Sometimes a person is forced into that dark place where either you turn and confront it or it kills you. In such times, and in such places there is no escape, only the hatred that is neither forgiving nor accepting just full of that wounded pain that want go away, ever. Reading Andy Rausch’s tale Bloody Sheets is like that, a place with no easy outs only a one way trip to hell.
After a young black man is murdered by white men in hooded cloaks – a sign of those dark days of the KKK, when flaming crosses and race hatred enveloped a nation in bigotry and killings, we find the young man’s mother bereft seeking help. The only one she can turn to is her ex-Con husband Coke – a fierce henchman for a local gang boss. Coke is not a nice guy. Coke is a father and a bastard, a hired gun, and a working stiff who has a sadistic streak like a scar a mile long leafing down his past where crime, violence, and death seem more like redemption-in-sin than the revengeful future he’s about to inflict on these dead-men walking – these white bastard Klansmen that killed his son. To say this is a revenge play written in blood is the least of it. Rausch’s hate tale against the stain of southern history is a violent look at what we were and still are in many places; a cold stark reminder of what may still lurk below the surface of civility waiting to surge back up from those dark places of hate and race we’d rather forget and bury than see run rampant across our lives anymore. Racism has always been a dark and bloody stain on our southern soul, and seems never to have changed much in all these long years: cold hearted men who like some gothic curse keep repeating the same circle of hell over and over and over again. Coke’s seen it, and known it; and now that his boy’s been murdered by it he’s going to make sure someone pays dearly for it.
Rausch leads us through this revenge play like an eye witness of a hellish triptych by some horror infested surrealist Bosch or Goya, delivering us the goods on this wild romp down the killing fields of a small town situated next door to oblivion. It’s not a pretty tale, but then the men in it are not pretty either, their just cold and mean and angry, and full of that low-life piss that seems to pervade the air like ganked perfume from the lowest circle of hell. Coke’s sidekick Eddie, an ex-con like Coke, and one time cell-mate and blood brother trying to go clean is coxed into helping Coke reluctantly. Ressentiment and fear seem to be Eddie’s weak points, and yet once he’s committed he’s as dogged about getting the job done as Coke. It’s a helluva a ride and you want wont to get off that train till the fat lady sings.
True to form this is a tale that’s going to take you down into the rotgut worlds of white men who are not men, but monstrous thugs right out of a backwoods nightmare. Walking dead, perhaps? Are just living corpses that don’t know any better till they confront Coke and Eddie. Either way Rausch serves up a cold and bloody dish of crime and violence, and never let’s up till that ruddy river of bloody sheets runs clean and true into that dead night. Here is where the Blues and the soul tunes of dead things seep down into the darkness never to return. Hot and quick, this is a fast paced read that leaves you wanting more, leaves you in that blasted place stained by the atrocities of a kingdom of death where nothing is ever good and everything deserves to die.
As Rausch says in an interview of the book:
“I enjoy writing crime fiction, but I’ve also always been fascinated by racial issues. That’s something that has always been very important to me. Years ago I wrote a popular revenge novella titled Riding Shotgun. I like writing those kinds of stories and am a big fan of revenge films like Man On Fire and Rolling Thunder. Also being a big fan of blaxploitation films of the 1970s – I actually co-wrote a book on them – I realized the potential for a book with this theme.
I struggled long and hard with whether or not this was a story I could or should tell as a white man. I think it’s an important story, but I was aware that some people might be offended and feel like it’s not my story to tell. I actually considered writing it with a black author, but wound up doing it myself. It’s my story, and it’s a good story. I can’t help the fact that I’m a white guy. This is my story, so the best I could do was to try to do it the best I could.”
from Q & A with Andy Rausch March 10, 2019
Andy Rausch is an American film journalist, author, screenwriter, film producer, and actor.
He is the author of several novels and novellas including Elvis Presley, CIA Assassin. He also wrote the screenplay for Dahmer versus Gacy and is the author of some twenty non-fiction books on popular culture.
Books: Riding Shotgun, Bloody Sheets, A Time for Violence, Layla’s Score