “Fuck it. This is a story about the end of the world.” 

It certainly caught my attention as something a little different from what I’ve read recently. I wasn’t sure where it was going, but I was at least interested in finding out.

Frank, the MC, is a private investigator and is approached by Dirt and Poncho fairly early in the story.  They come to Frank in a bar and ask him if he’s interested in a job, and right from the start you and Frank both know there’s something really wrong with these two guys. They start talking about vampires, and how they’re all from Costa Rica, and neither Dirt or Poncho have any concept of money. They throw 10 grand at Frank and ask him to follow around a man they suspect is a vampire. They tell him all they want him to do is take pictures and report back. Frank thinks these two are insane, the setting for this story is an urban and it’s a “normal world” where vampires are a thing of fantasy stories. But, Frank figures that the job pays really well, so why the hell not go along with it?

Frank gets to the dudes house and watches as “a van full of hookers” shows up, offloads about 4 – 5 women and takes off. Frank shimmies over and hides in the bushes taking pictures of what is a crazy party. He doesn’t see anything unusual at first, just noting that “There was a lack of black candles, pentagrams and bloodletting, and an abundance of cocaine snorting, terrible dancing and immoral touching.” 

As the party continued though, the dude who’s suspected of being a vampire starts murdering the women – Frank tries to rush in and save at least one of them but he’s too late. Frank ends up killing the “vampire” but the “vampire” doesn’t do anything abnormal. There wasn’t any super speed, or super strength, he just got shot in the face and died. He thinks that Dirt and Poncho are two sickos who set up him to murder someone. The thing is, he doesn’t feel bad about killing the guy, seeing that the dude he killed just got done stabbing women in the neck and laughing about it.

So, Frank takes on more jobs, and the plot just gets weirder and weirder as the book goes on. “Werewolves” “Fae” and all sorts of things show up, or do they?

Final Score: 8/10

 


Characters:

Frank is a pretty matter of fact guy, he wants to get the job done and then move on. He’s a man of little ambition, his ideal dream job is one that pays well with low responsibility. He has a sarcastic self-deprecating sense of humor, and overall is rather indifferent to most things. He does like a good mystery, which is part of the reason he continues to work with two men who appear to be insane. He’s morbidly curious about what’s going on, despite the fact that it gets him into surreal situations.

Dirt is a conspiracy nut kind of personality, he thinks everyone from Costa Rica is a vampire, and he doesn’t seem to understand he sounds crazy to other people. Both Dirt and Poncho claim to be immortal, in such that they don’t die from old age – but can die from bullets. They also both claim to be psychic, but you really don’t know what’s going on with them because nothing supernatural is happening. He’s a smaller kind of guy, sort of greasy and dirty, which is probably how he got his name.

Poncho is a giant of a dude, Frank describes him as a living breathing viking. He’s the more rational of the pair and has a more worldly aspect to him – not that it’s difficult to be more worldly than Dirt. He has to wrangle in Dirt’s tangents frequently and keep things to the point.

Final Score: 6.5/10 


World Building:

The world building took a backseat in this novel, it’s not that it wasn’t there – it was just very light. It’s the ‘real world’, bars with neon signs, cabbies, modern tech and all that. The “magical” elements didn’t really come into play until much later in the book, and even then they were only hinted at.

We get random bits of information about Fae creatures, dragons, werewolves, vampires and many other things throughout the book, but they don’t show up in the way you think they would. Through most of the book, both you and the main character are thinking that Dirt and Poncho are out of their damn minds. Which, I mean they are – and they lie a lot to Frank which doesn’t make it easier to grade this, because nothing is concrete. It was a very, very different kind of book.

Final Score: 5.5/10 


Pacing, Prose and Tone:

One thing I want to say about the writing off the bat is that I couldn’t tell it was two authors who wrote the book. Often when I read a duel authored book I can sort of tell who wrote what parts, and I was pleased to say this wasn’t that.

This is also not a book for those who don’t like cursing, this book gave a lot of fucks. Tallying it all up: 156 fucks, 26 assholes, 13 bitches, and 181 shits – there are only 363 pages in this book!

The tone was very light-hearted, there was a ton of humour in this book, enough for me to think of it as solidly in the comedy genre, and not an urban fantasy with comedy elements – although you could call it that I guess. It’s very sarcastic, with some situational humor and banter.

This was a fairly fast paced book, it gets going pretty quickly and from there the main character goes on a bunch of quick ‘missions’ that speed things along nicely.

Pacing Final Score: 8.5/10 

Writing Final Score: 8/10 


Originality:

I can’t say I’ve ever read a book like this, it’s not common to hit a straight up comedy book in fantasy – and it had a unique writing style to boot. Although I’ve seen vampires and werewolves and fae before, this was a very different approach to urban fantasy.

Final Score: 8.75/10


Audience:

  • Urban Fantasy
  • Comedy
  • Quick Reads
  • Bantering odd couples
  • Mystery
  • Light and easy to follow world building
  • Not for people who don’t like cursing

Wrap Up:

I’ll definitely read more by these two if they write anything else, I was pretty entertained by the storytelling style. I guess if I have criticisms it would be that the characters were kind of flat and served the purpose of telling a story, and not so much as telling about their journey/thoughts/feelings. Now, this is a comedy that was very plot based, it kept me turning pages and it was a good read – but it would have been a 5-star book if I had connected with the characters more.

Final Score: 45.25/60 —- 7.54/10 —- 3.77/5  

4 comments

  1. Yeah, I had fun with this one too. I couldn’t quite decide at the end of the book what it was really going for and I felt the ending wasn’t quite as satisfying as I was hoping – like the writers maybe couldn’t quite come up with how to conclude, but, like you, I would read more by these two.
    Lynn 😀

    1. The ending was very vague, I wanted more answers and didn’t get much – I’m assuming it would come in book 2. This book came at the perfect time for me, i was in the mood for something ridiculous and silly. may or may not have effected my enjoyment of it lol

      1. Yeah. I’m guessing the same. In terms of answers in No 2. It’s good to chop and change your book styles and sometimes a bit of light hearted fun is simply what you need. 😄

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