Friday, 18 May 2012

Beautiful, Naked & Dead by Josh Stallings: a review

The Blurb
BEAUTIFUL, NAKED AND DEAD is hard-boiled crime novel. Moses McGuire, a suicidal strip club bouncer, is out to avenge the death of one of his girls. From his East L.A. home, through the legal brothels of Nevada and finally to a battle with the mob in the mountains above Palo Alto, it is a sex soaked, rage driven, road trip from hell.

The Author
'Josh Stallings is your average ex-criminal, ex-taxi driver, ex-club bouncer, film making, script writing, movie advertising editing, punk. Google him and you may find out he has won many awards for his work as a trailer editor. He wrote and edited the feature film "The Ice Runner," a Russian/American co-production. "Kinda Cute for a White-Boy" an independent feature he directed and co-wrote with novelist Tad Williams, won best picture at the Savanah International Film Festival. He also wrote "Ground Zero Texas," a best selling Sony video game with Edward Neumeier (writer of RoboCop). He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Erika, his bullmastiff Nelson, Lucy the lab pit mix and Riddle the cat. BEAUTIFUL, NAKED & DEAD is his first novel.'
From Amazon Biography.

The Review
Blimey.  Where to start?  I'd heard great things about Josh Stallings and his debut novel, BEAUTIFUL, NAKED & DEAD.  Great things.  And when I eventually got round to reading it, I realised why.

BEAUTIFUL, NAKED & DEAD is narrated by the protagonist - Moses McGuire - battle-scarred veteran of the Beirut streets of the late seventies, now a bouncer in an LA strip club, with a penchant for drugs, alcohol, and lap dances.

One you could take home to your mum, ladies. 

Added to this, Moses has almost no sense of humour, is so dour he could almost be Scottish (apologies to my Scottish friends, there) and spends much of the book not caring whether he lives or dies.

When we first meet Moses, he's not in the best of places . . .

'As an adult I have found that a barrel in your mouth forces you to pause, take a moment, ask that all important question. How did my life get this fucked? If I don?t need anyone, why am I so lonely? At least I like to think it was that deep, fact was I had a bone numbing hangover, a throbbing head and a fur covered tongue. The gun was on my dresser and if I had any aspirin they were all the way in the bathroom.

Thumbing back the hammer of my snub nose Smith & Wesson .38, it clicked into place. Three pounds of pressure on the trigger would drop the hammer onto the primer, igniting the 4.5 grains of smokeless gunpowder. The resulting explosion would drive 158 grains of lead at 1085 feet per second out of the barrel, plowing up through my pallet, through my brain and out the back of my skull. Sure, it seems like a lot of complex engineering just to end one life, but it was the simplest thing I could come up with at the time. Idiot. All I had to do was hang around lon enough and people would line up to do the job for me.'

As a reader, I like to be able to emotionally invest in a character.  Even if the character doesn't care about themselves, I need to care.  And I cared about Moses from the very first.  You see, Stallings has this way of writing, this brutally stunning way with words that rips a character right open in front of you - shows you it all - blood dripping, heart beating, the darkness aflame.  What you get when you peer into the spaces between the terse words of Moses McGuire is the sort of man who will throw himself in front of a cannon to save those he loves.

Indeed, he spends much of the book doing so.

The heart that beats within Moses McGuire is strong enough to beat for a thousand broken people.  This, people is not the pantomime heroics of a Jack Reacher.

Moses McGuire is the real deal.

The book itself rips along at a breakneck speed, taking in the seedy side of LA Raymond Chandler could only dream of putting into words.  Stallings is  much closer to a James M.Cain than a Raymond Chandler, in my opinion, and his gritty evocation of the seedy side of the LA underbelly beats Chandler's brilliant one liners hands down, as far as I am concerned.

Since I have started taking my own writing seriously, I find it very hard to read a book without that little editor in me thinking 'why did he use that word' or 'that doesn't make sense' or 'it would have been so much better if . . .' etc.  I'm forever tripping up on misused or overused words, plot holes, rubbish descriptors, weak characters, etc.  In most books, I find something.  In some, loads.  In BEAUTIFUL, NAKED & DEAD, I found nothing.

If the days of our lives moved along on wheels of justice, Moses McGuire would be the leader of the free world, and Josh Stallings would be its poet laureate.

BEAUTIFUL, NAKED & DEAD is brutal and it is magnificent.

And you need to read it.


How to get hold  of BEAUTIFUL, NAKED & DEAD:

Amazon US: click here

Amazon UK: click here


  1. Well you just sold it to me, Ian. Clickety, click (while skiving off at the day job) and it’s delivered, as if by magic, to my Kindle. And, at £2.63 you can’t go wrong! Thanks for a great review and recommendation, Ian.


    1. Hope you enjoy it, Alan.

      One of the best I've ever read, mate.

      Hope you're keeping well.


  2. Great review - and on the mark. Josh deserves a wider audience.

    1. It is, mate, indeed. And I've got to review another great book shortly too, haven't I, mate . . . :)

  3. Excellent review of an excellent book. √

  4. Thank you for a beautiful review of a beautiful book. This novel deserves mention, praise, attention, and indeed any treatment that would ultimately result in such a magnificent book by such a talented writer attaining commercial success and widespread house-hold-name recognition. If you're on the fence even after all this praise, READ THIS BOOK.

    1. Thank you, Pearce. To me, Josh sets the bar with this. Evey other book I read in the crime/noir genre, I will be measuring up, not consciously but measuring up all the same, to BN&D.

      Bit of a watershed for me, reading this book. Shows me what can be done. And that is exactly what I needed.

      Thanks for poppping by, mate.

      All the best,


  5. Thank you all. Ian,this a frightfully spot on and well written review.
    "Moses has almost no sense of humour, and spends much of the book not caring whether he lives or dies... Even if the character doesn't care about themselves, I need to care. And I cared about Moses from the very first... Moses McGuire is the sort of man who will throw himself in front of a cannon to save those he loves."
    With these short lines you have nailed what I see and love about Moses.
    I am proud that you got the book, with all its bruised and bloody, broken romanticism. When I was a younger writer stumbling for words, I hoped to become a writer other writers respected. Damn proud to find some great writers getting what I do. PS, I'm loving Abide With Me.

  6. As I just said to Pearce, Josh. This book sets the bar for me - sets the bar for what can be acheieved. I always advocated writing with simplicity, courage, and a pen of truth. And BN&D is an incredible example of that.

    And for me, a romanticism that is bloody and broken is the only romanticism there is. Reminds me a lot of the early Springsteen songs - Jungleland, Incident on 57th Street - that sort of thing. You get inside, Josh, beyond the words, to a place where carving words from the darkness is all there is.

    Inspirational, mate.