As an interesting aside, I was revisiting Donald Westlake’s Parker novels (published under the pen name of Robert Stark) when I ran across this review and decided to give it a try. Five minutes into the audiobook (read by Adam Lazarre-White, who does a marvelous job) I knew two things–that Parker would trust the protagonist Beauregard “Bug” Montage to drive for him on any job whatsoever, and that sleep be damned, I had to finish this book.
This novel is pure Noir Crime Fiction done right. It doesn’t “deconstruct” or “reimagine” the crime novel, it just makes it happen. It takes place in the rural south, with mostly Black characters, but it’s not a “Black” story, it’s a human story. Racism is part of what Bug has to deal with, but he’s a Noir Crime hero, being screwed is built in.
Bug has left his life of crime behind him and has a family, a straight business, is part of the community of his town–a fine upstanding young man.
But he has money problems, and wants to pull one last job to get him out of the red. One simple job.
So, naturally, everything goes just fine and he takes his money and pays his bills and everything is just peachy.
Yeah, and if you believe that you ain’t from around here, are you, cuz?
Because this is Noirland, and it doesn’t matter if it’s New York City or Red Hill County, North Carolina, “simple” and “fine” ain’t on the menu.
There’s a wannabe gansta who shouldn’t be in a job with pros, and a crime boss who shows that you don’t have to be Sicilian to be a psycho mofo, and so many double crosses that you need a friggin’ calculator to keep track of them, and in the center of it all a man who shows us that a bad man can be scary, but a good man pushed past his limits is terrifying.
This is Pulp. This is action oriented storytelling at its finest. High octane adrenaline-fueled bad guys and good guys from the opening line to the last word.