"Bizarre and hysterically twisted, these stories crisscross between the satirical and the pulpy at a maddening pace. I endorse this crazy-ass book! Wild ride. David James Keaton is a writer to keep an eye on."
--Frank Bill, author of Donnybrook and Crimes in Southern Indiana
"This is exquisite writing and fast-paced storytelling--the peanut butter and chocolate of fiction. Bet you can't read just one."
--Stephen Graham Jones, author of The Last Final Girl and Growing Up Dead in Texas
"If you're a cop, have ever known a cop, or been arrested by one, or even if you're just one of those people who are scared of cops, FISH BITES COP! is the collection you must read. Also if you like watching, catching, or eating fish. Or cops."
--Scott Phillips, author of The Adjustment and The Ice Harvest
"Don't expect any nice-making from David James Keaton. FISH BITES COP! is full of people acting badly, and it's as fun to watch them self-destruct as it is to watch a ten-car pileup on the interstate. Trust me: you'll enjoy your couple of hours rubbernecking."
--Kyle Minor, author of In the Devil's Territory
"David James Keaton by his own confession has a problem with authority. You might say he has a hard-0n for cops, a hard-0n of the nightstick variety he brandishes with abandon, gleefully bashing cliches with his own savvy brand of literary mayhem. Keaton goes Dirty Harry on the cop shop of conventional crime fiction. Heads roll, donuts get gored. It's so good it should be illegal."
--Randy Chandler, author of Dime Detective and Bad Juju
"Keaton's at his manic best in this collection, populated by prize winners and barn burners, each one coated in his special brand of pulp sauce. These are stories to read by the bonfire as the world burns. In the worlds Keaton conjures here, spinning with barely repressed anarchy, that's the general drift."
--Court Merrigan, author of Moondog Over the Mekong
"David James Keaton holds the lovechild of convention and expectations down to the hard, concrete floor, puts his hand over its mouth, and slits its throat. Each of the stories in this collection help sop up the blood, his hands wiped cleaned by the time the last story is wrought and reeking of his touch."
--Michael Czyzniejewski, author of Chicago Stories
"With a command of contemporary slang force-bred with imagery, Keaton is one of the strongest voices in American fiction today. The first story alone is one I will read forever."
--Jason Stuart, author of Raise a Holler
"Reading these stories feels like the guys in the garage at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre probably felt as the bullets struck them. They will rip you up, tear you apart, and when you're done, you'll be exhausted with emotion but know that you've been in the presence of greatness."
--Les Edgerton, author of The Rapist
"Quite simply, David James Keaton is a twisted genius, and you read his work at your own risk, risk of a neural or moral melt-down. Keaton's stories are as sickly exuberant and gargantuan as gothic dirigibles, tall tales of teleportation into urban myth and mystery, post-truth, anti-reality, they break every rule of regular fiction and good taste."
--Chuck Kinder, author of Last Mountain Dancer
"It's Technicolor Noir."
--Charlie Trout, reporter for the Pittsburgh Pulp Exchange
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.63(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Fish Bites Cop!
Stories to Bash Authorities
By David James Keaton
Comet PressCopyright © 2013 David James Keaton
All rights reserved.
The police officer's decision to wear his bulletproof vest 24/7 combined with a chronic lack of exercise during the holiday season had slowed him considerably. His dashboard camera revealed a weary, sluggish man who'd forgotten most of his training when it came to approaching strange vehicles, and he was clearly unaware of what was about to happen next.
One minute, he was hunched over the driver's side window, fumbling for a pen to write a reckless-op ticket, the tortoise-like hump of his vest bunched up between his shoulder blades. The next minute, both barrels of a shotgun were lifting his chin high, followed immediately by the silent flashbulbs of that figure-eight, a blast of infinity which propelled his head up through the blue stop sign of his cap and out of the frame forever.
What the cruiser's dash cam did not show, however, was the unlucky officer's head traveling in a lazy football spiral, rebounding off the Interstate-75 mile marker, and tumbling up the yellow lines of the on-ramp. Back on the highway, it pinballed unnoticed between the wheels of rush-hour traffic for approximately fifteen minutes, until it finally became lodged in the maze of a lowrider's exhaust system. The cranium was then carried over fifty miles from the scene of the crime, pinned even tighter by some uneven railroad tracks, lower jaw still frozen in surprise, now a cow -catcher to scoop cigarette butts and gravel, even the occasional candy wrapper piled deep in its maw.
The boy piloting the gleaming, two-toned machine was unaware of his gruesome cargo until his last stop of the night, the Kings of Kings Hydraulics competition. For the first time ever, he placed third and was awarded a lucky rabbit's-foot keychain and a small trophy topped with a league bowler whose ball had been hastily removed with scissors. The first-place winner, however, encouraged by the frenzy of a crowd who had noticed first the blood, then the deceased officer's visage leering down from the jungle of undercarriage piping during the final Victory Bounce, surrendered his first-place title to the boy, which included the tallest trophy of them all, almost five feet from base to hood ornament, a chrome flying pig polished to perfection.
At the ensuing press conference, the Chief of Police explained they had no leads at all, except for a strange necklace found draped around the remains of the officer's ragged neck, a tangled menagerie of turquoise, beads and string initially mistaken for a bomb, but which was later identified as an inexpensive dreamcatcher, sold by the hundreds at most gas stations in the area.
"What's that?' a reporter asked.
"Bunch of shit hanging off a hoop," the Chief answered, impatiently looking around for a better breed of question, the kind a fallen hero deserved. "Catches dreams," he added.
"Sure does, motherfucker!" the boy shouted at his television, now a local celebrity who'd been quickly cleared of any connection in the shooting. His trophy stood proudly on top of the TV, mere inches from the ceiling, vibrating to the beat of something called Kraken III, the only CD he ever owned.
The next day, the boy's sister raised the hydraulics and checked every inch of the 1973 Impala's undercarriage, finding everything that, impossibly, the forensic team had missed or ignored: a garage sale sign, the rest of a turtle, a child's jumper covered in pink starfish that would have likely solved an unrelated kidnapping, one of the new ten-dollar bills, dust cover to a typically sanitized edition of Aesop's Fables, and exactly half a gigantic foam cowboy hat.
"It's like when they cut open sharks," she whispered, cradling as much of this treasure in her arms as she could.
"Only if they keep swimming afterwards," her brother answered proudly, baffling her.
"Is all of this stuff under every car?" she wondered.
The question terrified him, minimized his recent victory, and they never looked under one again.CHAPTER 2
bad hand acting
Weaving through the traffic jam of the hospital hallway, the janitor stops rolling his mop bucket to linger near a circle jerk of police officers infesting a doorway. Inside this room is Ron Flowers, soon to be "39-year -old Ronald J. Flowers from Fort Knox, Kentucky" and all over the news for soaking up about 35 Taser barbs, a half-gallon of pepper-spray, and a dozen blue-sleeved forearms sunk deep into his throat. The cherry on top was the butt of a sergeant's shotgun to the back of his head, right where Mr. Flowers stored memories of a slightly reciprocated crush he'd had on his fifth-grade teacher. The pressure of all this weight on his unconscious brain had caused Ronald Flowers to stroke out. Which is a lot like striking out, except you don't get a chance to spike your helmet for the cameras.
Miraculously, the closed-circuits, cellphones, and dash cams alike had caught every twitch of Mr. Flower's nervous system as the impotent rage of so many boys in black-and-blue crackled and pulsed from their bodies to his. The janitor with the mop bucket had already seen this apocalyptic beating on the internet, and couldn't help but marvel at the way the winds of public opinion were already blowing in the wrong direction. In just fifteen minutes and 30,000 hits, every calm, cool-headed, arm-chair lawyer type was pretty sure Mr. Flowers deserved it. A trial would be unnecessary, they declared. And about 50 or so amateur scientists also debated whether Mr. Flowers was immune to electricity. Maybe he'd simply been Tasered too many times throughout his life? And when the video capped 600,000 plus hits, the word had sidestepped any procedural deliberation and jumped straight to one certainty:
This was the Bardstown Rapist. Fuck him.
Why else would he resist like that? Only a guilty man soaks up enough electricity to power a city block, pulling fishhook after fishhook of Taser wire from his torso, all while cuffing any cop that got too close with fists half the size of Thanksgiving turkeys. A man only does this when he knows justice has caught up with him.
"Immune to compassion, too," those amateur scientists decided, "likely due to a poor upbringing, lack of father figure, too many father figures ..." How else could anyone explain the endless trail of victims left bleeding and broken at rest stops along Kentucky's famous Bourbon Trail?
But even though it was unnecessary, according to the fingertips and crumb-covered keyboards of the online public, the police wanted their confession. They knew how the Department was going to look when those shaky cellphones and fuzzy dash cams hit the 11:00 o'clock news. And they were equally worried whether Mr. Flowers, a huge, raggedy man who'd sort of resembled a black Meat Loaf before his beating (now looking more like actual meatloaf), would either survive or be forever martyred by their assault.
Either way, a hospital-bed confession was crucial. And they'd get one.
* * *
The janitor surveys the sea of navy suits and Batman utility belts surging in closer to the man with every stuttering beep of the machines. They peer over the rail at the broken pile of tubes, blood, and bandages. The janitor isn't sure how many cops are gathered, but it's way too many. And they seem worried and furious, all watering eyes and trickles of blood glistening in their toilet-brush mustaches, all random bleats and sputtered profanity about how someone should pull the goddamn plug on a piece of shit like 39-year-old Mr. Flowers from Fort Knox, Kentucky, how he was a waste of oxygen and hospital resources.
But especially electricity, the janitor thinks as he notices the gaps in their belts where the Tasers used to be.
But as the janitor attempts to mop around the rivers of black, spit-shined shoes, he notices there are two cops a little different than the rest. One big. One little.
This is not uncommon, and the janitor knows immediately, just by being alive on this planet past the age of 18, any clear physical distinction between partners means they will be the worst ones of them all.
And, sure enough, they're the only two faces within miles of an after-hours emergency room that are smiling.
"Is it the guy?" Big Cop asks.
"Gotta be the guy," someone scoffs.
"Where's the girl he was with?"
"We just booked her," Little Cop says.
"Did he rape her, too?"
"Naw, she was in on it. She's always been in on it. White girl like that? How else is a beast like this gonna get close to so many females?"
"Why were they dressed like that?"
"Fuck if we know," Big Cop says. "She claims they were on their way to a costume party. But she's lying."
"Why do you say that?"
"You didn't see her smile when we took her picture? That's all she wanted.
To get one of them sweet, old-time mugshots. Like you get at Frontierland.
Wannabe actors. All of 'em."
"I don't know. What if this isn't the guy?"
"She'll talk," Big Cop says. "And if she don't talk, he'll talk."
"Why?" Little Cop asks.
"Because he reported finding the last victim."
"And she found the victim before that, too."
"And nothing! That's a pretty big fucking coincidence."
"Really?" Little Cop shrugs. "Seems like once the number of rapes gets this high, it gets more likely someone would stumble across two victims in their lifetime, you know? Hell, maybe even three. Shit, one time this little kid found two ears on the same day!"
"He's the guy. DNA will prove it."
A nurse orbits the mob of police, not able to muster the courage to tell them to leave. She's finally able to push through and squeeze the bag of plasma feeding Mr. Flowers' massive forearm. Suddenly awakened by the tug of the needle, the baseball-glove-sized hand connected to this tree trunk of an arm begins scratching at the handcuff locked to the railing.
"Don't worry. They said something in his head popped. That's all he can move. Move that one hand."
"That's one hand too many after what he did to you assholes," Little Cop laughs.
"Well, he ain't gonna move anything else ever again."
"How do you know it's the guy again?" Big Cop smiles.
"I said, forensics are gonna prove everything," someone barks. "You know, the blood."
"The blood, huh?" Big Cop looks at Little Cop, who finally laughs loud enough for the rest of the cops to start glaring. Big Cop says to no one in particular (meaning everyone):
"Man, don't you hate those movies where someone says something like, 'Well, Joe, we checked the perpetrator's vehicle and found fibers and possible latent fingerprints,' then someone else goes, 'Whoa! Speak English, Copernicus!' 'Sorry, Joe. I mean we got the guy.' Gotta love when movies assume the audience is jam-packed with idiots."
"Who are you calling idiots," a cop in the back asks, popping a wad of red tissue from his nostril in anger.
"Exactly," Little Cop laughs.
The janitor mops a little slower, but he knows better than to believe these cops are actually considering the innocence of the brain-damaged behemoth locked to the bed. He leans against the wall and watches Mr. Flowers' finger stops scratching the rail and strain toward one of the officers near the door instead. The finger raises higher, higher, until it's pointing directly at a cop's chest. This officer looks down to his shirt pocket to see a stack of parking tickets and the pen holding them together.
"Did you write him a ticket?" someone asks.
"Yeah, started to, until he went ape shit."
"Hey, whoa, watch the racism," someone says, very serious. "We might be recorded."
"I think he wants your pen," the janitor offers quietly, head down as he slides a snail trail of soapy water to the bathroom.
"DNA is overrated," Big Cop goes on. "Juries love it, but all those numbers? It's sort of like astronomy class. Doesn't mean shit."
"What does that even mean?" Little Cop asks as if he already knows.
"You know when they say there's 'six million stars' or whatever? I mean, that's a lot of stars, but they could have said any big-ass number and it would have meant the same thing."
"Don't you mean 'six million Jews'?"
"Careful with the slurs, Sergeant. Everyone's got a camera these days."
The janitor snickers despite himself, and a couple heads turn. He mops faster.
"Do you have to do that right now?" one of them asks with a nudge.
Then the beeping of the EKG stutters, and they turn back to the broken cargo on the bed. He's still pointing at the officer's chest, fingers now twitching in desperation.
"He wants your pen. Give him your pen, man."
"Maybe he wants to write something down!"
"Bullshit. He's lying," Little Cop laughs.
"How can he be lying with his hand?"
"It's his bad hand."
"Which hand is his bad hand?"
"Depends on which hand someone uses for lying."
Remembering the fight, one of the officers wiggles a broken jaw that rustles like a bag of gravel, wincing as a busted incisor folds back onto his tongue, right where the taste buds used to register "sweet."
"Yeah, that's his bad one," he mumbles, afraid to touch the tooth and lose it forever.
"He just wants your pen."
"Yeah, maybe to stick a nurse with it."
They all watch as fingers thick as sausages flutter and grasp, the first two digits walking on air, trying to reduce the space between them, the index finger finally tracing letters in the air in frustration.
"He wants to write something down!"
"Don't do it," Little Cop says, suddenly almost serious.
"Did you hear what I said? He's lying."
"Lying how? That's not sign language. That's a fuckin' hand saying, 'Gimmie your pen, brother.'"
"Nope, don't buy it. He's full of shit. This man is the worst hand actor of all time."
"Haven't you ever heard of hand acting?" Little Cop sighs.
"You mean like puppets?"
"No. Like hand acting. You ever see a movie where they zoom in on somebody's hand going through a drawer? And all of a sudden the hand starts spending way too much time in that drawer? You know, picking up every battery and screw and paperclip, moving around just a little too much? Then it puts shit back down and sorta floats out of the scene?"
"Uh ... no."
"You watch too many movies."
"Well, I'm telling you," Little Cop nods. "This cocksucker is lying. His hand can't act for shit."
"Wait, are you saying hand acting?"
"There's all kinds. There's hand acting, foot acting. You'll usually get foot acting when a chick steps out of a car. In some movies, it takes a high-heeled shoe an hour to touch the fucking asphalt."
"I saw fly acting once!" a cop yells from the back.
"Where was this, Bobby?"
"Once Upon A Time In The West."
"He's right," another cop agrees, actually removing his hat in respect. "That fly the cowboy finally catches in his gun barrel shoulda got an Academy Award."
The fingers on Mr. Flowers' hand are now moving so fast they've disappeared.
"Yeah, this guy should get one, too."
"Just give him your pen. And give him a ticket to write on. He knows he's caught. He's gonna confess."
"Yeah, he's gonna confess ..." about half of them agree.
"Bullshit," Little Cop snaps, as the other half reach up instinctively to protect their parking tickets. If there was one thing consistent about police officers, it was that, without fail, they all believed beyond a shadow of a doubt they were being lied to at all times.
"You know who's a good hand actor?" Big Cop says. "Sigourney Weaver. She is the greatest, and by that I mean the worst, hand actor of all time."
"All three Alien movies."
"How do you figure?"
"Okay, in the first one? When she's turning on and turning off the most complicated self-destruct mechanism of all time? All those buttons and switches she's lovingly flickin' and crankin'? Then in the second movie? When she's gearing up to go get the little girl and taping all those grenades to her gun, plucking them out of the box as pretty as a child picking posies?"
"I remember that shit!"
"What about the third flick?"
"I don't remember. I do remember that she throws the most believable punch I've ever seen a woman throw, inside or outside of a movie."
"You know what other movie her hand is in? The Ice Storm. There's a shot of it plucking some car keys out of a salad bowl, the keys of the man she's having an affair with, get it? And her fingers do this twirl with them that is just ridiculous. Fuckin' hot though."
"You know what that twirl meant, right?" Little Cop asks. "Betrayal. Deception. Try to get that across with only one finger."
"Who does she hit? An alien?"
"Huh?" Big Cop looks down.
"Who does she hit with the most believable punch you've ever seen? An alien?"
"Nope, a fucking rapist."
At that, all eyes are back on Mr. Flowers. And his bad hand.
Suddenly, the sheet begins to bunch up around his midsection, and a cop slaps it back down.
"He really wants that pen, guys."
"Don't confuse an erection for desire."
"Fuck it. Here. Admit what you did, scumbag."
The officer lays a parking ticket across Mr. Flowers chest and then works a ballpoint pen around the tangle of tubes and wires and into his broken fingers.
The officers tap the butts of their guns nervously for comfort.
Now, because of the diagonal line with which a stroke divides the human body, it's Mr. Flowers' right hand that still works, but it's the left half of Mr. Flowers' mouth that still smiles.
Excerpted from Fish Bites Cop! by David James Keaton. Copyright © 2013 David James Keaton. Excerpted by permission of Comet Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsForeword: Use Your Allusion by Jedidiah Ayres,
Introduction: Open Letter To Asshole Allergic To Turn Signals (Scribbled While Over,
Bad Hand Acting,
Life Expectancy In A Trunk (Depends On Traffic),
Third Bridesmaid From The Right (or Don't Feed The Shadow Animals),
Burning Down DJs,
Three Ways Without Water (or The Day Roadkill, Drunk Driving, And The Electric Chair Were Invented),
Do The Münster Mash,
Either Way It Ends With A Shovel,
Friction Ridge (or Beguiling The Bard In Three Acts),
Don't Waste It Whistling (or Coulda Shoulda Woulda),
Bait Car Bruise,
Three Abortions And A Miscarriage (A Fun "What If?"),
Doing Everything But Actually Doing It,
The Living Shit (or Mosquito Bites),
The Ball Pit (or Children Under 5 Eat Free!),
Nine Cops Killed For A Goldfish Cracker,
About the Author,
About Comet Press,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
David James Keaton's FISH BITES COP! is an impressive display of dexterity in its manipulation of genres and defiance of readers' expectations. Beyond experimenting with different genres and voices, the stories in this collection blend and cross forms and styles in a way that keeps the reader guessing and rewards careful attention and rereading. One of my favorites in Keaton's collection was a story called "Clam Digger," in which a man grapples to reconstruct and understand a terrifying childhood memory of the day his brother disappears. The man's account limns the supernatural, as monster's in the sand meld with traces of domestic abuse and trauma, leaving the reader to decide what is real versus what is a fantastic construction of the child's imagination--and to decide which option would be worse. Stories such as this push the boundaries of horror and crime genres with a mix of both humor and deadly gravity, just as the "authorities" that the subtitle of this book promises to bash run the gamut. From police officers to coaches to fathers, the abuses of authority evoked in each of these stories ties the collection together, while providing Keaton a long leash for exploring themes and forms that definitely pays off.
I love the way this guy tells a story! Enough said!