I was so excited for the release of Jason’s newest book that I dragged my ass down to the Strand to wait in line during his book signing. I was early and chose two books for me and SEC. When I got to the table, all intelligent remarks left me and I just grunted out my name and waited to see what Jason would draw in my book.*
Low Moon is a handsome hardcover of five short stories. Already a bit of disappointment—I want to see Jason attempt a sustained narrative. For the sake of this review, I’ll just have to get over that and focus on the content. “Emily Says Hello” and “&” are further explorations of hardboiled tropes by the author. Both include men that are killing to get closer to a woman, and, despite the dubious morality of the noir world, neither gets more than a distortion of love. Unfortunately as a reader I don’t care either way really because the characters aren’t given enough of a story to create investment.
“You Are Here” and “Proto Film Noir” play with temporal funny business, much like Jason’s longer work I Killed Adolph Hitler. "Proto Film Noir" is a one-note gag about an unkillable husband that is meant to provide comic relief, but just sits there. "You Are Here" uses alien abduction to facilitate a story about finding one’s lost mother too late to stop a familial cycle of broken relationships. The father in the story spends his life building a rocket to go find his bride. I really like Jason’s fat, riveted, spacecraft, but the pathos here did not quite penetrate my hull. Again, he did it better in I Killed Adolph Hitler.
The title story is a western set in a past where chess, not gunslinging, is the true test of masculinity. The main character, the sheriff, is a simple man with a drinking problem and a secret whose like is upended when his last chess challenger gets out of jail and saunters back into town. It’s okay.
Compared to Jason’s longer work, Low Moon feels like a bunch of B-grade material jumbled together to meet a deadline.
* He drew a sheriff wearing a deconstructed pirate hat. Sigh.