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I heard Josh read part of this — Be Safe or Be Fierce Part III — at Noir at the Bar in Cleveland. Not everyone lives a life “noir enough” to be read about in a bar among crime fiction writers, sandwiched between fictional stories of tough guys and bad behavior. Not everyone who has lived that sort of life can write well enough to tell it in a way anyone would want to read it. Josh Stallings is one of those exceptions. He’s an exceptional guy like that.

Told in a series of essays, in which time is fluid — the way memory is — Stallings spills his guts. Not in a pity-seeking, exploitative kind of way. Not in a cautionary, afterschool special kind of way. Sure, he’s reflective, remembering this little thing, bounced off that other time, intertwined with that one day when… But he’s telling like he tells his short stories and novels: this is what happened, this is how they felt about it, how you feel about it is your own damn business.

It’s noir like that.

And I can’t imagine it any other way.

Stallings will break your heart, but he’ll leave you with a sense of hope for him and his “wild” family.

Pros: It’s a heart-felt, life-affirming, and fascinating story. It’s also a gonzo ride through a Southern California that doesn’t really exist anymore.

Cons: It may leave you with the urge to fly out to L.A. and give Stallings a hug.

Bottom Line: Whether you’re a memoir fan or a crime fiction reader, this is good stuff.

Note: I meant to type this up and post it months ago. I suck like that. If you haven’t read the book, go put it in your TBR pile now.

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