Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Review: XXX Shamus by Red Hammond

I became interested in XXX Shamus because the publisher compared it to the work of Hubert Selby Jr and Irvine Welsh. Since Selby is one of my favorite authors and I've enjoyed what I've read of Welsh, I picked this up. While it certainly has the nastiness of those two authors, it's a little more plot driven. Personally, I'd say it's like a more lucid and explicit Kiss Me, Judas.

Hooper Garland is a private investigator in New Orleans who specializes in finding missing girls. A young woman comes into his office one day and asks him to find her missing sixteen year old sister, Yasmin, who disappeared after she got pregnant. Hooper is reluctant to take the job, because the last girl he found didn't want to be found and tried to kill herself. He's persuaded to take the job, because he has another major problem with women.
All Hooper knew is that when women got near him, it was like flicking a switch on their lust. They lost control. They took control. It had started to make him nervous.
As Hooper works the case he meets the despicable, pitiful and fascinating people involved in Yasmin's life, as well as trying to deal with the ones in his own.

One of the best things about XXX Shamus is that it manages to keep its plot tight and fast moving, like a pulp mystery novel, yet is able to explore the psychology of its characters in depth. This is what keeps Hooper's problem of being irresistible to women from being more than just a male fantasy. All of Hooper's trysts come back to bite him. He grows tired of his inability to form real intimate relationships.
Like Divinity had said, Hooper's entire life was a porno flick, but he wished it to be a romantic comedy.
Hammond's hardboiled prose is what really makes this book. It's straightforward yet vivid and visceral. Reading this book is like a classic noir film playing in your head. Except there's no cutting away when things get dirty or bloody.
Thinking if this were the Fifties, if he were Mike Hammer, there would be all the innuendo and hints but none of the flesh and bodily fluids and smells and sounds. Back then flirting wasn't an invitation for a no-strings-attached fuck.
From the title alone, you can tell this book is not for everyone. It's extremely graphic and very depressing at times. Despite that, I would recommend it to any fans of crime fiction and neo-noir.

Something to note is that Amazon removed this book from their store. Not just from the Kindle, but they refuse to sell new copies as well. Although you can still buy used copies off of it. Why they chose to remove this book for violating the terms of service, when you can buy actual porn that advertises itself as porn off Amazon is a mystery. It sets a really bad precedent for independent authors and publishers on Amazon as well. However, you can still buy XXX Shamus through the crowdfunding site

UPDATE (10/03/2015): The FanBacked campaign has ended, but Broken River Books is now selling it direct. Buy XXX Shamus from

UPDATE (03/05/2018): The Broken River Books edition is now out of print. You can pick up the new edition from Down and Out Books here.