Safe Inside the Violence (280 Steps, November 10, 2015) – Chris Irvin is the type of writer that has accomplished a rare double feat with his novellas ‘Federales’ and ‘Burn Cards’: he pisses off other writers and engages his readers in ways veteran writers would give their eyeteeth to emulate. In his short story collection, ‘Safe Inside the Violence’, Irvin provides more proof that he may be the best new writer on the crime scene today.
Irvin has a knack displaying the desolation of crime—that near soul-shattering silence and loneliness that comes with the dark places people can end up. Even when surrounded, Irvin’s protagonists are intensely lonely and absorbed by a darkness few of us can ever truly understand. He does this with full understanding that empathy is key to driving an understanding of his protagonists that is essential to sit well with some of their decisions and actions. That’s a tricky balancing act to play and Irvin makes it look almost effortless.
Let it be said, though, this collection is more than just crime stories. Irvin should give himself more credit. In stories like ‘Digging Deep’ and ‘Beyond the Sea’—the latter an especially interesting tale that nearly verges on urban fantasy—Irvin crafts vulnerable and deeply literary tales. It’s in essence a palate cleanser between the moments where blood is shed and blunt force is evident. It’s a necessary means of preventing exhaustion. A reader can only take so many moments of violence followed by more moments of violence. The quiet time speaks louder and manages to make Irvin’s more potent moments pop even more.
That’s not to say the crime isn’t up to snuff either. The standout in the collection (in my opinion), ‘Union Man’ – a deeply emotional tale about a young father willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the health of his son. This story kicks off Safe Inside the Violence and sets the tone for the entire work. It would be easy to leave the quality there because ‘Union Man’ is truly a story that makes the entire collection worth the price of admission, but it doesn’t stop there. Kudos to Irvin for not only maintaining the expectations he sets from word one, but for also curating the collection to work in a suitable rhythm. There are no lapses or moments where focus strays like in some collections. All the stories here cut like knives—each with their own specific way of filleting and slicing away at you.
So again, we find ourselves with another hit from Irvin, but damn him to hell, I’m ready for a novel. In the meantime, we’ll have to sate ourselves with his current output, which is thankfully, built for repeat reading.
ARC of Safe Inside the Violence provided by the author