BAD JUJU | REVIEWS

One Of The Most Original Single Author Collections

Here’s another collection that’s been receiving a lot of mainstream media attention in the past couple of months and rightfully so. Bad Juju is without question one of the most original single author collections I’ve run across in quite some time. The stories are about as hardboiled and pulpy as they come, but if one can say that fellow Plots with Guns alumni Greg Bardsley is the Fellini of short crime fiction, than I think it is safe to say that Woods is the David Lynch. Woods stories are hallucinatory and absurdist. Violent wet dreams filled with guns, buckets of gore, and scheming femme fatales. - Spinetingler Magazine

Erotic or Absurdist Noir...Reminiscent of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction

**** Jonathan Woods: Bad Juju and Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem, New Pulp, $15. These 19 tales of erotic or absurdist noir are lively, imaginative, sometimes parodic, often darkly funny, accurately likened on the back-cover blurb to opium dreams and Quentin Tarantino. The final novella, "No Way, José," is especially reminiscent in style and mood of Pulp Fiction. Exotic backgrounds abound, with "Incident in the Tropics," equally damning of the Ugly American and the unscrupulous local, a strong example. Not my usual cup of tea, but it's all executed with enormous skill by a writer of formidable talent.
​--  Jon L. Breen, The Jury Box, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine March/April 2011

Woods Is An Intense Noir Stylist

Woods is an intense noir stylist who has few peers who can equal his technique and whip crack pacing. In my opinion the two best stories that exhibit Woods full power as a storyteller is the hilarious yet chilling, “Incident in the Tropics” and the lovelorn “Dog Daze.” But I’d be hard pressed to say that I disliked any of the stories contained in this collection. Also, I would normally say that I can’t wait for Woods to produce a novel—and I am looking forward to it—but in the same breath, I’d have to say due to the overall strength of Bad Juju, I’m looking forward more to his next collection. - Keith Rawson, May 8, 2010

It's Unlike Any Noir I've Read Before

The most common phrase that popped into my head while reading BAD JUJU & OTHER TALES OF MADNESS AND MAYHEM was “What the fuck?” It’s unlike any noir I’ve read before, since this collection of Jonathan Woods’ stories has some truly out-there plots and characters. It’s like he gave the whole crime world a much-needed enema. 

The stories have to be read to be believed. One of the shortest and most chilling is “Samurai Avenger,” whose vigilante witnesses a crime, but waits until he is off work to extract his version of justice, with very mixed results. To say that the narrator is not playing with a full deck is an understatement. But that tale alone doesn’t come close to the darkness of others. 

“Incident in the Tropics”‘ seems as if Woods took every American-tourist stereotype to come up with a woman who not only thinks the locals are checking her out, but stole her precious camera. “Bad Juju” comes off like some surreal crime drama where a man is on the hunt for missing money, while “Drive By” is just disturbing in whole new ways you won’t see coming. 

Woods has one seriously fucked-up imagination and I’m so glad he took up writing. “Dog Daze” and “Looking for Goa” deal with men whose new girlfriends are definitely more than they can handle. Closing out the collection is “No Way Jose,” which plays like a Coen brothers fever dream and could be built into a full novel. 
These stories are the calling card of a writer who is playing by his own rules of noir. BAD JUJU is dark, gritty and truly gripping — no cozy bullshit.
- Bruce Grossman, Bookgasm.com, July 6, 2010 

Bad Juju Is Simply Unabashed Pulp Taken To Eleven

The first word that comes to mind when trying to describe the shorts stories of Jonathan Woods found in his collection Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem is shameless.  Dude’s shit is all kinds of shameless - shameless in its vulgarity, its political incorrectness, its pulpiness.  Bad Juju is simply unabashed pulp taken to eleven, and you better believe the Nerd can dig it.

If you’re down with the online crime mag scene you’ve probably come across Woods in the past, his shit having appeared in Plots with Guns, Pulp Pusher, and Thuglit.  The genres Woods dips into are all over the place.  There are adventure stories, supernatural stories, classic noir tales, and straight-up dark comedies in Bad Juju.  The settings are also incredibly varied, with pieces taking place in Japan, Central America, the South, and the Caribbean just for starters.  But through it all there’s no getting around that it is the same wild-ass raconteur behind each, an author who never met a sexual metaphor too distasteful or a sickening plot twist too disgusting.  In other words: subtle this shit ain’t, but fun it sure as fuck is. 

There are very few clunkers in this crazy-solid collection but there are definitely some standouts.  “Then What Happened?” is the best of a number of femme fatale stories in Bad Juju, nastiness stacked on nastiness until a sickly hilarious climax.  “An Orphan’s Tale,” about a beautiful nymphet kidnapped by a sex-crazed preacher, reads like a Woodrell story dumped in a vat of moonshine and boiled over hellfire.  “Incident in the Tropics” is arguably the most original story in the collection, a tale of two vacationers whose arrogance cost an innocent boy his life.  “Blue Fin” is essentially an extended car chase through the streets of Tokyo over a prime cut of expensive tuna.  The novella that closes Bad Juju, ”No Way, Jose,” more than got the Nerd’s mouth set for when Woods drops a full-on novel onto my plate - fingers crossed that shit happens toot-fucking-sweet.

But those are merely the highlights in all-around extremely solid collection.  New Pulp Press has been gaining a reputation for putting out quality, fucked up works that your average publishing house would toss in the “completely fucking unmarketable” pile.  For we of the basement crazy cloth they are doing God’s work, and you better believe that Bad Juju fits ever so snugly into their ever growing bible of nasty fuckery.
- Reviewed by the Nerd of Noir,  Spinetingler Magazine, July 6, 2010

Surreal, Bloody, Profane and Often Outrageously Funny

Readers who prefer their moral chaos fictional should turn to Jonathan Woods' debut story collection, “Bad Juju,” which more than delivers on its subtitle's promise of "tales of madness and mayhem."

In "Down Mexico Way," a couple's bickering escalates until the husband bets his wife in a game of poker. The protagonist of "Drive By" spends a wild afternoon with a party girl named Dandelion -- and then she asks him to kill her brother. And in "No Way, Jose," more than a dozen characters, including a would-be terrorist, a pair of burglar brothers and a teacher on the lam with his schoolgirl lover, find their violent destinies intertwined.

Other stories involve a flying shark, an archaeological dig possessed by an ancient evil and the deadly repercussions of a camera's theft. Surreal, bloody, profane and often outrageously funny, these tales are sure to give a jolt of energy to a lazy day on the beach. - Rebecca Oppenheimer, Howard County Times, August 26, 2010

Rebecca Oppenheimer, a Towson University graduate and National Book Critics' Circle member, dives into the latest books from her home in Stevenson.

From: His Futile Preoccupations . . . “Who Can Explain My Trailer Trash Urges?” 

If someone ever asks you what pulp is, just hand them a copy of Bad Juju and Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem by Jonathan Woods. They may never speak to you again, but at least they will know exactly what pulp fiction is. And hell, you can always get new friends.

If you aren’t into pulp or if you aren’t prepared for explosive pulp-Woods-style then you will have a WTF moment when you pick up Bad Juju and start reading these Tales of Madness and Mayhem. I am currently also reading Zola’s Debacle–a madness and mayhem of a different sort. Debacle is a phenomenal book, btw, but there’s a sense of slow dread  building. Bad Juju is the perfect antidote and vice versa.

When I read the first few pages of Bad Juju, I knew this was going to be a book I really enjoyed. For pulp lovers, the dialogue between Woods’ weird assortment of characters in these nineteen bold & nasty stories is a lot of fun. You have to love a book which includes a character who freely admits:   “I’ve always been attracted to volatile women, ” right before he’s dragged into a very messy domestic situation with a murderous housewife who combats moral quibbling with “Fuck you and the dictionary you rode in on.” After those sort of statements, well anything goes. And it does.  Some of the stories dive-bomb the reader with high-octave action while others have a slow-burn quality. The common thread here is that setting, circumstance and action dominate with character-types in “ultra deep do-do” who fight to survive in a range of hostile landscapes.

These are stories set in the sweaty tropics, unnamed Latin American countries, and sometimes in the trash holes of America. Characters include one-eyed sicko paramilitary types, obnoxious american tourists who should have stayed home, ex-exotic dancers, illiterate waiters, pissed off girlfriends, coke dealers, women who don’t waste time wearing underwear, a private loony-bin lodger, and compulsive gamblers. And naturally characters such as these don’t belong in friggin’ Disneyland, so we find them  in seedy bars, rancid motels, and tawdry nightclubs–joints with names like: The Stoned Iguana, Snack Bar Gogol, Snuffer’s, and Black Velvet.

Woods’ stories are unashamedly pulp. There’s no attempt to be anything other than that, and while the stories include pistol whippings, kicks to the gonads and free handjobs, in true Pulp creed nothing is taken too seriously here. In An Orphan’s Tale, for example, a spunky fifteen-year-old “Jezebel” is kidnapped by a middle-aged man. Just who is the victim becomes a matter of argument as their flight continues. Here’s the orphan talking to her kidnapper:
 
“Your career’s ruined, Mr. Nesbitt. You’ll never teach choir again. Or bible studies. In fact I bet they put you in prison and throw away the key.”

You just have to sit back and enjoy these tales. And I did. I even laughed out loud at the sheer nastiness of some of them.

Woods has the genre down pat. Some of the stories are just flash glimpses into hellish existences while others I could see fleshed into full-fledged novels in a Hard-Case-Crime-way. These tales run the gamut and a couple include slices of horror and the surreal–two genres which are territory I usually don’t tangle with.  Perhaps that explains why I found these stories slightly less appealing.  There’s even a ghost pulp story set in Venice, so the subject range here is huge. Of the collection my favourites include: Incident in the Tropics, And Then What Happened? Here’s an excerpt from And Then What Happened?:
 
She doesn’t really mean that, I think. Though Inez is hard to read. She picked me up two weeks ago in the vegetable department at Piggly Wiggly where I’m checking out the baby eggplants and radicchio for the grill. Right after we fuck that first time in the bed of my pickup, she tells me she’s going to shoot her husband. She has a long list of grievances.
 
I’ve always been attracted to volatile women. I like the edgy feeling of never knowing where you stand.

I’m calling Bad Juju Gutter Pulp, so don’t expect anything more or less than unrestrained language. There were a couple of times the use of simile goes overboard (two similes which describe the same thing in one short paragraph or in two sequential paragraphs), but apart from that, the use of language for pulp style is incredible. Where else would you find a Palm tree described as “scrofulous”? This is unrestrained, full throttle pulp. PC never happened, so with these tales, be prepared:
 
It was the nadir of the afternoon of the next day. Three-thirty. Everyone was asleep at their desks or sales counters. Only rich lesbians on the make cruised the mall department stores at that hour seeking desperate housewives with whom to perform lewd sex acts.

Bad Juju and Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem comes from New Pulp Press–a publisher I’d never heard of before picking up this book. It’s great to see so many speciality publishers popping up, but a sad fact that a large book shop I visited yesterday had no showing whatsoever of the smaller presses (No Canal by Lee Rourke, No Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi).  Come to think about it, I couldn’t even find a couple of the New York Review Book Classics I was looking for. I’d like to think that the internet gives at least a fighting chance to some of these small publishers, and I suppose that’s where blogging comes in. - Guy Savage, July 25, 2010

Gritty, Sexy and Psychotically Twisted

Gritty, sexy and psychotically twisted, this collection of pulp fiction is as entertaining as they come. Several are set in tropical climes lending an exotic feel, while even the more mundane settings are steeped in double-dealings, corrupt officials and femme fatales. Nothing, not even your next-door neighbor or your spouse is quite what they seem when treated to Woods demented touch as seen in “Ideas of Murder in Southern Vermont.” 

“Incident in the Tropics” takes the ugly American stereotype to extremes when a woman becomes convinced that one of the local boys not only was staring at her boobs, but also stole her camera. Evolution takes an interesting if terrifying direction in “Shark Bite” and for fans of the Coen Brothers, “No Way Jose” serves up a particularly appealing treat. All these stories are a combination of Hunter Thompson and Alfred Hitchcock with hints of Stephen King, in other words, a treat. - Sandy Amazeen, Monsters and Critics, September 5, 2010

FROM OTHER WRITERS:

Woods Has Arrived Fully Fledged As A Maestro

Each and every story in Jonathan Woods’ Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem is a gem.  Woods has arrived fully fledged as a maestro whose collection seems like it must be his fifth or sixth book such is the assured tone. And it bridges the chasm between literary and mystery seamlessly. 

The title story is my own personal favorite but each of the other stories stands equally alongside it.  Just as you settle into the stories and predict you have a feel for how they will proceed, Woods hits you between the eyes with a stunning twist or completely unexpected turn.  His ability to switch genres in the space of one story after another is astonishing. If you could imagine Poe, Paul Bowles, Chandler and the wondrous Robert Stone all contributing to a collection, Bad Juju would be it. 

The writing is of such a high calibre that I found myself reading the stories aloud to get the full flavour of Woods’ artistry.  I can only pray he tackles a novel and soon, but never lets his astonishing ability with the short story lie dormant. - Ken Bruen, Shamus-award winning author of The Guards, The Killing of the Tinkers, Blitz, London Boulevard and the newest Jack Taylor crime novel Headstone

 Jonathan Woods Is A Writer Of Considerable Gifts

I’m delighted to recommend the stories in Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem.  Jonathan Woods is a writer of considerable gifts -- an eye for the right detail, a vivid sense of narrative deployment, a keen ear for the rhythms of speech.  These dark, often strange, eerily radiant stories add something special to the tradition of noir crime writing.  Take note, Edgar Poe – there is life in the line you cast. - Jay Parini, D.E. Axinn Professor of English & Creative Writing at Middlebury College and author of The Last Station, The Apprentice Lover and Robert Frost: A Life

The Product Of A Truly Twisted Mind

Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem by Jonathan Woods is the product of a truly twisted mind, and I mean that in the nicest way.  If you crossed the Coen brothers with Kurt Vonnegut, then threw in some Jim Thompson along with a couple of dollops of vintage Quentin Tarantino, you’d come up with a writer very much like Jonathan Woods.  In these stories Woods gives his own fresh riff on the great American tradition of down and dirty noir.  He delivers, in spades. - Ben Fountain, author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara and winner of the 2007 PEN/Hemingway Award and the forthcoming Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Evocative, Imaginative, Hot and Neo-Pulpy

Evocative, imaginative, hot and neo-pulpy, Jonathan Woods' collection of stories, Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem, is a must for fans of noir, crime and adventure fiction. - Allan Guthrie, author of Slammer, Savage Night and Hard Man

Woods Evokes A Frightening Otherworld

The stories in Jonathan Woods’ Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem are not for the faint-hearted.  Woods evokes a frightening otherworld where things start badly and always get worse, a world made more disturbing by his sinister humor.  Impeccable dialogue, wit, surprising plots--it’s all here.  Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett would approve and be, I suspect, more than a little bit envious of these stories.  Bad Juju, indeed. - Ron Rash, two-time PEN/Faulkner Award finalist and author of Serena, Chemistry and Other Stories, One Foot in Eden and the Frank O’Conner Short Story Award-winning Burning Bright

Very Funny!

...just read your story and laughed my arse off.  “What the F*ck Was That?”  Very funny!  Reminded me of Wm. Burroughs, with a better sense of humor. - Adele Bertei, singer/song writer

Guaranteed To Take You On A Rollicking Ride

Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem is anything but bad, a collection of great crime stories guaranteed to take you on a rollicking ride across the bizarre territory that is human behavior run amok. 
- Harry Hunsicker, Shamus Award nominated author of Still River, The Next Time You Die and Crosshairs

Original Stamp On An Old Formula

In this invigorating first collection of stories, Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem, Jonathan Woods has created a memorable gallery of oddball killers, gamblers, pimps and prostitutes, losers, false winners, bartenders, con artists, broads and junkies to match any created by the pulp writers of the past.  He’s put his original stamp on an old formula, and made out of it something surprisingly fresh: dark tales that give off a weird, incandescent light. - John Burnham Schwartz, author of Bicycle Days, Reservation Road and The Commoner

Intense, Lyrical, Dark, And Disturbing

Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem [by Jonathan Woods] is by turns intense, lyrical, dark, and disturbing, but a surprising undercurrent runs through all of Jonathan Woods’ stories.  If you listen closely, you can almost hear the sound of a writer having fun.  Jonathan Woods is an original. - Dani Shapiro, author of Family History, Black & White and the memoir Devotion 

Everything You Hope For From High-Toned Writing

First-rate noir is meant to alarm and horrify decent men like myself, and certainly I was quite shocked by nearly everything I read in Jonathan Woods’ Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem.  But Woods’ stories have everything you hope for from high-toned writing, so the gunfire, the stabbings, and the entirely mystifying sexual exploits are worth every minute.  You’ll finish this book feeling astonished, but with no regrets.  Woods is the real thing, and once I’ve recovered I plan to read the book again. - Michael Dahlie, 2009 PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author of A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living 

Woods Has Laid Down The Gauntlet For Gonzo Noir

[With Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem] Jonathan Woods has laid down the gauntlet for gonzo noir in the 21st Century.  His postmodern take on the genre is scorching the earth behind him, and the rest of us will need to raise the stakes if we want to keep up. - Anthony Neil Smith, editor/publisher of plotswithguns.com and author of Hogdoggin’ and Yellow Medicine

Wildest, Funniest, Scariest Collection Of Stories

Jonathan Woods writes with unseemly glee about some of the nastiest characters and situations to be found in contemporary crime fiction, and Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem is the wildest, funniest, scariest collection of stories I’ve read in a long while. - Scott Phillips, author of The Ice Harvest, The Walkaway and The Adjustment

Quirky And Disquieting

Quirky and disquieting, Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem keeps you on your feet and leaves you marveling at the imagination of Jonathan Woods.  I want to read more! - Michael Connelly, award-winning author of The Lincoln Lawyer and the amazing Harry Bosch crime novels, most recently The Drop