Los Angeles, California. 1949.
Scott Kelly is a World War Two Marine veteran and mob hitman confined to a Tuberculosis sanatorium suffering from consumption, flashbacks and nightmares from his experiences of The Battle of Okinawa and a botched hit for Bugsy Siegel.
When his movie actress girlfriend disappears, he bribes his way out of the sanatorium to search for her.
What follows is a frantic search, a manic murder spree, stolen contraband, and a briefcase full of cash.
A story that stretches from the war torn beaches of Okinawa, all the way to the playground of the rich and famous, Palm Springs, California.
An exploration into the depths of L.A crime, PTSD and twisted love.
A semi-fictional novel based around the disappearance of Jean Spangler.
Online Blanket Fort Review
I am a very, very, very privileged book blogger. A couple of weeks ago I received an advance copy of the upcoming release from Stephen J. Golds. Who? This guy. The very talented author of Say Goodbye When I’m Gone. He sent me an advance e-copy of his next novel, Always the Dead, with the warning “this novel is much darker than SGWIG. Very dark, brutal noir with an unlikable protagonist.”… and the man wasn’t joking.
Brutal doesn’t really do Always the Dead justice.
A twisted love story at its core, Always the Dead follows war veteran Scott Kelly from his bed in an LA sanatorium as he mounts a search for his ‘one true love’ Jean who has gone missing.
Kelly is quite clearly suffering with serious PTSD from his time fighting in Japan during WW2. Flashbacks, blackouts, flashes of temper and a complete disregard for his safety and that of anyone around him makes him a very volatile character. It also makes him completely engaging and yet, as the author pointed out, utterly unlikeable.
Scott Kelly’s treatment of the woman he claims to love is abusive, disgusting and highly violent. Jean is no angel, but it’s not surprising when she leaves Scott and disappears from his life forever.
Always the Dead also features Rudy from Say Goodbye When I’m Gone as a fairly major character. I wasn’t aware that Rudy would be featured in this novel and was DELIGHTED when I realised it was him acting as chauffeur to Kelly on his quest to find Jean. The story gives more of an insight to Rudy’s character and how exactly he came to be in possession of the briefcase of cash that affects his life so much in Say Goodbye When I’m Gone. When I finished ready Always the Dead I went back and reread the first chapter of SGWIG and it is seamless between the books – my opinion of Rudy and SGWIG has increased (if that was possible). Is Always the Dead a prequel to Say Goodbye When I’m Gone? Sort of. Ish. Kinda… they’re very much their own books but yes, there is a link.
The writing in Always the Dead is highly descriptive – Golds ensures nothing is left to the imagination. Whether he’s taken us to Scott Kelly’s dingy Irish themed bar in LA or into a battle at Okinawa – we are there with Golds. I could almost smell the alcohol, smoke and desperation in Kelly’s Bar and could feel the fear, despair and anguish in Okinawa. Golds almost casual references to rape (on one occasion of a child) and extreme violence are hard reading however they do add to the sense of foreboding and drama in the novel.
While Always the Dead is another not for the faint of heart but it definitely is another must read from Stephen J. Golds… Published in January 2021 by Close to the Bone (buy links to follow)
I received an advance proof of Always the Dead from the author Stephen J. Golds in return for my honest review. This post and review forms my honest and unbiased opinion.
About the Author
Stephen J. Golds was born in London, U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life. He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, traveling, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. His novel Say Goodbye When I’m Gone was published by Red Dog Press on 21st October 2020 and Always the Dead will be released by Close to The Bone Press January 2021.