Written by Matt Ingwalson — Sin is a loner, a tattooed outcast in Tucson, Arizona. In his early 20s, he spends his days at home watching videos online and cleaning his gun, and his nights getting tattooed by Sindy, his one friend, who works at an all-night tattoo parlour. That is until he gets a late night call from la Calavera – a friend of an old mentor of Sin’s, and a former federal agent, now wheelchair bound. She says that el Viejo is missing.
Sin grew up with el Viejo. In fact the old man saved Sin’s life, saved him from himself, back when he was a bullied 12-year-old, hell-bent on getting revenge on the older kids who made his bus ride to school a living hell. El Viejo took Sin under his wing, taught him how to shoot and how to look after himself. But years have passed and el Viejo is not the man he was. Struggling with diabetes and arthritis, and hobbled over his cane, he went to a desert retreat for rich people on the verge of death, and then dropped out of contact. Sin, short on both sleep and any real plan, decides to look for him.
What Sin finds in the desert is not what he hoped for. Along with the heat, he finds smugglers, gangsters and ex-military men – people who are hell-bent on revenge, people out to get what they want, no matter who stands in their way. Somehow Sin ends up tangling with the wrong group. While searching for el Viejo he stumbles upon a secret caravan in the desert, finds himself crossing paths with a couple of bearded Australians, and more than once there is a gun pointed at him. He comes to the conclusion that they’re out to get him and that it has something to do with his search for el Viejo. However, Sin owes his life to the old man, and he won’t stop until he’s satisfied, until he finds what he’s looking for. In the end he gets more satisfaction than he ever bargained for.
Sin Walks into the Desert is a tense novella, a neo-Western noir with a cast of larger-than-life characters who will earn your respect and interest despite their flaws and personal vendettas. It’s a little coyote of a book that holds on and doesn’t let go. In some places, this is the best self-published writing I’ve read – original, well-edited, and filled with interesting and compelling characters.
There are some aspects of this little novella which don’t quite sit right. Although it is interesting and believable most of the way, there is a moment when Sin goes so out of character that the hard work Ingwalson has put in is almost undone. Furthermore, some of Sin’s backstory is a little clichéd. Luckily, these moments are in the minority.
Choosing a self-published work is difficult, but Sin Walks into the Desert is a compelling, original little novella which, despite its faults, provides great value for money. The ending will surprise you and is a great reward for sticking to it right to the end.
Watch for more self-published, indie and debut talent on our site starting 1 November 2014, when we devote the month to new authors.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars