BAD JUJU | REVIEWS
One Of The Most Original Single Author Collections
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
It's Unlike Any Noir I've Read Before
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
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
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 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:
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?:
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:
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
“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
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
The Product Of A Truly Twisted Mind
Evocative, Imaginative, Hot and Neo-Pulpy
Woods Evokes A Frightening Otherworld
Guaranteed To Take You On A Rollicking Ride
- Harry Hunsicker, Shamus Award nominated author of Still River, The Next Time You Die and Crosshairs