Bad Citizen Corporation by S.W Lauden (Rare Bird Books, November 3, 2015) – There’s a long line at the door of the crime fiction community as of late. Debut authors are raring to stampede into the place and many are bringing new perspectives, styles, and twists to familiar ground. With his debut novel, Bad Citizen Corporation, S.W Lauden (a well-known fixture in the community already thanks to his interviews and impressive short story work) not only makes his mark, but he sets an expectation: this won’t be his first and last dance—not by a long shot.
Ex-punk rock legend now police officer, Greg Salem, finds himself chin-deep in the shadows of his hometown when an accident at work not only leaves him without a badge, but leaves him open to threats looking for sins past and present. Lauden hits the ground running, painting a sun-drenched and oil-slicked Los Angeles in a way that feels fresh—which is saying a lot, LA is a well-worn battleground of many a scoundrel and anti-hero.
This year has seen a lot of younger authors with some fantastic debuts. Lauden now ranks among them and I can easily say that he has crafted quite a protagonist in Greg Salem, I mean, a punk rock cop? It’s one of those concepts any writer (myself included) would sell a limb to come up with. Not only does Lauden manage to capture that concept well, but he crafts a mystery that may feel familiar at first, but plays by its own rules—hey, a lot like punk, well…before Greenday ruined it for everyone. Thankfully what we got is a lot more Black Flag meets Point Break meets Fatal Attraction with a hint of Eddie and The Cruisers – and I adored every second of it.
There’s an interesting cadence to Lauden’s style. An accomplished drummer, he seems to be capable of instilling a rhythm to his narrative and the overall story arc. Not like a metronome, but more prog rock. There are a lot of staccato moments interspersed with those standard 4/4 signatures. A real standout moment being the occasional use of an old interview as a fantastic plot device. It was something I don’t think I’ve seen before and employed well enough without making the concept feel overused or tired.
Greg’s world feels lived in. From the trashy bars to the ritzy office buildings, Los Angeles’ viewed with a loving cynic’s eye—all at once understanding the attachment and despising its grip on him. The mystery at Greg’s doorstep, the murder of one of his oldest friends, is also handled well. There weren’t many moments where I was able to guess where the story was headed, and I appreciated that as an east-coaster, a lot of this city was mysterious to me. It enhanced the sense of danger and the electricity of the action. And fights there are, but I’ll say that Lauden has a knack for nailing the feel of a live show—one of my favorite bits in the story, especially with what happens.
In the end, I want more Greg Salem. I want to find out about a few of the other mysteries in his life and I definitely want to see his Los Angeles again. I especially want to see him kick ass on stage a few more times. I’m absolutely psyched to see what Lauden has next (we should be seeing more very soon from Down & Out Books, if I remember correctly). He’s a talent out of the west coast to watch for.
Uncorrected ARC of the book provided by author