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Christopher Meeks Tries on Combat Boots - and Succeeds
Date of Review: 
Published Work: 
Grady Harp
Literary Aficionado

I've read and reviewed every book and play written by the gifted Christopher Meeks, so it was with some trepidation to pick up a novel with a title BLOOD DRAMA, packaged by a cover that suggested he'd joined the au courant genre of spy and murder and intrigue army of writers. Was he forsaking his own quirky and deliciously entertaining usual topics of onstage interpersonal relationship scenarios of his previous books? Had he sold out to the bigger market of bestseller yet rapidly transient airport books? Happily, after I'd become attached to his satisfyingly rather strange hero in the first chapter, and the fear vanished that Meeks had abandoned his signature warmth and tasteful dissection of ordinary people, the pages practically turned themselves.

Meeks has the gift to mold characters with such extensive backstories that after only a few pages as each new character is introduced, they become part of the surround-sound family into whose story we have wandered. Here our tale involves one Ian Nash, who, having been dismissed from his doctoral program in Theater Arts, decides to not miss a step but instead apply for a job in a coffee house (think Starbucks type coffee house) that just happens to be in the building that houses a bank about to be robbed. In no time, he is involved as a hostage to a quartet of bizarre bank robbers led by the Busty Bandit (two women and two men comprise the quartet) who after robbing the bank and killing a man take our drugged hero off to a sanctuary to hide. The police arrive, and, under the "utter control" of Special Agent Aleece Medina, the investigation begins. Ian manages to escape from his bank robbing ensemble, and eventually the disparate duo of Aleece and Ian set out to solve the case and find the perps, a randy run that takes the rest of the book to resolve.

Ian Nash is a typical Christopher Meeks creation - smart, somewhat befuddled, Mamet-quoting theater type who knows just enough to spar with the rigidly controlling Aleece. A quick quote that shines a light on Meeks' ability to draw a scene clearly, a scene when Ian is in hostage custody, deserves sharing: "That night, tied and gagged and wedged against a Maytag washer - no more bed for him - Ian was still alive. He thought of something musician Bruce Springsteen said in an interview when talking about his song 'Racing in the Streets.' He said there was a lot of pain in life, but that one had to persevere and be resilient. That's what Ian realized his job was at the moment. Persevere."

A short snippet, that, and there are far better ones, but the book is so rich in feisty humor, in theatrically enacted derring-do as the pursuit of the quartet of bank robbers ensues, some fine psychological insights into these strange but likeable folk from the Southern California setting Meeks knows and lives so well - well, so rich, period, that it begs to be read. Meeks may have daringly (for him) stepped into new territory, but the fact that he continues to remain in the rarefied atmosphere of fine contemporary authors is secure. -Grady Harp