Good 'ol bearded Brandon here with a triple header of reviews for you on this lovely Saturday night. Seeing as there isn't hockey to occupy my attention, I thought I would give you an action packed post all regarding books featuring hooligans mucking it up on the Streets of Philadelphia. (**Editors Note** not one of these characters will be portrayed by Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington or Bruce Springsteen)
If you ever find yourself over on my blog - Every Read Thing [cheap plug] - you'll know that I'm a pretty big fan of one, Duane Swierczynski. Swierczynski is one of those authors who does not appear to be happy when confined in one specific story telling medium. He's both a fiction and non-fiction writer who has also tried his hand at comic books. Tonight however, I'm going to give you three reviews for three of his pulp style novels. While they're not officially connected within a series, there are a few characters that find themselves carrying over into each novel.
Man, this took me a while to finish. It certainly had nothing to do with the plot, the characters or the author’s pacing; I just picked the wrong times to read. Almost every time I picked this book up, I dozed off. What had made this experience so frustrating was that I really liked it and I would find myself getting angry and wondering if I was suffering from narcolepsy. Trust me, if you’re unable to find a story about a mute, Irish getaway driver at least a little interesting, there may be something chemically wrong with you.
Books like The Wheelman are the reason I’m leaning towards literature as my main source of action-fiction. Hey, I love watching big explosions and car chases in movies and television just as much as the next guy but it takes real writing chops to be able to write an action thriller so clearly that it throws away the need for a visual medium; and boy does he have some chops.
I found a lot of parallels between this and one of my favorite books I had read last year, Kiss Me, Judas. Not in the sense that we’re looking a novel here that mirrors the neo noir genre like Kiss Me, Judas but a lot of the characters and Swierczynski’s prose seemed pretty similar to Will Christopher Baer. Both novels share fast paced and often frenetic action, with action scenes happening within pages of each other. Swierczynski’s prose can be quick and the dialogue is often pretty sharp, so I found myself flying through large chunks of the book in each sitting.
I've read a few reviews of his other novels and have officially placed them on my radar. The man shows definite promise, and with the introduction of a signature character in his catalog and the beginnings of a series, I’m pretty excited to dig into it
While sitting in an airport lounge, Jack Eisley is told by an attractive blonde that she had poisoned his drink. Assuming she is merely flirting and not believing any part of her threats, Jack leaves but eventually suffers unimaginable pain and sickness. Upon meeting back up with her, Jack slowly realizes just how true her threats are..
Swierczynski had stated he wanted to write a sequel to The Wheelman, I suppose this was his idea. While technically linked to the previous book in the sense that a minor character in Michael Kowalski returns, there’s no real semblance in terms of continuation; the plot is totally unrelated. That being said, I did love the nod to the events in The Wheelman.
I loved the layout. The fact that Swierczynski tracks several interchangeable narratives really keeps things moving at a brisk pace and helps the story stay consistently fresh. As in The Wheelman, Swierczynski’s penchant for lightning fast action returns with quick and brutal violence. His writing is just so.. cool (that word isn't overused is it?)
There were a few things I was kind of bothered by. However, it was nothing that really ruined my experience overall. On a side note (not that it matters), of all the books I've read in the past year or so, I can see this one easily adapting to the silver screen. Swierczynski’s writing just oozes style and seems to be built for a slick, fast-paced film.
Getting called in to work on a Saturday That is the worst. Getting called in to work on a Saturday and being told that you’re a front for a secret government counter-terrorism unit? That’s.. interesting. Getting called in to work on a Saturday and being told that your office is being shut down and you’re all going to be killed? Well, is it too late to take a sick day?
Swierczynski gives us the third installment in a sort of Philly-based unofficial crime trilogy. I say unofficial because it doesn't appear to be listed as one – even though a character from The Wheelman carries over to The Blonde followed by a character from that carrying over to Severance Package. It should be noted that these all take place in the same city roughly a year apart.
Out of the three, this was probably the most violent – and that’s saying something. It also has one of the coolest fight scenes I've encountered. If anything, Swierczynski has taught me to stay away from plate glass windows if I ever get involved in a fight with a trained assassin – they will use those windows if need be.
Outside of Lisbeth in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Molly Lewis is easily the most bad ass female lead out there. There are points where I swear I heard the trademark score from the Terminator films as she pursued her co-workers.
On the back of the novel, it says it begs for someone like Tarantino to direct the movie version. While I don’t know if it fits his style; I couldn't help but think about the movie “Shoot ‘Em Up” while I read this book. It’s probably the closest thing I can think of in terms of what already exists. It’s full of cliche dialogue and over-the-top violence. At this point, I would expect nothing less from Swierczynski – and that’s not a bad thing.