After his takes on the apocalypse (Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse, 2008) and medieval alchemy (Vampire a Go-Go, 2009), Victor Gischler returns to crime fiction with his latest novel, The Deputy (Tyrus Books). Toby Sawyer is an ex-musician who returned home to Coyote Crossing, Oklahoma, when his mother died, and ended up staying. The town’s sheriff gave him a job as a part-time deputy, even though he’s hardly a by-the-book type. After local thug Luke Jordan is shot, Toby is left to guard the corpse until the coroner arrives. Bored, Toby walks a couple of blocks to his girlfriend Molly’s place for a quickie, which she happily provides. But by the time Toby gets back to the scene of the crime, the corpse has gone missing. He tells another deputy, who sends him home.
To his wife and son. Toby’s wife, Doris, a waitress, doesn’t take the news of Luke Jordan’s death very well. In fact, she decides that they all need to move to Houston. Now. Toby is not ready to deal with this, and so heads back into town. By daybreak, he will have destroyed not only his car, but a semi-tractor and part of a motel as well. He will also have done battle with immigrant smugglers. His wife will have left him, and he will have killed several men. In other words, losing that corpse is only the start of a very long and life-changing night.
The Deputy is laced with Gischler’s usual humor. Toby Sawyer is the sort of lovable loser this author has put at the center of most of his novels, Gun Monkeys (2001) being the only exception. Coyote Crossing is the brand of small town that often features in Stephen King novels–a great place to be from, but way out on the edge of nowhere. Gischler’s motif, however, is the classic Western, only set in the 21st century. One can imagine horses and stagecoaches here in place of muscle cars and pickups. Gischler even cuts the town’s phone lines, sending everyone plunging back into the 19th century.
Gischler does a fine job of making Toby’s life more and more miserable as the long night of this tale winds down. His protagonist will not only likely lose his job, but possibly also his life, before the sun rises again. He spends most of the night wondering what has happened to the sheriff, even finding blood at that man’s house.
If you’ve read Gischler’s work before, you know somewhat how this story will end. You also know that The Deputy is going to be a helluva ride.