Chet Griffin, convicted computer hacker and San Francisco’s fastest rollerblading messenger, is given a simple assignment. But that delivery turns deadly. On a routine run, Chet’s messenger co-worker is murdered, and Chet barely escapes with his life. Turns out the package Chet was carrying contained a computer disk worth a cool billion. Chet enlists the help of his blue-haired skateboarder-chick buddy and his disabled superhacker roommate. Soon Chet is running for his life and wondering what price he’ll pay for the ultimate rush.
Joe gives an overview of the book:
Bomb deactivator. Crack dealer. SWAT rifleman. My job will kill you faster than any of these. And it won't just kill you; it'll crush you to a pulpy clot on the streets of San Francisco. It pays fifteen bucks a pop and gets you a rush like no drug ever made.
I am a bike messenger.
All my mohawked coworkers snicker at me, but the boss, Mel, says he don't give a damn what I ride, as long as I make the deliveries on time. Which I do. So he keeps me on.
I'm the only rollerblade courier in the city. On any other courier job, rollerblades would be about as practical as snowshoes. But, working off Nob Hill, I got two advantages over those bike dweezels. One, I can thrash where no bicyclist would dare to wheel: up stairs, through backyards, over fences. And two, when the delivery is complete, I can hop the cable car back to the summit, then sit back and wave toodle-oo to my sewer-mouthed colleagues grinding a slow zigzag up the side of Nob Hill.
All of us tattoo punks get an excess of exercise, yet severe ulcers are as common as crushed hips, because we thrash it out paycheck to paycheck on the edge of starvation. Mel Corlini moves through fresh courier meat like a pimp through hoes. Mel creates the hostile environment, then lets a brutal natural selection run its course. Certain personality traits survive.
I work with the type of psychopaths who cut their own brake cables. They hurtle through crowded streets, screaming, "No brakes! No brakes!" Yuppiefolk soon learn to get the hell out of the way. There's nothing scarier than a creature who has no regard for himself and wants the square foot of ground you're standing on. Bike messengers are a despised species, but we Corlini scrubs are particularly vile.
The reason for this is simple. Other bike messengers must carry the fury of the entire city. The eight of us have to carry the fury of Mel Corlini.
Mel Corlini is a coked-up stock market player with rabies. He has three Charlie Brown hairs combed across his bald spot. He is pear-shaped and sweats a lot. A self-proclaimed asshole, so rich he shits chocolate mousse, he is the free market's evolutionary pinnacle, capitalism's Ideal Man made flesh.
I've just completed my fifth delivery of the day, and I'm hungry to make my sixth. I hop off the cable car in front of Mel's office building and skate past four or five stormtroopers who got there ahead of me but are securing their livelihoods, bent over the bike rack like prison freshmen. They scowl at me as I pass. Another advantage to rollerblades is that I don't have to lock them to some rottweiler's urinal. I clash up the stairs and stalk like Frankenstein down the hallway on my platform shoes. I follow the trail of black skid marks along the expensive hallway carpeting to Mel's office and get in line.
Mel, a heart attack waiting to happen, is barking into an innocent phone and chawing a stogie to mulch. Mel always keeps the blue stock market screen turned carefully away from us. He puts meticulous consideration into not remembering our names.
There's only one guy in front of me: blond, tanned, California boy, standing at full attention. His name is either Snake or Spider--I can't remember which. He doesn't look at me. I, a blader ninja in his ranks, am a walking sacrilege.
Even as I try to stand still, my butt cheeks are dancing an impatient mambo. A neon sign is blinking in my brain. It says: MUST MAKE RENT. I'm already two weeks late. Every passing second ticks me closer to the sixteenth and eviction time.
Mel slams down the phone, jabs the disk-eject with his thumb, yanks out a computer disk, and shoves it in a stiff eight-by-eleven. He slaps a seal over the opening, looks up at the bicycle courier waiting for instructions, and makes an outrageous offer.
"If you make this delivery in eight minutes, I'll give you four hundred dollars."
My ears perk up like Lassie spotting a steak frisbee. Four hundred dollars?!!
Joe Quirk is a bestselling novelist and bestselling science writer. His debut novel, The Ultimate Rush was a People Magazine Page-Turner Of The Week.
His new novel, Exult, is about hang gliders who live out the Icarus myth. It has won...
From the Carmel Authors & Ideas Festival:
“Joe Quirk is a TV talk show darling for his hilarious non-fiction IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S BIOLOGY: THE SCIENCE OF LOVE, SEX & RELATIONSHIPS, making him a...
From Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner (Riverhead Books, 2003) and
A Thousand Splendid Suns (Riverhead Books, 2006):
“There is gusto in Exult. It deals nakedly with some age-old human...