Ain’t Worth A Shit – Robert Essig & Jack Bantry
Reviewed by Ben Walker
- Paperback: 142 pages
- Publisher: Sinister Grin Press (2 Jun. 2019)
From the cover and title, you might think that Jack Bantry and Robert Essig’s Ain’t Worth a Shit is set on the mean streets of Somewheresville, USA, only this down and dirty crime thriller is actually based in jolly old England – London, to be precise. And to be even more precise, it ain’t that jolly, as luckless drug dealer Mark and reluctant sex worker Issy try to escape the clutches of a criminal gang.
You really feel the influence of both authors here, with Bantry’s fast-paced plotting, and Essig’s unflinching eye for violence. Each writer is also a veteran of extreme horror, and while this book firmly belongs on the thriller shelf, it’s still as unsettling as their other, more terrifying titles. Characters are used and abused to sickening degrees, especially Issy, whose degradation at the hands of the sick old men she’s forced to pleasure are sometimes a struggle to get through. There are other victims we meet along the way, and you’re made to watch as they’re put through all manner of humiliation, and worse. You get the feeling that nowhere is safe right from the outset, lending the book an effective layer of simmering tension.
What makes things even harder to stomach is the book’s firm grounding in reality. The story is well-researched, with London painted vividly enough for both regulars and outsiders to either recognise or experience many of its sights, from colourful tourist regions to its darker, more twisted corners. The criminal operation is one you may have read about in the news, and it feels just as real as the setting, from the gang’s inner workings to the language used by the scummy blend of small-time crooks and upper-level thugs. The whole book drips with realism and leaves you feeling unclean by the last page like you’ve walked straight past a problem without a solution. There are no easy fixes offered to the victims here, despite the police getting involved and Mark trying his best to do what’s right.
Character-wise, you’ll probably end up rooting for the victims more than anyone else, thanks to the amount of time spent with them and their tormentors. Not that Mark isn’t put through the wringer when he does his hero act, only he stumbles unharmed from a few encounters, leaving the real victims to pay a harsher price. And any time he manages to steal the occasional victory, it’s always at a price. If the title of the book relates to anyone, it’s him, and this is why I felt more concerned about the people around him, especially Issy.
The final quarter of the plot veers outside London to offer an extended bit of peril, which was so sudden, it took a while for me to get back into the story. Despite this, Ain’t Worth a Shit offers a decent amount of hard-boiled, noir-style action, with a steady build towards a bloody, painfully satisfying conclusion. And the last chapter will have you wagging a finger, possibly in disapproval, at its cheeky final line.
Here’s the part where some reviewers would say “Ain’t Worth a Shit definitely is worth a shit”, but I’m not going to say anything quite so – hmm? What? I already did? Goddamn it.
Ain’t Worth A Shit
From Jack Bantry, editor of Splatterpunk Zine and author of The Lucky Ones Died First and Robert Essig, author of Death Obsessed, In Black and People of the Ethereal Realm comes a story of gut-wrenching noir.
Issy has become used to her new life in the UK, away from poverty in her native land. New beginnings weren’t without struggle, and sometimes the past comes back when you least expect it. Mark dealt a little weed on the side, just enough to get him a few bucks and provide some for personal use. No big deal. Not until he makes a little mistake. Sometimes even the smallest error can turn into a dire situation. There’s another world under the veneer of city streets in London’s Leicester Square, streets people walk every day without suspicion. Issy and Matt find out about this world in the worst ways imaginable, and they must fight for their lives to get out. In this underworld, people Ain’t Worth A Shit!
A horror fan and writer since who knows when, Ben started dabbling in online reviews around 2001. Nowadays he has a booktube channel, which features bizarre book reviews and further nonsense. When he isn’t writing, he’s probably looking at GIFs and eating Mexican food.
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