I was fortunate to get to work on Stay Ugly (US) as an editor and must say I really enjoyed the experience. Of course, what I should have done at the time was write a review as soon as I was done, but that boat sailed a while away now.
What I can tell you is that there's a huge amount to love about this one.
The story itself sees Ugly struggling to come to terms with his past, his present and his future. He's in between a rock and a hard place and the only thing he can be sure of is that his journey isn't likely to take him anywhere nice. The local crime boss has given him an ultimatum to find his brother and, if he does, his brother's in a whole heap of mess. The way Ugly copes with the tensions and contradictions mean the reader is always on edge and the constant drive to work things out ensures that there's never a dull moment.
Ugly as a character is perfectly formed. He's trying to make a go of things, but the world won't let him. The furnace in which he was formed gives him a great back-story and the author uses this cleverly to help us understand his motivations.
And the violence, and there's quite a bit of it, is beautifully written. Check out the opening chapter for free over at Amazon and you'll see just what I mean.
This is tough fiction rooted in a hard place that should sate the appetite of any adrenaline junky or any reader who loves to be totally absorbed in their protagonist.
And you should remember that I loved it before the that final layers of spit and polish, so now it'll be even better than I remember.
Here's what you can expect:
Eric is an ex-con, bareknuckle boxer better known around his Chicago neighborhood as “Ugly.” He wants to shed his past, build a life with his family, but his past won’t be so easily left behind. His junkie brother Joe has stolen $100K from a powerful drug dealer—and Ugly’s on the hook unless he hands Joe over.
Which is gonna be hard considering he has no idea where Joe is.
Ugly and his “business partner” Nicky hit the streets to find him, each step taking Eric back into the violent life he’s desperate to leave behind. Ugly’s done with it all. He’s pissed, sad, and exhausted, but he’s gotta keep moving if he wants any chance of Joe—and himself—getting out alive.
Praise for STAY UGLY:
“Daniel Vlasaty’s Stay Ugly is a vivid, visceral and bone-crunching tale of loyalty, loss and redemption.” —Paul D. Brazill, author of Last Year’s Man and Man of the World
“Stay Ugly is raw and nasty in all the right places. Punch-drunk bareknuckle hardman Ugly is our tour guide across nocturnal Chicago, and his quest to find his junkie brother is a bone-shattering, bullet-strewn treat. This book fights hard and it fights dirty, and Daniel Vlasaty has crafted a brutally entertaining dog-eat-dog thriller. Savage, visceral stuff.” —Tom Leins, author of Repetition Kills You and The Good Book
“Daniel Vlasaty has a unique and recognisable voice in crime fiction. His dialogue crackles, and his violence hurts. He creates a vivid world that you’ll find yourself fully immersed in as Ugly—sorry, Eric—chases his junkie brother through a busy night in Rogers Park, accompanied by his friend Nicky. It’s a tale of loyalty, familial binds, and asks whether one man can outrun his checkered past, especially when everyone around him is desperate to drag him back into it.” —Paul Heatley, author of Guillotine and Fatboy
“In Stay Ugly, Daniel Vlasaty continually pushes the story forward, compelling the reader to turn the page. This book is so good, so beautifully written, and so horrible in its consequences, that Vlasaty succeeds in ways few writers would even attempt. I would say this novel is darkly evocative, but what in Hell does it evoke? The earlier works of Vlasaty is my only answer. And that is a darkness I would encourage any reader of dark fiction to step into.” —Rob Pierce, author of Tommy Shakes, Uncle Dust, and With the Right Enemies
“Vlasaty’s latest gutter pulp gem has the propulsion of a meth head driving a race car that’s on fire. Simultaneously over-the-top and romantically mundane, equal parts Frank Bill and Sam Pink.” —Kelby Losack, author of Heathenish and The Way We Came In
“I’m a sucker for a good man-just-out-of-prison meets junkie-on-the-run yarn like the rest of ya. But what makes Daniel Vlasaty’s Stay Ugly pack such a potent punch is its heart. And this isn’t ‘heart of champion’ or ‘tenderhearted,’ or even ‘at his heart he’s a good guy’ sentiment. Eric (AKA Ugly) isn’t a good guy. He doesn’t have some sacred street code he’s ready to die for. Frankly he isn’t going anywhere but six feet under. Just a question of when. That he knows someday he’ll go down and not get up again doesn’t faze him. All that matters is that until that day, he’ll take his punches and get back up and keep doing the best he can in a fight we all lose in the end. And that, my friends, is the stuff of poetry and legends.” —Joe Clifford, author of Junkie Love and the Jay Porter Thriller Series
“A brutal, unfiltered telegram direct from the underground, burning with a voice and vitality that is wholly Vlasaty.” —Tom Pitts, author of Hustle and Coldwater