Review: Death in a Dead Place by Ennis Willie

Our protagonist Sand (the man nobody walks on!) wakes up in a piss-stinking alley in Skid Row with a bullet hole in his body and a bullet crease across his forehead. The head injury caused amnesia for a week, which is why a badass like Sand finds himself in this lowly circumstance.

He wakes up next to a wino named Sticky, who gives him a pull of rotgut. Sticky paid for the rotgut by lifting a leather satchel filled with small bottles. He was disappointed that the bottles weren’t filled with booze, but at least the satchel was worth a few bucks at the pawn shop.

The bottles may not have had booze in them, but they weren’t empty. Turns out they were filled with…a potentially world-destroying biological weapon!

This crazy setup launches Ennis Willie’s Death in a Dead Place (originally published under the idiotic publisher-inflicted title Passion Has No Rule Book), the eighth of the Sand Shockers and the first I’ve read.

And what a read it was. It would be completely pointless for me to point out the flaws in this book. Death in a Dead Place does not aspire to be great literature. It aspires to give the reader a rocket-fueled tale of violence, sex, mystery, international intrigue, sex, and violence, and at that it succeeds in spades.

I mean, this sucker moves fast–I imagine the average reader could knock it out in less than an hour and a half. It moves so fast, I barely had time to notice and didn’t care about the plot holes or the parts that made no sense. I just enjoyed the ride.

Death in a Dead Place is one portion Mickey Spillane (Ennis’ acknowledged influence), but it maybe also has a portion of the crazier old-school pulp adventures of the Spider and others–it’s much wilder than the Spillane I’ve read to date. It’s completely delirious, and a whole lot of fun.

Death in a Dead Place was recently collected in the Sandthology Sand’s Game. Sand’s Game is available in hard copy directly from publisher Ramble House (with free shipping) here, and for Kindle here.

Related Posts:

Sand: The man nobody walks on!