Half a lifetime ago, back in high school, I listened to tons of punk rock. I spent my entire adolescence and most of my twenties as an avid skateboarder, and the two just always went hand in hand. At some point along that journey, I discovered writing, too, and it became perhaps my biggest passion, eventually narrowing itself down to crime fiction in particular. So imagine my excitement, my sheer disenfranchised JOY, at reading a debut novel that combines two things that I really enjoy, punk rock and crime fiction, in S.W. Lauden’s Bad Citizen Corporation.
Bad Citizen Corporation is the story of former underground punk rock star Greg Salem, now a detective on the force of a neighboring community to Bay Cities, where he grew up and made a name for himself alongside his older brother Tim and his best friend Ricky through their combined band (and title track for the book) Bad Citizen Corporation.
The book opens with Greg chasing a violent sexual predator through the streets of East L.A. and ultimately shooting him when the kid produces a gun. The problem is, that gun up and disappears afterward, leaving Greg, as well as the community, wondering if it ever existed at all. Greg is forced to surrender his badge and await judgment as a result.
But later that night, at a rare reunion show for Bad Citizen Corporation, emotions spill over in the crowd, some of whom feel betrayed that their favorite punker has turned not only cop, but killer cop. A scuffle in the crowd leads to a shooting that claims his friend Ricky’s life right there on stage, leaving Greg feeling like he has two deaths on his hands in one day.
What follows is a harrowing search for Ricky’s killer juxtaposed against the surfing-centric backdrop of everyday life in Bay Cities, a town poised to undergo major real estate development that could finally erase everything Greg has ever loved about the place.
As Greg moves to solve his friends murder he also finds himself knee-deep in said local politics, and is forced to revisit the relationships of his past in hopes of both salvaging them and also harnessing them to not only solve the crime at hand, but find peace with his own past decisions and actions. Throughout Greg is pursued by a marauding gang of thugs who are angry about the initial shooting, and may well be responsible for taking Ricky’s life as retribution. It’s a fast-paced book with a punk rock soundtrack to die for (pun intended), and it’s an emotional book about addiction, urban decay, and the lost visions of youth.
Bad Citizen Corporation is one hell of a debut from a promising author in a series that will almost certainly solicit legions of followers, just like Greg Salem’s band, Bad Citizen Corporation. What stands out is the Californian sense of place and the forever shifting line between good and bad, which is almost never black and white, and often nearly impossible to navigate. I loved it and I think you will too. Pick up a copy of Bad Citizen Corporation here, and get to know S.W. Lauden here.
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