Book Review - Bloody Sheets: War Against The Klan (by Andy Rausch)
Updated: Feb 12
Reflecting on my first few months of blogging, I sincerely hope that my fortnightly posts have been entertaining… and at the very least, I hope you’ll agree that they’ve been eclectic! So to keep that theme going, today marks another first for the blog: my first ever book review.
For this inaugural critique, I am honoured to welcome the latest novel by Andy Rausch, whose astonishing CV boasts over thirty books, including non-fiction titles such as The Films Of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro(2010) as well as hard-hitting crime thrillers like The Suicide Game(2011) and Riding Shotgun(2012). Andy also has a slew of screenwriting and production credits to his name, including writing 2010’s comedy horror extravaganza Dahmer vs Gacy.
His latest novel Bloody Sheets: War Against The Klanis the first of Andy’s books I have read, and any uncertainty I had about what to expect was quickly dispelled by the brutal opening chapters. This would be a breakneck, violent tale, told in the sort of uncompromising, machinelike prose that Lee Child has made world famous in his Jack Reacher novels, with bucketloads of blood, gristle and wisecracking dialogue sprayed across its pages.
That is not to say that this book is a shallow affair; far from it, in fact. Set in the most murky of backwater southern US towns, the story of a bereaved father’s quest for vengeance against a murderous Ku Klux Klan faction feels all too relevant and compelling in these days of thriving far right politics and deepening racial divides on both sides of the Atlantic. Racism in modern-day America is a big subject for Rausch to tackle, and he is certainly not afraid to do so head on, approaching these complex problems in the manner that a monster truck driver might tackle a troublesome traffic jam.
The pace remains frenetic throughout, the gore-splattered narrative putting me in mind of Tarantino at his most gleefully destructive. The Kill Billreference in chapter two was certainly a knowing wink, although this piece of pulp fiction would evolve quickly into something closer to Django Unchained, at least in the sense that it features a ton of racist morons getting their gruesome and much-deserved comeuppance at the hands of a charismatic hero. ‘Hero’ is perhaps too generous a description of the deeply flawed DeRay ‘Coke’ Cokely, but I still found him a highly likeable protagonist; some of his quips had me laughing out loud, and his sad life story injected just enough sympathy into the character to mitigate some of the more merciless and sadistic chapters of his revenge.
The book’s villains are suitably detestable, cutting a repulsive cross-section through the corrupt hellhole of Gibson, Alabama: even the police are in on the bigoted action. I would have liked to see some of these characters a little more fleshed-out than the conveyor belt of generic rednecks and racists Rausch presents us with, perhaps a more insidious side to the upper echelons of the Klan’s hierarchy, or at least a little more time spent with them to allow my hatred to truly reach boiling point.
This problem is perhaps linked to the book’s brevity – I demolished it in a single, several-hour sitting, and would certainly have liked to spend more time in DeRay’s company (although I wouldn’t want to get on his nerves…) The explosive ending, though, is suitably satisfying, and provides a fitting climax to the grisly saga, reminding us that violence is a zero-sum game, where eventually everybody loses.
Ultimately, the book succeeds in showing us not just the appalling reality of racism – grubby men committing violent atrocities, tossing out vile slurs from beneath the comfort of their pillowcases – but also that it is alive and well even in the 21stcentury. However, its punchy narrative is never crushed beneath the weight of such a grave and important message, remaining an entertaining roller-coaster ride that is over far too quickly.
Bloody Sheets: War Against The Klan is available now in paperback or for your eReader.
I really hope you found this review enjoyable and useful, and I wish you a pleasant fortnight with minimal nightmares... until next time...