Monday, May 3, 2010

The Deputy: Buy this book

By Steve Weddle

THE DEPUTY is a return ("Don't call it a comeback") to crime fiction from the author who brought you GUN MONKEYS. Victor Gischler's fantastic 2010 novel starts off with a dead body and things go downhill quickly for the deputy ordered to keep an eye on the corpse.

Toby Sawyer ends up in a world of hurt. Not from catching his manhood in his zipper. Not from the trouble with his wife. Not from the dirt and blood all over his face. Not from the face-scratching he gets from a hellcat. And not from the housefire, shootouts, and attack dog. No. Toby Sawyer has to get diapers back to his girlfriend, who's watching his infant son. Heck, a crazy goth chick like that headed to college would screw that one up something awful.

But, uh, yeah. There's that other stuff, too.

Let's be upfront with this. I don't write reviews. Other people do fantastic work reviewing works. The kind of reviews that make me want to read the book. Or not. Like those big mofos in the NY Review of Books. You know, where they say they're reviewing four books on the Boer War or some stuff like that. I mean, yeah, I've heard of it, but what the hell, right? I don't know what the Boer War is. The jokes are great, but, hell if I know what happened. But then I see some review in the NY Review of Books and it has a cool picture of some dude with an awesome mustache and he's standing in front of some wall-size map and then I'm thinking, well hell yeah. Let's see what that's about. And before I can get up again to pee, I've read a review of three dull-ass books and one great biography all having to do with the Boer War. And I just feel like someone has told me some great stories and filled my head with important junk I should have already known. I mean, those reviews are great.

I don't do that.

I text someone and say, "holy frackin hell the deputy is frackin great." That's my review of books I love. Sometimes, someone texts back, "yeah?" and I'll respond "what i just say dumb mofo?" That's about the extent of it.

One thing I hate about book reviews is having plot points spoiled. Of course, how are you supposed to be specific in your review of a book without giving something away? If you give away something on page 50, is that bad? Only 10 pages allowed? And if not specific, then what? How often can I say "balls-out pace"?

So I can't give you a history of the Boer War. I knew some stuff once, but I've forgotten it.

THE DEPUTY, though, I can tell you about. Because I just finished it. In one sitting. I even carried it into the bathroom when I had to pee because there was some active stuff going on. (You ever try to hold a book open on the sink while you're doing your tinkle business? Next Gischler book I'm reading outside.)

So the reason I'm reviewing this book even though I'm not a book review kind of writer is that you need to read this book. I'm not getting paid by the book review magazine in cash and books. I don't have to review books for a living. I paid my money for this book. I'm telling you about it because I think you need to pay your money for it, too.

Years ago, I didn't give two craps about crime fiction. Then I read Gun Monkeys. That's when I saw what could be done with this "genre" writing. I mean, dang, this is smart stuff and cool and fun. Yeah, I'll take some of that. This isn't that lazy-ass, check-your-brain-at-the-door mystery writing. This is what is possible. And that's what got me over from the literary fiction side of the bookstore. And this book does all of what that book did.

Gun fights. Car chases. Big trucks. Big bikes. Big trouble. By the time you're 50 pages in, you won't know who to trust. Aw, crap. I forgot to tell you what this book is about. I totally suck at this. Sorry, just kind of excited. See, if you were here in front of me, I'd hand you the book and make you read the first page. Then I'd probably start bugging you: "See? Cool, huh? Don't you want to keep reading?" And you would. And you'd be pissed because I was interrupting you.

OK. So the story. Toby Sawyer is an idiot. I'm sorry, but he is. He's kinda stuck in a trailer park with a dumb wife and a baby son. He loves the kid, but the wife. Feh. She watches reality shows all day. So, yeah. Not so much with that one. But Toby is trying to get his stuff together. He's on part-time with the sheriff's office and trying to get on full-time. A young punk from the local Hatfields or McCoys is found shot to death -- nine bullet holes. Toby is supposed to watch the body while the other cops go investigate and the coroner makes his way there. Toby goes into the local diner for a second and when he comes out, the body is gone. So now his future is shot to hell.

He's not really interested in finding the body. He's interested in just making it all go away, in waking up from a bad dream. One second he's crawling out the window of his college-bound girlfriend and the next he's getting chased like he's Dennis Weaver. And then he's on the run. And he has no idea why. Soon enough, not only is his life at stake -- but so is that of his baby son.

Crooked cops. Smugglers. Nasty locals. This 249-page book is so full of characters, sometimes it feels like that Thomas Mann book where he builds up the family to tear them down. And sometimes this one feels like a long short story, with action that you feel as if you're reading a short story -- all flesh and shotguns and chases.

I read this in one fell-swoop between lunch and dinner on Sunday. Which pisses me off. I should have just read a few chapters each day, so that I could enjoy it for longer.

Ah, well. As they say in the book: "What's a man supposed to do? How does a man know?"

This is what noir is: that rough, bloody adrenaline rush that makes you remember why you read books in the first place.

Buy. This. Book.

UPDATE: $3.57 at Amazon on Aug 12, 2013


Bryon Quertermous said...

Agreed. Everyone should support the Gischler. And you should wrirte more "reviews' like this one.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Good enough to go on the one hundred books I will read before I die list?
Sounds like it.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Um...lazy-assed, check your brains at the door mystery writing?

Fun post, though. Guess I have to make a point of moving this one up on my TBR pile!

Steve Weddle said...

You bet. Move this one up the TBR pile, for sure.