Tough Guys

Tough Guys



By Matt Phillips




Guns, girls, bourbon (of course!) and…eventually something more.


It’s a book of short stories—some nothing more than a page—revolving around tough guys, much like the title describes. Short stories can be a hard subsection of writing to fill. You need the beginning to be instantly gripping, otherwise, there’s no time to make it up. A novel calls for patience. Shorts—they’re the opposite.

Luckily, each story—even the extremely short ones—has that spark right from the beginning. The author knows how to draw you in, give you the details you need and start the ball rolling without any delays. How does he do it? With snappy sentences.

‘Alasce stood two dog hairs over five feet three inches. (The Draw Test)’


‘He savored the burn of the engine as the little needles in the dashboard shot up toward the red. It was like a line of cocaine to the head. (Last Shift)’

Besides these zingers, every other line is crafted with a simple and terse style that rings of Hemingway, if Hemingway were to dabble in pulp fiction.

From a writer’s standpoint of view, there is an even more interesting progression that can be seen through the stories as they are ordered. The first half of the book seems rife with vignettes that are adolescent and work so hard at their machismo that any reader will be left with a feeling of watching small scenes from movies that are nothing more than rehashing of common, stereotypical bad-ass males. From a creative standpoint, the protagonists are flat and many times the side characters in no way act accordingly to the situations that are thrust upon them.

However, suddenly about midway through not only the collection, but also the story ‘Last Shift’ a strange transformation happens: the writing grows up, and so do all the characters and scenes. What was once adolescent is now mature, strong, and insightful. We are no longer hit on the head with phrases or actions that scream ‘Hey! This guys a bad-ass!’ Instead, we’re able to dissect it for ourselves by clearly understanding the motives of these people who before seemed to only move around in order to give us the impression of being ‘tough.’

In this way, it was a particular surprise.



I would recommend this book for anyone out there that wants to read something quick and fun—someone who likes fast action, but also for someone who wants to see a writer grow. The first half will make you think ‘Tarantino.’ But the end is where you’ll find a new voice with highly entertaining and well-written stories and deep characters.

If you want to know more about Matt Phillips, the author, click here.

Otherwise, you can find his book, here.

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