Category Archives: Young Americans

Young Americans reviewed by Crimespree Magazine

JUN 9, 2016

I remember way back in 2002, reading a review of the film Narc, there was a line that described Jason Patric’s character I’ve always remembered. It said he looked like he crawled out from under a pile of Allman Brothers records. That always stuck with me. I remembered it while reading YOUNG AMERICANS by Josh Stallings because this book crawled out from under a pile of albums, but not necessarily the Allman Brothers. And Vinyl_groove_macrowhen I say albums, I mean fucking Vinyl records, that mono sound with the hisses and cracks. The sound of this book is not re-mastered for iTunes. You need big speakers.

YOUNG AMERICANS is set in Northern California 1976 and you can smell the weed and hear the music from the opening page. That’s something very important with this book: the music. 1976 was a musical crossroad specifically when punk, disco, and glam emerged or collided depending on your perspective. You hear the music in the proper context. It fits. Yes I am emphasizing this point because this book couldn’t exist without the sound. As I read, I need to stop to listen to songs I knew and look up ones I didn’t and it made the entire experience all the better.

joshstallingsWhen I read about this book and reached out for a copy, I didn’t have any idea what it was about. I didn’t care either. There was a new Josh Stallings book, enough said. I knew the title. That was is. So I get the book and it has a pink cover with a disco ball. No synopsis on the back either. Only pull quotes from writers I dig and words jumped out at me….. freaks/heist/drugs/sex/guns/glam/tough/original/sweet…… One thing I was certain of is in all of Stalling’s work there is a level of heart that is palpable. You care about the characters.

Sam is a stripper dancing for the farmers and freaks of Humboldt, County California. She comes from a family of old school thieves and knows the art of cracking a safe. She is young but with an old soul. Side note….. Sam is the most well written female character I’ve read in forever. She falls for the man she knows she shouldn’t fall for. And this sets the tale in motion.

So I just decided I’m not telling you anymore. My reason for this is I went into this book like I went into some of my all time favorite music albums before I knew they were going to be just that. I saw the cover and thought to myself I want to know what this is. So you just push play and fall in. Go where it takes you.

Take this trip. It’s lonely but heartfelt. It’s late night music on a fast highway.

Stallings has a powerful but subtle voice. He reminds me of the late great Eddie Little minus the nihilism. Yes there is a looming presence of menace. I couldn’t have got behind this book if that wasn’t clearly stated.

Dave Wahlman

Pop Culture Vulture reviews Young Americans

Dave RichardsPop Culture Vulture

I was born in 1976. So for me the ’70s is a decade I can only experience by looking back at history or some of the film, television, books, comics, and music that was produced in that era. It seems pretty clear though that decade was a great time for crime fiction and it’s also a great era to set a pulp crime tale; the mob was this organization of almost mythic power and corruption was everywhere. In his new novel “Young Americans” writer Josh Stallings takes readers back to that time period, by melding a heist story worthy of the great Richard Stark with a subculture he was part of and loved, the Glam Rock era. The result is a powerful, fun, and exciting crime tale.

“Young Americans,” (named after the David Bowie album) kicks off in mid December of 1976 in Northern California. In the opening chapters we meet Sam, a stripper who has run afoul of a powerful rural crime boss and the only way to save herself is by returning to the family business, thievery. So Sam returns home to San Francisco and assembles a heist crew to help her get out from under the crime lord’s thumb and perhaps start a better life. We follow her and her friends and family as they form a plan, gather the materials they need, and case their target. We then go along on the daring New Year’s Eve heist of a packed disco and then the story picks up even more power and momentum as the aftermath of the heist puts Sam and company in the crosshairs of a number of powerful and dangerous enemies.

So “Young Americans” is a fun and exciting tale full of twists, turns, and great action, but it’s real strength is it’s great cast of complex, fun, and well developed characters. Our chief protagonists are Sam, a tough and cunning thief with a devotion to both her biological and chosen families; and her brother Jacob whose smarts got him shut out of the family business. So when we meet him Jake is a bright kid obsessed with the great films of his era and the great rock ‘n roll, and when his sister comes home he insists on being part of her plans to get out of trouble.

Jake’s friend Terry, a smart jock turned glitter rock kid also becomes part of the crew. Rounding out the team are Sam’s old partners in crime Candy and my favorite character in the book Valentina, an African American transgender woman. I don’t want to spoil anything by talking too much about why I like Val, but let’s just say she’s incredibly charismatic and a bad-ass.

We also meet a number of colorful, eclectic, and cool characters over the course of “Young Americans.” One of my favorites ended up being Jo jo a gay, kindly, mob enforcer with a love for ’70s TV.

“Young Americans” shines a light on how cool, capable, and tough Stallings core cast is, but the author also really shows off their humanity as well. We get to see them in their element and we get to see them dealing with the physically and emotionally taxing consequences of their actions. Those are my favorite types of crime novels; the ones where you get both thrills and excitement and the brutal and painful costs of violence. It’s a type of novel that Stallings is a master at telling too. He proved it with his Moses McGuire trilogy of novels and proves it once again here.

So “Young Americans” has a different kind of feel than Stallings previous work, but it contains all of the elements I’ve come to love about his writing: fun action, gritty street level crime, fascinating characters, and powerful and poignant drama. For me it reads like a mash up of the lurid, lightning charged rock of the post-glam punk band the Cramps and Richard Stark’s awesome Parker novels.

My Bookish Ways reviews Young Americans

Angel Luis Colón reviewing for My Bookish Ways

Young Americans by Josh Stallings (Heist, November 20, 2015) – There’s something to say of rock and roll eras. You had the British Invasion of the 60’s or the hair metal havoc of the 80’s—easily identifiable and potent symbols of youth in rebellion. Though, there are few eras as absolutely, certifiably, mind-bending as the glam rock era. I can copy/paste all I want from Wikipedia to explain, but come on, like The Beatles or Motley Crue represent their era, David Bowie is the single name I can toss out there to give a perfect picture of the glam rock scene.

Which explains Josh Stallings’ latest, Young Americans—titles after a Bowie track—and soaked head to toe in eyeliner, glitter, and gutter trash. Already well-known for his fantastic Moses McGuire series and stunning (I cannot stress that enough, stunning) noir memoir, All the Wild Children, Josh Stallings comes out of the gate roaring with a filthy love letter to 70’s glam and the heist novel.

Sam, a down on her luck, legacy safe-cracker finds herself in the awkward position of owing the wrong guy a high amount of money. Seeing no other way out, she needs to jump headfirst back into her old life; bringing in old friends and her younger brother, who idolizes her despite his excess of smarts, and get in one last, desperate heist.

Stallings’ writing is a Willie Weeks bass-line—deceptively to the point, but with flourishes that stand out like flares. The strength of the story—the interpersonal relationships between this glam rock family—only help to ratchet up the tension in Sam’s situation. Stallings has us rooting immediately for Sam to make things work. We want her and her gang to not only get out of their situation in one piece, but with their heads up and their pockets fuller. And that’s not an easy task. Heist novels need to take great care to provide charismatic and damaged leads that readers happily root for even though thievery is morally repugnant. We want our Robin Hoods, but Sam doesn’t fit that mold at all. She’s a bit worn out and at times impulsive, but damn can she crack a  safe.

And don’t get me wrong; with outstanding dialogue, a clever means of bringing on the heavy subject matter, and a jet-powered pace, there’s a lot for me to love about Young Americans, but I really, really loved Stallings great care in describing Sam’s skills. There’s a rhythm to those scenes that drew me in and left me hypnotized. I can imagine that must be the draw of an activity like safe-cracking, a near catharsis, and Stallings captured that well for me.

Young Americans has rushed into my top ten list for 2015. Young Americans feels like teenage rebellion; raw, sexy, sweet, and ugly in all the prettiest ways. In the hands of most writers, I don’t think this story could have popped, but Stallings makes it look easy.

MysteryPeople Review: YOUNG AMERICANS

  • Review by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

I am a sucker for a heist novel. Whether it’s amateurs pushed to economic extremes, “Born To Lose” punks with thirty-eights, or precise pros, the story of someone taking something from someone else always draws me in, no matter how well I’ve gotten to know the scores. I was excited to find out that one of my favorite hard boiled authors, Josh Stallings, was comitting his own style of literary larceny with Young Americans.

Set in the mid-seventies, Young Americans stars ringleader Sam, a former small time thief, scraping by as a stripper in Northern California. When her questionable boyfriend disappears with forty grand of her boss’ money, she must pay him back with either her money or her life. To get the money, she returns to her Bay Area home and enlists her old crew, enthusiastic participants in the glitter rock scene of the time. The crew includes her kid brother, Jacob; Candy, a glam rock princess and Jacob’s love interest, and Valentina, an African American Vietnam vet and transexual. The mark is a disco on New Year’s Eve. As you can guess, things don’t go as planned.

It is how Stallings spins these tropes that makes them work. His glam rock San Fransico gives the story a unique back drop, showing a group of young people pushing the views of culture and sexuality in a time of transition. Stallings explores how the heist plays with and against his characters’ emotions. Sam struggles to keep Jacob as safe as possible, but needs him around for the score to work. As part of their plan, Candy sleeps with the frontman of the disco’s opening act, wreaking havoc with Jacob’s emotions.

The author’s ability to play out the comaraderie aspect of the heist novel is what truly makes the story involving. Stallings’ seventies setting allows us to think back to the tribes we belonged to in our past, no matter what era, before marriage, family, and obligations made friendship a less concentrated form. He captures those connections of young people who would do whatever they could to back the other, no matter how stupid. When Sam and her crew learn how deep they are in, the implications of these connections become much more harrowing and serious.

Young Americans is a oddly sucessful hybrid of Richard Stark and Cameron Crowe. You root for these crazy kids to get the money, avoid murder by the mob, escape the law, and keep the bond they share together for as long as they can. You may end the novel yearning to listen to something on 8-track.

You can find Young Americans on our shelves and via


Out of the Gutter REVIEW

OUT OF THE GUTTER 11/17/2015

Josh Stallings has a habit of writing books that elicit strong emotions from his readers. The Moses McGuire series deals with topics that are heavy-handed, leaving most readers feeling righteous indignation towards the treatment of some of his secondary characters. His ability to elicit these strong emotions is what made the Moses’ trilogy such a favorite to lovers of dark, hard-hitting fiction.

Stallings, who commented that the Moses’ trilogy took a lot out of him emotionally, takes a shot at writing a “softer” novel, Young Americans, a straight-up heist novel that takes place in the 70s. The big question for me was could the magic he displayed in his previous books carry over into this one, or would taking away the brutal subject matter render him less effective.

Sam is an accomplished thief. Taught to crack safes and live a life of crime by her grandfather and her father, she enjoys the criminal upbringing until her father gets sent to prison for life. Losing her father causes her to rethink her choices, like moving away from her family and barely eke out a living as a stripper in Humbolt County. After she vouches for a boyfriend in a drug deal, she’s left holding the bag. She winds up in debt to a big time criminal and forced to reconnect with her old crew to pull off the robbery of a mafia owned nightclub to pay off her debt.

Stallings’ amazing writing talents are on full display throughout this fast-paced story. His characters do more than just appear in the book, they jump off the page and come to life. Stalling has a way of making each character unique in their motivations, yet meld them together. And they work well as a team in planning the heist.

As with his previous three novels, Stallings knocks this one out of the ballpark. Like an accomplished actor switching roles from a heavy drama to a more light-hearted role, he makes you forget about his previous body of work and you become immersed in the new world he has created. This world is a lot of fun and it’s a blast from start to finish. Stallings shows his readers they need not worry what subject he chooses to tackle; they need only buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Derrick Horodyski

Young Americans BLURBS (what other authors have to say.)


1976 New Year’s Eve, San Francisco. A Firebird transports a crew of glitter kids away from the city. Forget the trunk full of cash and illegal firearms. Forget the disco heist and sea of felonies left in their wake. They are five friends happily rolling down thunder road with no horizon in sight. They are YOUNG AMERICANS.

“Like the era it celebrates and critiques, Josh Stallings’ Young Americans is excessive, brash, morally complex, and full of wonderful freaks, wicked cars, and great music.  Get down on it.” – Charlie Huston

“A tremendous book — tough, funny, totally convincing, and even (in places) sweet. It’s good enough to make the book’s patron saint, David Bowie, proud. Josh Stallings is an original.” – Tim Hallinan

“Young Americans is a stone cold blast. Josh Stallings has created a heist novel that captures the glam/disco era of the 1970s and inhabited with dynamite characters. This book rocks.” – Johnny Shaw

“Drugs, guns, cars, and sex! This wild ride back to the 70’s careens along so fast that you brace yourself for the crash that’s bound to come—but like an Elmore Leonard master caper, nothing is what its seems, and the reader wins.” – Terry Shames

“A wild heist, some sweet and some not-so-sweet love, a lot of glam rock and a little disco, Josh Stallings’ Young Americans is superb and sexy. Gritty, and yet still lyrical, it’s a glimpse over our collective shoulder – and it feels real, feels like this flashy past is just barely behind us, for all the good that it means to move on, and for the all the pangs every generation feels for what’s lost that was so very cool.” -Jamie Mason

“Josh Stallings delivers a heist caper glitter bomb, a moonage daydream set in a dirty teen world of amyl hits and glam rock kicks, a blast from start to finish with a heart bigger than a ’73 Cadillac blinged out with shag carpet and leopardskin seats. My favorite book of the year.” – Thomas Pluck

“Anyone who’s read the Moses McGuire books or All the Wild Children knows Josh Stallings ain’t fucking around. His books knock you about the head and heart and leave bruises you remember fondly. What they may not yet know is just how much unbridled fun he’s capable of having. A star-spangled disco ball refracting sex, thugs and rock and roll, The Young Americans sparkles and flashes like a glitter-dipped nightstick catching the dawn’s early light before kissing you upside the head and sending you into a blissed-out sugar-nap you can take again and again. Hey, all you young dudes, take a walk on the wild side and find out if there’s life on Mars. Fuckin-A.” – Jedidiah Ayres



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