ECCO/Harper Collins, $26.99, 257 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-239440-8
Some authors hit the bookstores in high gear and never stop producing exciting and original works that become award-winners and best-sellers almost overnight, because readers get excited and tell their friends about it. Word-of-mouth spreads like wildfire and the writer establishes a bigger fan base with each new book. Our author this week deserves just such chit-chat. His first novel combines pathos and humor; discovery and loss; brute force, gangsters and gunfights all overlaid with a growling awareness of the power of love.
She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper is about a man and his eleven year-old daughter on the run. Nate McClusky has run afoul of a prison gang called Aryan Steel. The President of the skinhead group has sent out a kite—a written message—greenlighting the killing of Nate McClusky, his ex-wife and their young daughter Polly. The message is received by all of “the dirty white boys,” the Aryan Steel brothers and their affiliated gang members, hanger-oners and wanna-bes, in the entire state of California. Nate is told by another inmate about his death sentence, just as he’s being released from the state penitentiary at Susanville, and goes to warn his ex-wife. When he arrives, it’s too late to save her, or her husband . . . they’ve both been murdered. Determined to save the daughter he fathered, but doesn’t know and never thought much about, he shows up at Polly’s school in a stolen car and takes her away. Essentially kidnapping her and the brown teddy bear, that’s her inseparable ally. And so begins an unforgettable odyssey that’s part rescue, part voyage of redemption and part discovery of the power of love coupled with the strength of filial bonds. As they struggle to survive, Polly taps into an inner strength she didn’t know was within her and blossoms into a strong, confident young woman with a will to overcome any obstacle.
She Rides Shotgun is a first novel that displays the deft touch and sure hand of a more experienced wordsmith, and it has a plot with more twists and turns than the road to perdition. It’s a hard-boiled yarn you’ll think about long after you’ve read it. Jordan Harper’s an author to keep a lookout for . . . I can’t wait to see what comes next!