The Poisoned Fiction Review: The Wrong Thing

The Wrong Thing

By Steve Shadow Schwartz
Poisoned Fiction Review
August 16, 2011


Barry Graham, a local writer by way of Scotland, has just had a new novel published by PM Press under the Switchblade imprint. PM Press is a group of publishers and media people using every means possible to encourage new and challenging ideas. Check out the web site.  Switchblade is the arm that puts forth the hardest of the hard-boiled works of fiction.

They publish what I call “heart-break noir,” stories that take us to the edge of human longing and it’s often disastrous results.

Graham, a well known journalist and novelist, takes us to these far shores where societies castaways dwell unseen and uncared for. In The Wrong Thing we get the American nightmare rather the the American dream. The main character in the book is known only as the Kid, his story bracketed by prologue and elegy. He comes to us a fully realized human being who never gets a break. Unloved and unwanted he must try and find a path through a world he is ill prepared to face. Uneducated but bright, talented but directionless, unaware and unguided he tries his best to adapt.

The novel is set in Santa Fe and Phoenix and shows a side of these cities we are barely aware of. The barrio of the hispanic underclass is presented by Graham as a place of richness and kindness. It can also be a trap and a road to a life of pain and grief. The Kid’s journey through this minefield is riveting and tragic. His story is short, compact, and powerful. The writing is deceptively simple and straight forward. Graham’s subtle style weaves a spell-binding web that left me mesmerized. The violence and sex are graphic and presented without judgement. This is strong material wrapped in the cloth of truth.

Obviously Graham knows this world well and it shows.

Barry Graham also happens to be a Zen monk and Abbot of the Sitting Frog Zen Center in Phoenix. His story in the Phoenix Noir anthology was an early version of what became the new novel. His early work has recently been made available on Amazon for download. I recommend his novel The Book of Man and Scumbo: a Novella and Stories.

For further reading try last years Switchblade release Pike by Benjamin Whitmer.  It is a hard-boiled neo-noir knockout of a book.

Back to Barry Graham’s Author Page