Action, Suspense, & Fun: On Steph Post’s ‘Walk in the Fire’

Al Kratz
Al Kratz
Sep 2, 2018 · 5 min read

Steph Post
Novel | 336 Pages | 6.2” x 9.1” | Reviewed: PDF ARC
978–1943818839 | First Edition | $26.00
Polis Books | New York City | BUY HERE


Image: Polis Books.

Steph Post is on a roll with 2018’s Walk in the Fire, a sequel to last year’s Lightwood, and her third novel so far. It’s no longer sufficient to suggest Post’s work is like gritty, noir, crime writers such as Daniel Woodrell. It’s time to say the work is classic Steph Post. The catalog stands tall now.

This is what you get from a Steph Post novel: Addictive crime fiction with genuine characters you won’t forget. At first, what stands out is the action, the suspense, the fun. A Steph Post sequel is like an addictive Netflix show surprising you with a new season. She has new tricks in store. There are talking snakes. There is great storytelling, and with Ramey and Shelia, the girlfriend of a surviving biker, there are female characters who in so many ways are stronger than the tough guys.

Walk in the Fire resumes where Lightwood left off, and the reader quickly readapts to the cast of characters. Judah Cannon and his girlfriend, Ramey, have survived the showdown with the bikers and the crooked preacher, Sister Tulah. Judah and Ramey are picking up the pieces, still struggling with the Cannon crime family legacy. Sister Tulah, who lost an eye in the showdown with Judah’s father and the bikers, becomes even more of a Flannery O’Connor-like character. Her nephew, Felton, who was mostly a supporting character despite being an engine of the first book’s climax, steps up in Walk in the Fire and steals the show, much as his aunt did in Lightwood. When a snake talks to Felton in biblical prophecy, it’s not only a sign of his increased importance to the story but a reminder of how much fun this world is. How Post can take the reader on a hell of a ride like no other.

“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”

This novel once again asks the question: Can a family escape its criminal legacy? The answers are logistically and emotionally complicated. It is logistically difficult, if not impossible, because of past debts and iniquities that can’t be erased or forgiven. Criminal relationships are spiderwebbed in unique Floridian flair. In the noir, they have enemies they’ve never met or hardly knew even existed. It’s emotionally complex because the criminal ways are deeply coded in their moral DNA. Two questions lead from the base: Is it even possible to escape? Do they honestly want to?

“The way he rested his chin against the curve of her shoulder as he took in Cannon Salvage, the front for the criminal enterprise he had so desperately wanted to escape, but had now circled back around to, like a snake devouring its own tail. Judah couldn’t seem to break free of it. Ramey only hoped he still wanted to.”

The characters constantly struggle with these questions and sort dreams from illusion and reality. Are they kidding themselves about going clean? Can they trust themselves? Can they trust each other? These are complicated life questions even when someone isn’t heading up the highway to kill you.

Sister Tulah was such a large character in the first novel. She’s always present in this one, but in the early acts, it seemed she was less imposing. Maybe this is a natural result of the story’s continuation. Perhaps it’s due to the increased prominence of nephew Felton or new villains. But just when I was beginning to lament her decline, Post delivered the truth. Sister Tulah saves her best for the final act. She serves a different role in this novel, but she’s equally unforgettable.

Walk in the Fire continues the structure of Lightwood where three to four stories are interwoven within the chapters in alternating focus. This can be risky if one of the sub-stories is weaker, and a reader may regret switching off a preferred line, but there are no weak stories here. We have an FBI agent on everyone’s trail. We have Sister Tulah and Nephew Felton and their one-of-a-kind mixture of the holy and the evil. We have Judah and Ramey, leading the Cannon crime family and dealing with the idea of Judah’s younger brother Benji’s approach to it. And in Weaver, we have the new competing Crime Boss. Weaver’s quick trigger is reminiscent of the best of Cormac McCarthy villains. The structure of alternating these stories within the chapters works so well with these characters and storylines. There is never disappointment in switching focus. There is only suspense. It’s hard to believe any chapter could be any more effective at this technique than chapter 15, which ignites the final act.

If you haven’t read A Tree Born Crooked or Lightwood, you certainly could start with Walk in the Fire and still enjoy the read. As a self-crowned Post fan club member, I suggest starting at the top. Read all three.

AL KRATZ is a writer from Des Moines, Iowa. He has had work featured in Red Savina Review, Wyvern Lit, Third Point Press, Daily Palette, Apeiron Review, Corvus Review, 1000words, Gravel, Literary Orphans, and elsewhere. Find him at his website.

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

Al Kratz

Written by

Al Kratz

Al's novella-in-flash was recently short listed in the Bath Flash Fiction Award. His publications are listed at alkratz.blogspot.com.

The Coil

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.