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American Death Songs

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  65 ratings  ·  24 reviews
A bold and brutal new voice in crime fiction.

From the California high desert to a Texas prison yard, from Ozarks dive bars to the shadows of Hollywood, these stories burst with gutter grandeur and criminal mythology. Harper burns through prison-tatted flesh to expose his characters’ hardened, scarred but still beating hearts. And he does it with a virtuoso prose style that
Paperback, 165 pages
Published January 1st 2013 by Beautiful Trash (first published December 31st 2012)
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Jan 17, 2015 Brian rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Brian by: karen
I've just now finished reading these 165 pages of tremendous stories aloud to my wife - done in a single sitting of recited malfeasance committed by denizens of a Grit-laden world. Most of the stories are based in the Ozarks, all of them are finely crafted to make the reader believe these people have as many words for violence as Eskimos do for snow.

Many thanks to friend karen for pointing out this author to us GRers - Harper has a novel coming out this year that I will definitely read.
Paul Bryant

Another great set of terminal stories of extreme violence to put right alongside Ravenna Gets by Tony Burgess and Crimes in Southern Indiana by Frank Bill – you guys keep cranking them out and I’ll keep reading! and while I’m reading I’m always thinking yeah, this is the real stuff, not that Henry James shit and then I feel shameful and don’t want to meet people’s eyes, but who wouldn’t love a writer with a prose style like

There was something there in the back of the skull telling me that God ma
American Death Songs. How cool is that title? Normally I don't give five stars to short story collections because there are always a couple stories that just don't do anything for me. But in Jordan Harper's every single story hits the right note. Stories like Agua Dulce about a man racing through the desert trying not to get killed by a white supremecist gang known as Aryan Steel. Or the one about dirty Hollywood secrets and the guy they call to clean it up. The story about Jackie Blue, a bar ow ...more
American Death songs is the fourth book I have won in a Goodreads Giveaway. I usually pass the books along to Goodwill, but I'm saving this one. Harper is a talented writer. This book is a compilation of crime fiction short stories. It's perfect for someone like me who can't sit still and read for long periods of time. Each story can easily be read in one sitting.

My favorite story was "Beautiful Trash." This one reminds me of a Bret Easton Ellis novel mixed with Showtime's Californication. It t
Benoit Lelievre
I do not recall, from memory, an author more talented than Jordan Harper at picturing violence in fiction. Something about the pacing he established and the voyeuristic distance he takes from his characters is troubling in the utmost satisfying way like an object coiling around your neck and choking you into auto-erotic bliss.

AMERICAN DEATH SONGS is a strange, poetic and obscure title to a collection, but it's also oddly accurate. It could've been called DARK AMERICAN MYTHS or LEGENDS OF THE NEW
I am in awe of Jordan Harper. I've been reading a fair number of short story collections in the crime genre lately and American Death Songs is easily the most consistently satisfying collection so far. The stories themselves are all well-plotted and entertaining enough, but it's Harper's command of voice and tone that really sets these tales apart from the crowd for me. In story after story, the words, the voice, is pitch perfect. Harper deals in the "Said" and the "Unsaid." There is much that i ...more
There are no happy endings in these stories but knowing how even the most meticulous plans can get screwed up, the endings are exactly what you wanted. The stories circle around and come back to a biker bar known as Jackie Blue's and a group of men who call themselves Aryan Steel. These are tough guys, the kind no one wants to mess with but they aren't immune to a back handed justice. When they mess up, they end up paying the price, sometimes by another's hand and sometimes by their own. There a ...more
Rich Osburn
This book came highly recommended by a friend, and all I can say is: WOW. This book was tight, well plotted, diversified in delivery but consistent in voice - everything I want out of a short story collection. This work has merit, and while it tends to walk down a back-alley world of society, it is well worth the journey. This is a book that should be read, and I hope you will go out and take it for a test drive - you will not be disappointed.
Brutal and brilliant collection of tales of the grim reaper and the way he collects each of the story tellers. From Hollywood to back water swamps and Movie Stars to Arayan Bikers and most all stops in between. When you start this one don't plan to go anywhere until The End pops up. Stunning.
Tim Niland
This was an excellent collection if short stories that examine the rough side of the criminal life. From the dark yard of prison gangs to meth addicts on the run in the southwest the stories are harrowing and exciting. This is a storyteller to watch.
Nicole Dillie
I tried for a while after I finished this to describe how it made me feel. The word I kept landing on was numb. The violence of the stories is almost as relentless as the brutality of the writing. Some stories are very accomplished technically,but you're not likely to feel happy after reading this.

This is something that should have been read in small doses.

The individual stories are a mixed bag, in some sense. While they suffer from their proximity in the constant pounding of the themes of death
Mesmerizing. Can't think of a better word to describe this collection, which is a dizzying achievement in both craft and voice. What's remarkable is how Harper manages to make each selection unique in its telling. Though these stories are all tied together with the very appropriate title of American Death Songs, the writing is so original and fresh, each one feels like it was written by a different, yet equally skilled, author. "Like Riding a Moped," "Beautiful Trash," "Aqua Dulce," and "I Wish ...more
I won this book for free from the Goodread's First Reads giveaway.

"American Death Songs" is a fiction crime collection of 14 short stories. I rated each short story individually so I could average out an accurate rating. I really liked this collection! I found the stories to be well written with great and unique plots. Just to give a heads up, a lot of people may find these stories to be gruesome and shocking.
Some of my favourite stories were "Agua Dulce", "Plan C", and "Beautiful Trash". I fin
Rory Costello
This collection came highly recommended by another author whose own collection I had just finished and enjoyed a lot. So I dug into Jordan Harper's work with great anticipation. I wasn't let down at all, for these are truly good and well-constructed stories -- but something held me back from a total connection. It's not the bleakness; that isn't a problem for me at all. As I reflect, I'd like to have seen more variety in themes (the title could almost as easily have been "American Meth Songs") a ...more
Excellent collection of gritty crime stories from Jordan Harper. The writing is vivid and sharp, and the descriptions clearly drop us in this nasty world.
Jason Beech
Jordan Harper’s American Death Songs is an intense, warped, brain-frazzling collection of short stories, up there with Steve Rasnic Tem’s Ugly Behavior collection in terms of dragging you through terrible settings populated by total bastards. Whether many can stomach it, I don’t know, but it’s definitely my kind of thing. High stakes run through every story, and if you enjoyed the stomach ache most episodes of Breaking Bad gave you, with the knot twisting your stomach at every bad move, then you ...more
Despite the 3 star rating, I did really enjoy this book, especially as my first giveaway from Goodreads. Overall, the stories are easy to read and usually end with a nice ironic twist, but the best stories were about Jackie Blue and Green Daniels.

So why the 3? Perhaps I'm just being persnickety, but I debated for a long time about a 3 versus a 4, and I ended up with a 3 for two reasons: 1) I've read Flannery O'Connor, and this reminds me more of Dan Brown (not a compliment); and 2) I don't feel
I received this book free from goodreads in exchange for an honest review. I like short stories sometimes but they aren't always my thing; if I'm interested in characters, I'd like to explore them more deeply. This was fast-paced with a decent standard of writing. With some deeper development I could see some of these characters holding up their own novel- I know that's not the point in short stories, but I think it's testament to the writing that I'd like to know more about some of them. If you ...more
Joseph plasan
I give this novel 5 stars because the author lives in a close proximity and scares the *** out of me. It WAS a good read full of many entertaining short stories by a talented writer--- I am careful with my stars and this really deserves 4 stars at most--- but I am afraid of losing an ear in a knife fight with this man.
I have already recommended this wonderful book--- to my friends in prison. It is a nice stocking-stuffer for those lusting after guitar string tattoo-needles, moonshine, and plati
Shoooot. I really did not think I had the cojones to finish this book, but the next time I looked up, I was done. A solid nod to Thompson's "The Killer Inside Me," these stories are graphic without being gratuitously so. I'm too weak-kneed to be a huge fan of noir but if you think a short, deft diversion into the pits of hell might offset the ennui of bland modern lit... strap in and hold on tight. Try to get through a few stories before you bail.
Tracy Robertson
I liked it a lot, though I didn't love it as much as I did after only reading the first couple of stories. While they are all intense, I could not understand the motivation for all of the crimes, and a lot of the stories were too similar to each other to be great to me. I did love the way some of the stories were connected to others, and there was never a dull moment in the action.
I read these slowly, taking at least a couple days break in between. These stories stay with you. I am sure the characters and situations will cross my mind randomly for years to come, similar to how I find myself thinking about a Raymond Carver story I read over 10 maybe 15 years ago. As others have said, not for the squeamish.

I wish they'd never named him Mad Dog...
Chris Leek
There is something deliciously poetic in Jordan Harper’s writing that sucks you in and then smacks you hard. It’s like being hit with brass knuckles hidden inside a velvet glove. These 14 stories are gritty, stylish and seriously good.
Fantastic. Absolutely top notch. Highly recommended!
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Jordan Harper was born and educated in Missouri. He's worked as an ad man, a rock critic and a teevee writer. He is the former music editor of St. Louis's Riverfront Times and a former critic for Village Voice Media. He currently lives in Los Angeles and writes for The Mentalist on CBS.

Jordan collects trash fiction, true crime books and how-to manuals for dirty deeds.
More about Jordan Harper...
Love and Other Wounds: Stories If All Roads Were Blind: A Novel THUGLIT Issue 1 Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Based on the Songs of Bruce Springsteen Out of the Gutter (#5)

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