Snitchin’ in Augusta, Georgia
Standard crime fiction usually revolves around a single strong personality: the protagonist detective or private-eye butting heads with gangsters, petty criminals, bureaucracy, and a slew of colorful characters. It’s become a staple of popular fiction bleeding over into nearly all forms of entertainment, such as crime drama streaming and on television. However, for all the research and so-called realism, many and most of the genre tend to take liberties with not just the truth but also the law. For some readers, this is an issue so they turn to true crime, but in the process, lose what makes crime fiction so attractive—the elegance of narrative. Crime fiction doesn’t need to be true; rather, it needs to feel true to deliver truth over fact.
Bret Steele’s novel Snitchin’ in Augusta, Georgia is able to give readers both fact and fiction in a way that will leave most lovers of crime fiction quite satisfied. As an ex-police officer, Steele has brought to bear his career knowledge of policing on the street, making the novel less an imaginative work of detection or some overwrought legal drama and one of mean streets experience. In fact, the novel opens with a shootout, drawing the reader into the setting—the Augusta police department experiencing upheaval in the 1990s—and grounding us with character. Steele writes convincingly as he sketches out the story’s ‘snitches’ and the police officer navigating and using them. Steele spends a good deal of his prose in the hearts and minds, if you will, of his characters. Some readers may wish there was more active dialogue, allowing them to imagine the faces, actions, and scenes on their own, but the impact of the storytelling can’t be ignored.
It’s a difficult time, culturally, for crime fiction focusing in on policing and the tactics it has used and still used to this day. Steele is able to craft a story that, for the most part, avoids simple caricatures of criminals giving readers a look behind the veil, so-to-speak, of the day-to-day work of being a beat cop. But, as with nearly any crime novel, what is most interesting is how the characters, snitches, and cops, react, endure, and challenge the larger, invisible forces around them. Overall, Snitchin’ in Augusta, Georgia is a solid effort and one worth the time of any reader who enjoys the genre. It is also an intriguing look into a southern city few know about that’s told with the confidence and affection of a lifelong resident.
|Page Count||134 pages|
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|Category||Mystery, Crime, Thriller|