The first stand-alone thriller by critically acclaimed author Charlie Huston, The Shotgun Rule is a raw tale of four teenage friends who go looking for a little trouble-and find it.
Blood spilled on the asphalt of this town long years gone has left a stain, and it's spreading.
Not that a thing like that matters to teenagers like George, Hector, Paul, and Andy. It's summer 1983 in a northern California suburb, and these working-class kids have been killing time the usual ways: ducking their parents, tinkering with their bikes, and racing around town getting high and boosting their neighbors' meds. Just another typical summer break in the burbs. Till Andy's bike is stolen by the town's legendary petty hoods, the Arroyo brothers. When the boys break into the Arroyos' place in search of the bike, they stumble across the brothers' private industry: a crank lab. Being the kind of kids who rarely know better, they do what comes naturally: they take a stash of crank to sell for quick cash. But doing so they unleash hidden rivalries and crimes, and the dark and secret past of their town and their families.
The spreading stain is drawing local drug lords, crooked cops, hard-riding bikers, and the brutal history of the boys' fathers in its wake.
One of the crime genre's rising stars, Huston (Six Bad Things) delivers a stunning, darkly comic coming-of-age novel, set in the summer of 1983 in an unnamed Northern California town. Four teenage boys, out of school and experimenting with drugs, booze and sex, find trouble fast when they break into the home of the notorious Arroyo brothers to retrieve a stolen bicycle. In the process, they stumble on the Arroyo family's main operation, a meth lab. In a classic moment of naive bravado, they steal part of the stash, setting off a downward spiral of events that will reopen the door to the town's dark past, when an earlier generation of criminals, including one of the boy's fathers, controlled the streets. Huston's natural gift for dialogue shines as he recreates the language of teenage males, in all its crude and often hilarious glory. Most importantly, Huston has the courage to both unsettle and entertain the reader, and his story resonates long after its disturbing final scenes. Author tour. (Aug.)
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January 12, 2009
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Excerpt from The Shotgun Rule by Charlie Huston
Piece of Shit Bike
It started with Andy's piece of shit bike.
--What the fuck were you doing not locking it up?
--I just went in for a second.
--I just went in for a second. How long do you think it takes to steal a bike, dickweed?
--It was right next to the window.
--Yeah, that'll do it; no one ever steals shit that's next to a window. Numbnuts.
George is kneeling next to a bucket of water, submerging the half inflated innertube from his bike's front wheel. He looks once at Paul, then back in the bucket.
--Don't be such a dick, man, he lost his bike.
Paul picks up a rock from the huge pile that occupies half the driveway. He shakes the rock around in his hand.
--He didn't lose his bike.
He tosses the rock, bouncing it off Andy's back.
--He let someone steal it.
Andy feels pressure behind his eyes and fights it. Already cried once coming out of the store and finding the bike gone. Can't cry again.
He picks up a rock of his own.
--I didn't let anyone steal it.
He throws the rock at Paul.
--It was stolen.
Paul stays right where he is, the rock skipping across the pavement and into the street without coming near him.
--Yeah, big diff.
George is still shuffling the innertube between his hands, looking for the string of bubbles that will point to the slow leak that's been plaguing him for days.
--Don't throw the fucking rocks around, dad'll have a fit.
Andy kicks at a couple rocks, nudging them back toward the pile. His and George's dad had them shovel the rocks from the back of his
4 4 two weeks ago. This weekend he'll rent a rototiller and plow up the back lawn and they'll have to move the rocks a wheelbarrow load at a time to spread over the yard. It's gonna suck and he's not even going to pay them. He says they should be thanking him for plowing under the lawn that they hate mowing and weeding.
A line of bubbles shoots to the surface of the water. George covers their source with a fingertip and lifts the tube from the water.
--Hand me that rag.
Andy bends to pick up a scrap of chamois that's lying next to the toolbox. Paul takes a quick step and places his foot over it.
--George, don't let this guy help with your bike. He's bad luck. He touches your bike and it's gone.
Andy yanks on the rag.
--Get off, dickmo.
Andy pulls harder and Paul lifts his foot and Andy falls back on his ass.
--You're such a feeb.
George holds out his hand.
--Give me the rag.
Andy throws the rag at him.
Some big brother. Think he could take his side against Paul just once. Just today. Fucking bike. Still can't believe he was so stupid not to lock it up.
George lifts his finger from the puncture in the tube and starts drying the rubber around it.
--Did you see who took it?
Andy gets off his ass, takes the puncture kit from the toolbox and pops the shiny tin lid from the cardboard cylinder.
--No. If I had I would have kicked their ass.
Paul reaches up, grabbing a lower branch of the maple tree alongside the driveway and chinning himself on it.
--Yeah, George, what are you thinking? If he'd seen them he would have kicked their ass. He's such a badass ass kicker. Asses all over town are afraid of him.
Andy flips him off and hands George the top of the puncture kit.
George drops the rag, takes the lid, and uses its ridged upper surface to score the rubber around the puncture.
Paul hauls himself up onto the branch, hooks his knees around it and dangles upside down, long curls falling over his face.
--Come kick my ass, Andy, I'll just hang here and you try to kick my ass.
Andy stays where he is, watching George fix the leak, taking the lid back and handing him the metal tube of cement.
He's imagining picking up the hammer from the toolbox and swinging it at Paul's face. He's picturing finding whoever stole his bike and stabbing them in the throat with a screwdriver.
Paul puts one arm behind his back.
--C'mon, man, one handed and upside down! You gotta be able to kick my ass.
George rubs the cement over the puncture.
Paul puts his other arm behind him.
--No hands. No hands. It's never gonna get easier than this, man. C'mon and take a shot. You know you want to. Remember that time I pantsed you on the quad? Here's your chance to get back at me.
Andy remembers. First day of his freshman year, bad enough that he'd been skipped a year to start high school early, but there was Paul, greeting him by running up and yanking his hand me down bell bottoms to his ankles while the entire student body was crisscrossing the quad on their way to homeroom.
He pictures standing in the middle of that quad with a machine gun in his hands, pulling the trigger and turning in slow circles until he is all alone and it is quiet.
He shakes his head sharply, trying to jar the image loose. He fails.
He takes the cement back from George, caps it and drops it in the kit, chews the inside of his cheek.
Paul swings himself back and forth a few times.
--What's the matter, spaz? Looks like you're getting twitchy over there.