Friday, February 13, 2009

Book: Sucker Punch, by Ray Banks (2009)

Screw delicate American sensibilities. This book will always and forever be Donkey Punch, baby.

Ex-con turned quasi-P.I. Cal Innes is still recovering from his misadventures in Saturday’s Child, and that includes nursing a bouncing baby painkiller addiction. His sole friend and employer Paulo asks him to escort a promising young boxer to a tournament in Los Angeles. Cal quickly discerns that the competition may not be on the up and up.

The plot is more of a vignette, but I will seize any opportunity to spend time in Cal’s foul-mouthed, hair-trigger, good-hearted company. Banks is a ferociously funny writer, and he has few peers when it comes to scenes of male posturing that escalate out of control.

Of course, our Raymond also has a lackluster website, an unhealthy preoccupation with the amount of water in Stateside toilets, and the wrong opinion of jazz. But these are problems that can be worked out in time.

Book: Leading Lady, by Heywood Gould (2008)

You know what’s a good word, at least when it comes to books and not boxing? Punchy. Punchy’s a good word. It certainly applies to this novel by Heywood Gould, recently nominated for the Hammett Prize.

Gould is a screenwriter, but this yarn owes more to his days as a reporter for the New York Post. It’s the kind of story that rag could really sink its teeth into. A wily veteran thief escapes from prison intent on tracking down the people who set up the job that lead to the death of his female partner, the “leading lady” of the title. The motley crew includes aging wiseguys, a Russian “businessman,” an aspiring actress, and a team of Homeland Security agents who don’t officially exist. Gould sketches them all in detail without sacrificing his relentless pace. Lots of fun.