Revenge is the predominant theme of this collection of short stories, each accompanied by Lansdale's (Jackrabbit Smile, 2018, etc.) commentary.
There is a note of both nostalgia and brutality that runs through these stories. Eras such as the Depression and the 1950s are evoked in terms that have less to do with naturalism than with popular iconography. The effect might not always be convincing, but it's pleasing. One of the stories, "The Projectionist," had its start in a project in which writers were invited to devise a short story inspired by an Edward Hopper painting. In some way, the loneliness that runs through Hopper's canvases runs through all these tales. There is a sense that connections, while deep, may be transitory, that self-reliance is the only constant in a world in which the ties of love, friendship, and family are subject to circumstance and death. That self-reliance is inescapably masculine—not as any rejection of women but simply because the protagonists are men. An exception is the title story, the best one here, in which the narrator's tough kid sister has a dangerous tongue and an even more dangerous aim. She's like Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird recast as hard, funny, and wised-up. The story itself is something like Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" reimagined as a piece of wish fulfillment. You'd have a hard time thinking of a story that seems a less likely candidate for a feel-good reworking, which is part of this new story's appeal.
A hard-nosed and evocative set of stories that carry a rough-hewn pleasure.