Finding beauty in ugliness: I’ll Pray When I’m Dying by Stephen J. Golds #bookreview #IllPrayWhenImDying @SteveGone58 @RedDogTweets #crime #noir

Ben Hughes is a corrupt Boston Vice Detective and bagman for the Southie Mob.
Already desperately struggling with obsessive compulsions and memories of a traumatic childhood, his world begins to fall apart at the seams, triggered by the photograph of a missing child in the newspaper and the anniversary of his father’s death twenty years earlier.


Hi and welcome to my review of I’ll Pray When I’m Dying!

I’ve been wanting to read I’ll Pray When I’m Dying before it even came out, so when the author offered me a review copy, I happily took him up on that offer, massive thanks to Stephen J. Golds! In the meantime I’ve also treated myself to the paperback copy.

I’ve become quite a fan of Stephen J. Golds this year. Say Goodbye When I’m Gone was my first five-star read of the year, and a few month later I thoroughly enjoyed his short story / poem collection Like Bleeding Out with an Empty Gun in Your Hand. In terms of literary format, he is one of the most prolific authors out there with novels, poetry and short stories under his belt, in terms of genre and style he sticks to what he does best: crime noir of the pitch-black kind.

I’ll Pray When I’m Dying sports a dual timeline and two narrators: William in London, 1926 and Ben in Boston, 1946. They are father and son, and one thing they clearly have in common is a very short fuse and a knack for violence. They are both authority figures, one a police sergeant, one a detective, yet the law seems to be open to interpretation for them. Twenty years and an ocean apart but the sins of the father are kept alive in the son.

If you’re looking for loveable characters, move right along, neither William nor Ben are particularly likeable, let alone loveable. Father and son are hardboiled criminal men, scary men, there are no good guys in this story. Still, although part of me nigh on despised Ben, part of me also felt for him. How can he be “normal” – insofar as that’s an actual thing – when he has both his genes and his upbringing against him?

A word here too about OCD, which Ben suffers from and which has, to the best of my knowledge, been aptly depicted by the author. The lucky and unlucky numbers, the counting to ward off bad luck, the checking and repeating certain actions and thoughts over and over again, … Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a trying mental illness and it’s one of the factors that allowed me to root for Ben, even though he is anything but a good guy.

I’ll Pray When I’m Dying is not very long but it does pack quite a punch. It’s not one to race through, it’s one to savour in all its poetic grittiness. Cos yes, it is gritty. It is gritty and grimy and violent and ugly and so very dark you feel like you need to turn on a lamp even when you’re reading in broad daylight. But. There’s also a certain poetic quality to the writing, something hard to define but it somehow makes the violence easier to digest, it allows you to find beauty in ugliness.

I’ll Pray When I’m Dying crept up on me and ended up hitting me hard. It will most likely not become the general public’s sweetheart, and I don’t even think it was written and published to that end, but if you have a single crime noir bone in your body, this is definitely one for you.

I’ll Pray When I’m Dying is available to buy from Red Dog Press in ebook and paperback.

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