Keenan’s (The Georgellen Club, 2017) short story collection details the misadventures of a Texan private investigator.
August Spivey isn’t like typical literary PIs, who are mostly embroiled in murder mysteries. Instead, he primarily serves people with papers, such as federal subpoenas or temporary restraining orders. However, these tasks can lead to shocking, sometimes-dangerous encounters, including confrontations with a violent tennis player (“When Nice Don’t Work”) and a particularly aggressive pit bull (“It’s What I Do”). The stories in this book portray August throughout his career, although the first-person narratives never specify the exact years in which they take place. They range from the day that he decided to move from bartending to PI work (“Life I Chose”) to his later years, when he acknowledges he can’t keep up with new technology. August also sometimes takes jobs outside process-serving, such as searching for construction siding that someone pilfered from his former Catholic school in “The Same Damn Dream” and, in a few stories, watching bartenders who may be stealing from their employers. The tales work well as stand-alones, although there are a few recurring characters, such as August’s wife, Sandy; his attorney brother, Jack; and fellow PI Chuckie Mays, as well as occasional references to other tales. August’s life is surprisingly riveting, with a fair amount of action, as multiple characters threaten him with a beating or a bullet. Most tales feature animated similes and metaphors (“sweating like a derby winner”; “a boxing match going on in my head”). Even the stories of his life outside work are engaging, as when he becomes deathly ill in “Another Close Call” or gets into a serious mishap while driving in the closing “And I Call Myself a Private Eye.” At other points, readers learn that August is a recovering alcoholic who suffers bouts of insomnia, but “A Day in the Life of August Spivey” takes an oddly mundane turn, detailing his meticulous daily routine of exercise and writing reports.
A rousing set of tales of a workaday PI.