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American Death Songs

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  79 Ratings  ·  25 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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I do not believe in the devil or the sanctity of Jesus Christ, but I'm telling you that something greater than you or me put that song on the radio at just that moment, just that moment when the cop hit his cherries and filled the night with swirling blue and red. The timing was too right to be anything but a message. A message meant for me. I got the message. I understood what it was asking. And I said hell yes.

And so it begins . . .

Harper spews forth a fantastic collection of hard-hearted, ra
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
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 Lelièvre
Oct 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-reads
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 Laraia
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-fiction
((Edit:)) Added a star bc it has been three years since I read this book and I still remember the character Geat, despite however many stories and novels I've read in the interim and that is worth something. -N

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 read
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
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
Rory Costello
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This collection of thirteen gems I read and I have a definite opinion on: Good stuff. Hell, you know if a book is going to be good from page one, don't you. Some books you want to skip ahead to find out what's going to happen. Not this one. You want to savor every sentence about
meth- head friends who somehow convince the narrator to drive a stolen car to a drug deal. Midnight Rider is the first selection and that's what it's about. A taste of life on high octane gas. Like Riding a Moped is stor
Jason Beech
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Stephen Bush
Jan 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: first-reads
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
Joseph plasan
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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...
Ted Burke
rated it it was amazing
Mar 10, 2014
rated it it was amazing
Sep 28, 2015
kianna mcbride
rated it it was amazing
Mar 27, 2016
Jacob Harper
rated it it was amazing
Dec 27, 2012
Cameron Gidari
rated it liked it
Jan 14, 2015
Isaac Prusky
rated it liked it
Nov 22, 2014
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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.
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