One can get into a debate on what defines a novel, novella, novelette(?) or short story, but only pedantic little pricks really care about that. You might even know the author as the force behind Pulp Metal Magazine but the writer’s pedigree is equally just as unimportant. There is talk that this was once a podcast and that doesn’t matter. What matters is that Jason Michael’s The Black-Hearted Beat: Book One (Near to the Knuckle) is a fucking great ride.
The book begins with our narrator playing a game of Russian Roulette in an underground club in London. With a pistol to his temple, the narrator tells the story of how as a child, a stray bullet almost killed him but only grazing his ear.
There I was, a child, walking nonchalantly across main roads. I had the momentary ironclad belief that I was invincible. A belief that lasted just long enough for the police to finally pick me up and take me back to the bosom of my very pissed off family. Just because I was blessed with good luck, did not mean I had the hide of a rhino.
I learnt a valuable lesson with every stroke of my father’s belt.
No matter how charmed your life is, pain is fated for all of us. With every shining light, a darkness follows.
Paul D. Brazill has a short introduction to this book calling it “pulp and poetry, gritty and lyrical, claustrophobic and cinematic, lurid and literary.” Michel’s book is all of this and more. The Black-Hearted Beat is a shot glass filled with anger and death spilling over its rim — you drink it, casually lick your wet fingers, and ask for another.