Thursday, March 13, 2008

The kids aren't alright

No crime writer today excites me like Charlie Huston. Caught Stealing, the first book of the Hank Thompson trilogy, is a brutal wrong place at the wrong time story that moves at an incredible pace. His Joe Pitt trilogy, starting with Already Dead, should be ridiculous. Joe is a PI in New York, and he is a vampire. That right there was enough to make me think thrice. Huston creates a vampire society in NYC that mirrors the mortal society and creates classically cynical noir tales with fast paced and crazy turns in plot that having vampires and zombies allows you to do.

His writing is tight and effective and it is has gotten better in his latest, the Shotgun Rule. This is his most serious and dark book to date. The violence in his prior books was never glamorized, but it was over the top enough to be a little less shocking. Here with a set of protagonists that are mostly teenagers, the violence and threat of violence is horrifying.

The book is set in early 80s, in what appears to be a small, poor Central Valley town near the Bay Area. The protagonists are four teen delinquents who, in a fit of revenge, steal half a kilo of crystal meth from the local hoods. Things go awry and families are pulled into a rising tide of violence.

Huston doesn't glamorize these kids. They do drugs and drink as often as they go to school. They steal from the elderly and they jump at the chance to commit more crimes. Despite this, he reveals their conflicted, scared humanity which brings them great sympathy when their plans begin to go wrong.

Because of the complex nature of the characters, the starkness of the violence and the realistic dialogue of the teens, this book is not for everyone. You can probably tell where you stand. If you might like it, get it. I stayed up far later than I should reading this one as I had to know how it ended.

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