Monday, August 29, 2011

Book: Choke Hold, by Christa Faust (2011)

If you read the unassailably kick-ass Money Shot, you remember Angel Dare. A former porn star turned vigilante is not the kind of protagonist that slips one’s mind. In Choke Hold Angel is still on the run from the heavies she tussled with before, and after a brief stint in WITSEC she’s living off the grid and looking over her shoulder. But she’s blindsided by her own past when former flame Thick Vic Ventura turns up in the Arizona diner where she’s slinging hash. He’s there to meet his son, an MMA fighter with championship dreams. Then three guys show up armed to the teeth. Thick Vic is dead, his son is in danger, and Angel’s got a new set of problems to go with her old ones.

Let’s loop back to that early description, “porn star turned vigilante.” That may sound like it’s crying out for caricature. But the genius of Christa Faust is that Angel Dare is never less than real. A woman who has always fended for herself, resourceful yet resigned. The book is a hell-for-leather ride filled with almost relentless action, but it’s in those brief moments when Angel gets to catch her breath that things turn truly tough. That’s when she’s forced to admit how life as a fugitive has worn her down to damn near nothing, how she fears feeling anything for anyone again.

There’s pulp vigor to spare, all kinds of mayhem, and some sensational no-fuss wordsmithing on display. The sections recounting Angel’s unsuccessful WITSEC sojourn, her lingering, clear-eyed affection for the pornography biz, the sharply drawn parallels between the worlds of skin flicks and MMA, both trafficking in fantasies of gender perfection. And the ending is brutal.

In the interests of full disclosure, I point out that Christa is a friend. But that doesn’t matter. Choke Hold is a back alley scrum of a book. It’s nasty, it doesn’t fight fair, and when it’s over you won’t quite know what hit you. Get yours when it comes out in early October.