Death is omnipresent to small-town loner Lloyd Bizbang. Today proves no different. Evading tormentors who have targeted him since childhood, Lloyd stumbles upon a sight he wishes he could unsee in the town junkyard. Now as he just tries to live through another day, the bodies are stacking up in the town of Horton, and Lloyd finds himself connected to each of them via the drug-and-drink-addled, unhinging police chief, yet another person who has an old score to settle with Lloyd. A game of revenge and survival is underway, but will there be a winner at the day’s end?
C.S. DeWildt has a bead on small details and setting. I had the pleasure of reading DeWildt's gritty short story, "Watch Dog Crew" on Shotgun Honey last November and was impressed with his quick development of character and wonderful (in the darkest sense) use of language. When I saw DeWildt had new novella out, I had to pick it up.
As you can expect from the cover and the blurb, Candy and Cigarettes is a very dark tale. You'll get a good idea of what to expect when - not if - you head over to Shotgun Honey for a 700 word appetizer.
The story centers on Lloyd Bizbang, who, through a series of terrible and unfortunate events, has found himself an outcast in a small town where the inhabitants seem to do everything in their power to keep from moving on with the outside world. The characters in the novel range from ugly to nasty - but grounded and not over the top in any sense. It is difficult to root for any of them. This may drag in a full-length novel, but here it works well, keeping the reader tense and questioning whether or not to sympathize with such depressing situations.
DeWildt's decision to use a close third person from multiple POVs (some chapters only a page or two long) worked well to ramp up the tension and give additional insight to the inhabitants of Horton. I'm not always a fan of using many POVs, but each is distinct and DeWildt does a great job of establishing a lot of character within a little space.
Candy and Cigarettes won't leave you feeling good, but that's the way it should be. It's a depressing look at a town plagued with bullies on the brink of disaster - and I mean that in the best sense. I look forward to DeWildt's next book. This one is definitely worth checking out.