Saturday, March 7, 2020

Pete Dragovich on The Adjustment by Scott Phillips

Wayne Ogden was an army supply sarge over in Europe during WWII, a gig that allowed him to pimp whores and peddle porn and deal all manner of black market shit during his tour. Recently back stateside Ogden is now a PR man for Collins Aircraft, a job that lets him kick the shit out of private dicks trying get dirt on the company’s founder, blackmail those on the board that want the old man out and to drink and whore with the boss damn near nightly. Nobody expects him to show up at the office and, yeah, his beautiful pregnant wife may not like the hours but hopefully the new house and furniture set will keep her off his nuts awhile longer. As The Adjustment goes along and Wayne fixes more company and personal problems using far less heart than the squares around him are accustomed to, he feels the pull of the Quartermaster Corps out in occupied Japan.

It is a bleak story, a character study of a bent man unable or unwilling to change, a guy who can’t make the necessary, you know, adjustment to civilian life. But since this is a Scott Phillips novel, goddamn if watching that bastard Wayne work his dark magic isn’t a fucking gas. For such a short book the man packs in a lot of period color, character and incident without it ever feeling like he’s wasting your time. Wayne is constantly chatting up B-girls at whatever blind pig they’re tipping them back at (Wichita being a dry county at the time), and when he stops in for eggs at a diner he reads the paper and makes a note of if whatever tragedy has hit the news was caused by a vet or not (popular culture may have shown us otherwise, but PTSD wasn’t invented by the Vietnam War). And if you like to think of grandpa and grandma only ever furtively missionarying your dad and three aunts into the world, Wayne picked up a taste for cornholing while across the pond (this being a Scott Phillips book means buttfucking was bound to come up at some point).

But as much as I love Phillips’ ease in evoking another era, how he always seems to drop the perfect reference or phrase that unlocks a time and place in your imagination, his ability to make his books consistently and *actually* funny while not making me think of them as comic crime novels is damn near a miracle. The Adjustment has tons of hilarious dialogue and nervy oddballs but there’s no mistaking it for a Kinky Friedman novel- this shit is undeniably noir. And like any self-respecting basement noir junkie, I am anticipating the living shit out of Scott Phillips’ latest bit of the hilarious-yet-dark-as-fuck stuff: That Left Turn at Albuquerque. And as a devoted fan, I will not be fazed in the fucking slightest if that title actually refers to anal sex.

Grab a copy at your favorite local bookstore through Indie Bound or from

Subterranean Books (they'll have signed editions)

Barnes & Noble


Pete Dragovich lives in Minneapolis and has written for such publications as Spinetingler Magazine, Hardboiled Wonderland and Crime Factory Magazine. Follow him on Twitter
@nerdofnoir and you can link to his dusty-ass blog there

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