She Rides Shotgun

Jordan Harper's first novel, She Rides Shotgun, is a sanguinary crime novel with heart. Nate McClusky is an ex-con ("all muscles and dragons and gunfighter eyes") who gets crosswise with the Aryan Steel gang ("all the dirty whiteboys in California"). He shanked the brother of its leader Crazy Craig Hollington in his last days at Pelican Bay State Prison. Crazy Craig puts out a warrant to the Steel's gang network on the outside to execute Nate, his ex-wife and his 11-year-old daughter, Polly--a precocious kid with few friends and an odd attachment to a beat-up teddy bear. When Nate is released early, he picks up Polly at her Fontana middle school and scares her into taking off with him in his stolen car with a command: "You're coming with me. Right now, no time for fuss." And then they're off on a wild odyssey of violence, righteous retribution and father-daughter bonding.

A screenwriter for TV shows like Gotham and The Mentalist, Jordan first tapped into crime fiction with the story collection Love and Other Wounds. He knows how this game is played. Introspective, shy Polly grows up fast in the company of her crime-hardened father. In fits and starts, Nate cultivates the family connection he needs and wants. She Rides Shotgun is a True Grit sort of saga, but on hot-wired horsepower instead of horseback. With Harper's storytelling chops, it's a rolling hell-bent adventure with all the snappy dialogue and action of the best noir fiction. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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