With books published by New Pulp Press, BEAT to a PULP, and Crime Factory Publications, it was no wonder that I had never heard of Jake Hinkson before. (Yeah, I’m new to this, but learning fast.) The classic noirs seem to get all the press. Since Hinkson’s book, Hell on Church Street, was the July selection of the Pulp Fiction Group at Goodreads, so I felt obliged and I am glad I did.
Hell on Church Street (280 Steps) has the guts of Jim Thompson, the storytelling of Joseph Conrad and a sprinkling of Nabokov’s Lolita. Hinkson begins the book with an unnamed narrator, a man with a short temper, on the run from the law, and looking for an easy mark to roll. The mark he finds is a fat man name Geoffrey Webb, but this robbery is not going to be as easy as he thought. Even with a gun pressed to the back of his head, Webb, the “victim”, was going to be robbed his way and he had a story to tell first.
The new narrator, Webb, talks of his abusive father without any excuses and then how the church may or may not have saved him.
I’m not an intimidating man. Believe me, I know. But I’m not talking about being intimidating. I used to be the safest man you could imagine. At one time, years ago, so many people loved me and trusted me you wouldn’t believe it. I’ve known the kind of trust that few people are ever afforded. And I betrayed it. So now I guess I deserve the termite life I’ve been living. I deserve to die the way I’m going to die. I betrayed everyone who ever trusted me, and God saw fit to cast me down with the termites. No amount of forgiveness or understanding will change what I’ve done.
At it’s simplest, Hell on Church Street, is the story of an awkward man hired as a youth minister. He has a fine porn collection and attracted to his minister’s 15-year-old daughter. Set in modern times, though prior to the internet, Hinkson’s novel spins the decline of a decadent man and his lame-ass attempt at redemption. I can only say that Hell on Church Street is good, real good; it may even be great, but that is something some that comes with time and multiple re-reads.
Originally posted on September 02, 2016. Updated on October 30, 2016.