Watch You Drown is the first fiction collection from writer Chris Rhatigan, fourteen stories that run the gamut from straight up crime fiction to noir-tinged sci fi.
There are whole novels distilled into some of these stories—hidden histories of loserdom that have brought the characters to one particular moment in time; but we sense that there have been many such moments in their lives and that Rhatigan could have extracted any of those moments and turned it into dark fiction. He has a reporter’s eye for selecting just the right details, and he understands the stresses that have formed and shaped—and in some cases warped—the people he writes about.
These characters are beaten down and fed up and sick to death of being excreted from the world’s asshole. And then one day, despair meets poor impulse control and a bad situation gets worse.
The collection’s opening story, “In the Hard Nowhere” is one such “out of the frying pan into the fire” story and so is “Service With a Smile.” These are stories that seem particularly relevant in today’s economic times, as does “Glug, Glug, Glug,” a tale of a man who did the best he could but failed anyway.
Comfortable writing at length, Rhatigan is equally adept at making a long story short. “Guy with a Barbed Wire Tattoo,” told in kinetic present tense, is a piece of flash fiction as potent as the venom from a cobra bite. “Administrative Segregation” reminds us that even hard men have their limits and the emotion it elicits is not contempt for the protagonist but pity.
Watch You Drown is more than a collection of short stories, it’s a gateway to a world of pulp fiction that Rhatigan rules.
For more about Chris Rhatigan, visit his blog, Death By Killing.