Starting the New Year with a ‘Flash Bang’ by Kellen Burden

There are books you read where you put it down and think, “Whoa. Where did that come from?” Kellen Burden’s debut novel, Flash Bang, is that kind of book.

From the Amazon.com description:

Sebastian Parks is drowning in a flood of his own creation. Dishonorably discharged from the Army, he’s wracked with night terrors and an anger that he can’t abate. Unemployable and uninterested in anything resembling a normal job, Parks makes his living in fugitive apprehension, finding wanted felons on Facebook and thumping them into custody with his ex-military buddies John Harkin and Eric “Etch” Echevarria. When the body of a teenage Muslim boy is found in front of a downtown Denver nightclub Parks, Harkin and Etch are called on to do what they do best:
Find bad men and make them pay.

Sounds like just another crime novel, doesn’t it? When I nabbed it through Kindle Unlimited, my thought was that I’d spend a few hours going through a kind of by-the-numbers detective/crime novel. However, I got a lot more than I bargained for. Burden tells the story of Sebastian Parks, a down-and-almost-out soldier who can’t find real work due to a dishonorable discharge. Parks and his associates, Harkin and Etch, are all suffering from post traumatic stress disorder to one degree or another, and that was the first thing that stood out to me about this novel.

I don’t know how he knows, but Burden has the language, description, and absolute balls to show what PTSD is really like—how it affects survivors of trauma in everyday situations and relationships all the time. If fiction really is about finding the truth inside the lie, Kellen Burden has done that here. It is pretty awe-inspiring, and intense to read.

Another thing that struck me as true: The “homo, no homo” humor between the veterans. I’ve seen enough of it to understand that the language they use isn’t anti-LGBTQ—it’s just how some guys who have laid their ass on the line for one another end up talking to each other. You love and depend on one another, but you don’t articulate it—or if you do, it’s couched in homosexual sugar-talk. But never say a serious thing about how much someone means to you. That’d be against the rules for guys like Parks and his crew.

I often see authors discuss verb choices, and how beginning writers often need to punch up their action. That’s not the case here. Every word seems crafted, designed to deliver punch after punch after punch until you’re exhausted and beaten down with the sheer brilliance of the thing.

There are few books that I think “Everyone should read this,” but Flash Bang is one of them. I want to stand on street corners and hand copies out to people. That’s how damned good this book is.

A few words about the author and publisher:

One of the reasons I’m blown away by this book is that Burden is YOUNG—early to mid-20s, I’d say. He shouldn’t know the things he knows at his age. Or, at least, he shouldn’t be able to articulate them the way he does. But he can, and that’s a rare brilliance. I’m jealous as hell. He’s a far better writer than I was at his age. Hell, he’s a far better writer than I am now, and that makes me hate him a little bit. But it doesn’t make me hate him enough to skip his next book. This guy is GOOD.

Flash Bang was published independently, and I don’t know what to make of that. The book received an honorable mention in the 2014 Los Angeles Book Festival, and was a nominee for the Global Ebook Awards. This novel is OBVIOUSLY good enough to be a ‘Big Six’ novel. It would have gotten more press, been given wide release. If a writer this good can’t get a book deal—or chooses not to—what does that say about the rest of us who are struggling to find that brass ring?

I give Flash Bang my highest recommendation. It was easily the best novel I read in 2014. Buy it here.

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