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100 Books in a Year #71: Caught Stealing by Charlie Huston

By Brian Prisco | Books | April 21, 2009 |

By Brian Prisco | Books | April 21, 2009 |

Let it never be said good things can’t ever be free. When the Kindle 2 was released, Amazon boasted a full compliment of free downloads on the site, among them the three novels of Charlie Huston’s Hank Thompson trilogy. Now, it begs the question, why in the pickled fuck would you want to just give this shit away? Maybe the first in the set, but all three? Surely you jest. Surely, it cannot be of any sort of discernible quality. I mean, it looks like Huston’s published a mad assortment of novels. So how good could these really be, right?

Fucking awesome. That’s what, motherfucker.

I find myself tossing down one fantasy novel only to pick up some sort of hardboiled action/mystery novel next. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, John Connolly’s Charlie Parker, Matt Reilly’s Scarecrow, even the Rollins’ Sigma. My brother’s trying to sell me on this new series by Jonathan Maberry that sounds like Sigma pumped full of zombies. And I decided to throw a homeboy a bone and start in on Duane Swiercyzski’s (that’s probably fucking totally tore up, but with a handle that that, brother’s gotta understand) Wheelman novels. I call this my TK zone: badass motherfuckers just trying to Rambo their way out of tough breaks.

So here we go again, I think. We’ve got a nameless narrator, in this tough guy first person staccato prose, essentially in a world of fucking hurt. He was a former baseball wunderkind, who suffered a crippling career ending injury during a high school game, and basically ended up pissing his life away. Now, he’s a fucking drunk, and I mean a hardcore motherfucker. He actually passes out during a routine exam only to have to have a kidney removed because he destroyed it with all his fucking boozing. So now, he’s fucking limping around with only one kidney, not able to drown his sorrows in even beer, when his neighbor asks him to watch his cat. That fucking cat. What a fucking cat.

As would be expected, shit goes sour for our dear narrator — who only until 100 pages in do we discover is named Hank — as he proceeds to essentially get the fuck beat out of him by varying assortments of thugs. Russians in coordinated tracksuits. Two black cowboys with rings on their fingers. An Asian safecracker with a shock of red hair. And that’s just a few. And all Hank wanted was to watch the Giants playoff games, and maybe pet that fucking cat.

The greatest part of the entire narrative, if you’re carefully paying attention, is that despite the entire tough guy-action hero dictation, Hank’s a fucking mook. He’s a pussy fuck-up. He’s constantly begging them not to kick his ass, and most of the time, he’s trying to run away. He’s more likely to describe in bone-scraping detail how he’s getting his face smashed in rather than his own fisticuff glory. He’s not a hero. He’s just trying to stop people from hurting his friend’s fucking cat.

Huston’s got a great style and pace to his novel. It’s ridiculous without being farcical. Shit’s just weird enough to be comical without taking away from the brutality or badassery. Apparently, Huston’s got a whole other series about vampire mobsters. Where’s Robert Loggia when you need that beautiful bastard? So I’d highly recommend sinking your teeth into some Charlie Huston. It’s meaty good.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here.

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