Every so often, a new writer breaks out onto the scene that causes you to wonder: where the hell has this guy been, anyway? Dusty Sharp appears to be one of these.
He’s recently published a new novella, No Time To Bleed, as a prelude to a series of books featuring protagonist Austin Conrad, a salty old vet turned biker, who must navigate his way through a barrage of gunfire and unfortunate events, some of which were arguably self-inflicted.
This is a quick little read, both due to the length of the story as well as the fact that this is really a page-turning action shoot-em-up. Not a lot of information is given outside of the fact that Conrad is done with his biker gang, The Rattlers, and simply wants to walk away from it all. One gets the impression that this particular gang is a lot less of the weekend-rider, full time lawyer and dentist types and more of the blood-oath, we’ll shoot your ass if you cross us variety. As the reader, your first clue is that they’re into some very serious shit, Conrad is on the run, and they’re coming after his ass.
And that’s about all the setup this story needs, really. Conrad is a man who has strayed far enough away from his moral center that he’s decided enough is a enough. He simply won’t be a party to it any more, consequences be damned. He has one goal in this story: don’t get dead.
Review: 4/5 Stars
I can’t say where future installments will go, but for this particular novella, I would classify it as popcorn action. The premise is simple, the characters and their motivations are clear; all the reader really needs to do is buckle up, pull his hat down tight, and hold on. If you are an action buff; if you enjoy fast-paced action, you’ll read this in a single sitting.
I had a lot of fun with this one. As someone who tends to look for the deeper meaning in much of his reading, it is good (decadently so) to put such mental gymnastics on hold and just enjoy a good old-fashioned shooter. Dusty has the genre nailed in this entry. A portion of this story is clearly a love-letter to the very best of 80’s action films, right down to the campy one-liners. The writer also demonstrates a deep knowledge of and abiding affection for the the Mohave desert and the historic back-road highways that stitch across it. The setting in this story is as much a character as the bikers tearing up the landscape.
The only reason this story didn’t get five stars from me is that I wanted to know more about the protagonist than was offered. I felt as though I was just getting to know who the guy was, with some very well written character background that aptly accomplished the two-fold task of getting you to care about the character as well as informing that character’s mental and emotional makeup in the present time. But just as I felt I was really getting into the psychology of the guy, all of that stopped, the guns came out, and shit got real. I felt as though I hit a stutter step and found myself preferring that this had been a novel rather than a novella.
This, I believe, is more of a personal preference than it is a failing on the writer’s part. He’s clearly putting this story out as a teaser and, I assume, will be delving into a lot of these character aspects in future entries. I get that you typically get less in a novella but for me, it just seems backwards. I personally would have preferred a full length novel, maybe two, with a novella dropped after. The challenge Sharp has set for himself now is that this short entry is going to get a lot of readers hungry for more; I’ll hope he’s able to put out more at a pace that keeps the interest up.