Matthew Asprey’s latest novella, Dog City (2014), published entirely within Issue 16 of Crime Factory, is a gem. More poignant than some of his earlier works, but with the same peripatetic gusto, it follows the hapless character Finch, a jazz enthusiast who’s down on his luck and has returned to the anaemic, one-horse town he grew up in, Rabensford, in Western Australia. Befriending Lawan, a Thai tourist lacking a Visa and sporting blue dreads, much to the amusement of the town’s residents, Finch attempts to leave the town as soon as possible to get to Broome, but it’s not so easy: he’s on the run from the Perth mafia, who have tracked him down, and discovers that an old friend has more power over the depleted town of Rabensford than he would have guessed. Filled with the usual eye for detail that is characteristic of all of Asprey’s novellas, a colourful array of three-dimensional characters appear in Finch’s hometown, some hilarious, some horrendous, and he keeps bumping into figures from his past. But Finch is adamant- he isn’t there for a family reunion, and he is hardly nostalgic. He’s dragged into some pretty outrageous circumstances, and incurs the wrath of the local police and the mobsters. But there’s heart to this story. Amidst the corruption Finch, who owes about $30,000 in debts to all sorts of vile miscreants, emerges as sort of unlikely hero, who boasts the only moral compass in town. Armed with only his Datsun, some jazz cassettes and a conscience, Finch not only intends to escape town but is set to make a few changes as well. A curious blend of Wake in Fright and Red Harvest, Asprey explores small-town life and police corruption; the city becomes a central character, infecting all of its inhabitants in a similar manner to Hammett’s Personville (Poisonville), and interweaves sex, guilt, money, violence, and heroism. The end result is a curious misadventure that offers surprising insights into one’s past and the desire to escape it. It leaves you with the message that if you’re going to survive in a city like this, it takes guts.