These short stories and essays, mostly set within the landscape of southwestern Ohio, explore the overlapping worlds of cars, guns, and cops.
Klein (The BEST of Chuck Klein: How Guns, Hot Rods, Police Ethics and Sacred Rights Shape America, 2013, etc.) grew up hot rodding and became a police officer, interests embodied in both the fiction and nonfiction halves of this book. (There are a few one-offs, like a time-travel fantasy.) The best-drawn characters tend to be the cars; one story’s protagonist is a truck, and Klein’s favorite metaphors are mechanical. In the story “Record Run,” Tommy’s girlfriend is generically “pretty enough,” but Tommy’s car is a “faded black-topped ’51 Ford with custom wheel covers” in which he plans “to install Offenhauser high compression heads and maybe a Clay-Smith cam.” In the title story, a young sheriff’s deputy thinks he and his wife fit together “like a tire to a wheel or a revolver to a holster.” In “Hot Rod Hero,” a woman’s dangerous pregnancy is subsumed by the glorious, heroic driving that gets her to the hospital, a focus that will seem bizarre to most readers, especially with the gimmicky language straight out of Hot Rod Magazine: “He poured the coal to the mighty Mercury flathead.” Klein does convey his enthusiasms, but readers with no appetite for nitty-gritty details like “15”x6.5JJ wheels…with 11” x 2 ½ rear brakes” will find little to enjoy. Gearheads, on the other hand, will find this just the ticket. Some readers may be uncomfortable with Klein’s one-dimensional portrayal of cops; many Americans have experienced police officers as something other than “calm and organized keepers of the peace,” but Klein isn’t interested in such distinctions. The book is illustrated with photos (often of Klein’s own cars) and drawings by Pumphrey.
Readers who love hot rods, guns and ammo, rock ’n’ roll, and stories of heroic drivers and police are the best audience for this book.