Skunk Train

Mysterious Book Report No. 397

by John Dwaine McKenna

The Skunk Train Inn is a sleazy, side-of-the-road motel up in northern California’s sparsely populated Humboldt County.  That’s where the giant redwood trees grow, and it’s the epicenter of the state’s illicit pot-growing operations.  So, it’s not unusual for the inn to be used for pot transactions in author Joe Clifford’s new novel, Skunk Train,(Down & Out Books, PB, $15.95, 248 pages, ISBN 978-1-64396-055-5).

Kyle Gill, who’s only a few days shy of his sixteenth birthday, lives in a run-down trailer with his older  cousin Deke, up in the backwoods town of Dormundt . . . stuck so far in the redwoods that sunlight needs a roadmap to find it’s way in there.  Kyle’s in high school, but he’s been cutting classes for the past three weeks.  When he comes home early one afternoon, he finds Deke and his business partner Jimmy, are sitting on one hundred pounds of marijuana they found abandoned at another dealer’s house.  Fearful that the owners of such a huge quantity will soon coming looking for it, and fearful of their response, Jimmy arranges for a quick sale at the aforementioned Skunk Train Inn.  That’s where it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

The buyers turn out to be renegade undercover cops.  Then some outlaw bikers show up, trying to hijack the cash and the crop . . . while a car full Mexican Cartel enforcers are on their way to make sure they get paid.

In the gunbattle that follows, two bikers are killed. Deke is killed. Jimmy and the bent cops flee the scene, while Kyle jumps into Jimmy’s truck and heads out for San Francisco with one hundred thousand dollars in cash, determined to find his absent film director father.  Hot on his trail are two renegade cops and a bunch of Mexican enforcers . . . all of whom are bent on revenge and getting their stolen property back.

But once in San Francisco, Kyle meets Lizzie.  That’s when everything changes in this high-octane-thriller from a master of crime fiction by the name of Joe Clifford.  While this isn’t his first rodeo, it’s surely one of his best performances.

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