Friday, September 13, 2013

Book Review: Dead Peasants by Dustin Stevens

Dead Peasants, by Dustin Stevens
2013, 393p, Suspense
My Rating=4 stars
Content: Language, talk of sex (no details), violence
Source: Provided copy by author for an honest review

Bargain Mart, long a fixture in the Missoula economic structure, has fallen on hard times. Things are dire, and if a financial windfall doesn’t arrive soon, their doors will close.

Across town, a woman grieves her recently deceased husband. Sitting alone at her kitchen table trying to put her life back in order, a call arrives asking where his quarter million dollar life insurance policy should be sent. A quarter million dollar life insurance policy she never knew existed.

Answering the phone on the other end of her call for help is Drake Bell, third year law student at the University of Montana. Joined by his partner Ava, and his loyal friends the Zoo Crew, Drake must attempt to make sense of the case Alice presents him.

A case that only grows more complex as people continue to pass away in Missoula, all with ties to Bargain Mart, all with large life insurance policies attached to them. Policies known in the corporate world as Dead Peasants…

I really enjoyed this book! In the beginning, there are three storylines going on and two of them come together early on and then they do all eventually merge together. In the Prologue, we learn about Bargain Mart and its background and then in a later chapter, we meet Thomas Jenks, the manager of the local Bargain Mart. Next, we meet Alica Galt and her husband Craig, who is on the verge of death. We're then introduced to The Zoo Crew: Drake, Kade, Ajax and Sage.

When Craig dies, Alice gets a phone call from an insurance company she's never heard of asking where they need to send the $250,000 policy on her husband and she knows nothing about this. She meets Drake, a law student and part of The Zoo Crew, and asks him to help her figure out what is going on. When he and his partner, Ava, find out who the money was actually sent to, they know they're onto something big and won't stop until they figure out what is going on.

This book held my attention from the beginning and didn't let up. I enjoy mystery and suspense and was on the edge of my seat multiple times. I needed to keep reading to find out what was going on and if The Zoo Crew was able to figure it out in time. There are some intense situations and some of them turn out well and others don't. There's some content in this book: talk of sex (no details), violence, swearing and "guy talk" but I didn't feel like it was too much or constant. I enjoyed the storyline and wasn't familiar with the term Dead Peasants and what it means (it's pretty despicable, actually) and liked the fast pace. The characters bond quite well and I enjoyed getting to know them and seeing how their relationships develop. 

I was able to interview the author, Dustin Stevens, and it was fun to get to know him better:

1.      When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think this is one of those loaded questions that most everybody that writes is conflicted about answering. On one hand, there’s never a time I don’t remember writing. Certainly nothing as involved as I do now, but sketching out stories, thinking of funny character names, things like that. On the other, I don’t know that I’ll ever fully consider myself a “writer.” I just really enjoying telling stories, and hope folks enjoy reading them.
2.      Tell us about The Zoo Crew (how you got the idea, who they are, what their purpose is, etc.).
We’ve all heard the old Mark Twain-ism “Write what you know.” I’ve been fortunate to live in a dozen different cities the last ten years, none of which stick out for me as much as my time in Missoula. Using that as the backdrop, I wanted to create a close-knit group, each of which served a composite from among some of the people I knew there.
As it stands right now, the Crew is four people, three males and one female. Among them are a Southerner, an African-American, and two half Irish-half Native American siblings. I wanted each of them to be a little different from the rest of Missoula, but at home w/ each other. A non-related family, so to speak.
3.      How many books are you planning to write with The Zoo Crew and when is your next book scheduled to be released?
I have at least four or five more ideas I would like to use with The Zoo Crew, and hopefully more beyond that if there is a call for it. The next one, Tracer, will be out around Halloween and encompasses Veteran’s Affairs, brucellosis, and ranch brands.
4.      You also have another book that just came out. Can you tell us a little about that?
Just last week Catastrophic was released, which is a hybrid sports/medical/legal thriller. It is the story of a college football star that suffers a horrific knee injury and is talked by medical personnel into trying a radical new knee replacement. When the replacement ultimately fails, he turns to a former acquaintance to bring a law suit against the company that manufactured the artificial knee, someone with his own sordid past with the company.
5.      You have quite a few books out. Which one did you enjoy writing the most?
This one a bit of a toss-up. I really enjoyed writing about The Zoo Crew, which is why I keep returning to them. I enjoy writing in that style (which is on purpose, by the way) and really enjoy the interplay of the characters.
As far as my free standing ones go, 21 Hours was probably the most enjoyable, because the book practically wrote itself. I have a full-time job and work anywhere from 45-70 hours a week, depending on the time of year. Despite that, I was able to write 21 Hours in a week. Once I started writing, it just kept spilling out.
6.      What are some of your favorite books and what book are you reading now?
I tend to latch on to certain characters, and read through everything they have. I really enjoy the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child, the Dirk Pitt books by Clive Cussler, the Temperance Brennan novels by Kathy Reichs, and the Joe Pickett novels by C.J. Box.
At the moment I am reading Bitterroot by James Lee Burke, involving Billy Bob Holland, another favorite.
7.      What do you do when you're not writing?
I live in Honolulu, so when not working or writing I am almost always outside. Much like The Zoo Crew…hiking, paddle surfing, snorkeling, it doesn’t matter.
8.      Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write. Figure out how the creative process works best for you, and above all else, keep writing. The first two novels I ever wrote have never and will never see the light of day, but I learned so much from them that I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
9.      Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you. So many people, both those I know and folks online I’ll probably never meet, have been nothing but kind and supportive along the way. It is very much appreciated. 
Dustin Stevens has quite a few books out right now and each one sounds interesting to me so I will definitely be reading more and look forward to more of The Zoo Crew in the future! I think his books will also make me smarter (in this book, I learned about Dead Peasants and I had to look up brucellosis which is in his next book).  
About Dustin Stevens

I originally hale from the midwest, growing up in the heart of farm country, and still consider it, along with West Tennessee, my co-home. Between the two, I have a firm belief that football is the greatest of all past-times, sweet tea is really the only acceptable beverage for any occasion, there is not an event on earth that either gym shorts or boots can't be worn to, and that Dairy Queen is the best restaurant on the planet.  Further, southern accents are a highly likeable feature on most everybody, English bulldogs sit atop the critter hierarchy, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a Saturday night spent catfishing at the lake.

Since leaving the midwest I've been to college in New England, grad school in the Rockies, and lived in over a dozen different cities ranging from DC to Honolulu along the way.  Each and every one of these experiences has shaped who I am at this point, a fact I hope is expressed in my writing.  I have developed enormous affinity for locales and people of every size and shape, and even if I never figure out a way to properly convey them on paper, I am very much grateful for their presence in my life.

To sum it up, I asked a very good friend recently how they would describe me for something like this.  Their response: "Plagued by realism and trained by experiences/education to be a pessimist, you somehow remain above all else an active dreamer."  While I can't say those are the exact words I would choose, I can't say they're wrong.  I travel, live in different places, try new foods, meet all kinds of different people, and above all else stay curious to a fault.

Here's hoping it continues to provide us all with some pretty good stories... 



Katie W said...

Great interview!!

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