So here comes Heywood Gould again with another exciting tale. Gould, author of "Fort Apache, The Bronx," "Boys From Brazil" and other novels and screenplays, now gives us a super-charged story full of bad guys, a lot badder guys (among them rogue Feds, Russian and Albanian mobsters and locally-grown mafiosi) and a not-that-bad bad guy you can come to love and root for. Jerry Lang, by name.
Lang, a thief practically from when he was a toddler, usually steals on demand. That is, he gets an assignment from a fence, mentor, whatever, to rip off a bit of property that someone else covets.
This time it’s a valuable piece of art, and he and his "leading lady" – Gloria, a very lovely, erotic head-turner whose role is to distract any man who might get in Jerry’s way – head off to work.
But things go wrong and Gloria vanishes and most certainly has ended up buried in the Bronx or some other godawful place and Jerry himself almost gets the final push to Hell but ends up in jail for a couple of years. (I’m really not giving much away: Gloria is disposed of in the first few pages.) From this point on Jerry lives with one major motivation.
Revenge drives the tale, and it’s like watching a Nascar event. Fast, dangerous, sexy.
And this is a pretty sexy book. Chapter One introduces us to Jerry’s leading lady with a warm, tender and glowing post-coital description of her body, her near-perfect bone structure and just how Jerry feels about her: He truly loves her. It’s afternoon, with the theft of the artwork planned for that night, and they’ve made love mostly because if the caper turns bad he wants his last memories to be of Gloria’s essence.
The dialogue is smart and droll; nothing flashy, but it will instantly hook you. Four pages in, just after Jerry and Gloria have made love, he explains the final details of their upcoming heist that he’s been asked to pull off by a fence/scammer/rotter from whom he’s long taken assignments. He discusses their place in the pecking order of who gets paid how much and why the top guy gets the most and why Jerry and Gloria, the "heavy lifters," get the least. "How do we go up to the next level?" Gloria asks. Jerry’s wry response: "Get different parents."
A touch fatalistic, and yes, Jerry grew up in a rough and tumble crummy neighborhood, but he makes no excuses and no apologies. Jerry is not exactly a good guy but the guys he is up against are so much worse. Of course, the score goes south and the rest of this post-modern noir detective novel is a cat and mouse tale of revenge and counter-revenge peopled by some pretty interesting characters. Gould is able to make a character come alive with just a few words. For example, his description of a big, beefy bouncer: "He had three chins, only two of them shaved."
The cast of characters include a sly and crafty mafia boss surrounded by mostly loyal but dim goons and a coked-up lieutenant impatient to step up and depose the boss so he can sit at a table in an Italian restaurant with the other Dons in $4,000 silk suits. The scariest villain and Jerry’s most formidable foe is the corrupt and mega nouveau-riche Russian oligarch who has the goods on some important American politicos and can therefore command and receive protection and favors from secret U.S. Army operatives working under the auspices of a shadow government agency.
But the story is really about the Leading Lady, beginning with Gloria and ending with her replacement, Letitia Hastings: actress/lap dancer/actress but, finally, Jerry’s true Leading Lady. She’s beautiful and smart and talented, but most important she steps up and prevails. It’s a pretty dark novel – definitely noirish – illuminated by the faint glimmer of Letitia’s moral center.
Murders, double-crosses and more, straight to an explosive and chilling ending.
Causes Heywood Gould Supports
Leukemia and Lymphomia Association
American Cancer Society
St. Jude's Children Research Hospital