Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Fake I.D. - Jason Starr

I’ve seen a lot of positive comments from Juri Nummelin and others about this book, which previously had been published only in England, and I’ve enjoyed the other Jason Starr novels I’ve read (including PANIC ATTACK, just a few weeks ago), so when Hard Case Crime recently reprinted it, I picked up a copy. FAKE I.D. is narrated by Tommy Russo, a bar bouncer and would-be actor in New York who’s struggling with a compulsive gambling problem. One of Tommy’s racetrack acquaintances invites him to join a syndicate that’s being put together to buy a race horse. All Tommy has to do is come up with $10,000 to buy in. Being the confident kind of guy he is, he’s sure he’ll be able to do that.

Of course, it doesn’t turn out to be that easy. Every plan Tommy comes up with seems to go wrong, and sometimes they go wrong in spectacular ways. But Tommy plows right ahead, always sure that he’s doing the right thing and that it’s all going to work out for him.

I’m not sure there’s anybody better than Jason Starr at creating likable characters the reader will root for, then having them turn out to be absolute monsters. Tommy is maybe the best example of that I’ve come across yet. He struggles along through his life and you actually start to hope that things will work out for him, and then, with no sign whatsoever of remorse, he does something totally despicable. And this happens more than once along the way to a really powerful ending.

I could see this same set-up working for one of the late Donald E. Westlake’s comic crime novels, but of course Starr takes the story in very different directions. His prose is smooth and he keeps the pace racing right along, and the result is one of the more enjoyable novels I’ve read recently. FAKE I.D. veers into some pretty dark territory at times, but I was glad to go along for the ride. I think it’s the best Jason Starr novel I’ve read so far. Highly recommended.



I read this in the original UK version and I concur Jason is a great new voice.

P.M. said...

Just posted on this book as well. Not sure that I ever rooted for Tommy, but I agree that his dark deeds seem to come out of nowhere, hitting like a punch in the gut. I also loved the three Novels Starr wrote with Bruen for Hard Case. Same darkness mixed with a healthy dose of humor.

Juri said...

Your words are my words, James. Absolute agreement, and I think this is his best - maybe alongside with Nothing Personal.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the insightful review, James. I'll look for Jason's latest.

Ed Lynskey

Tim said...

I have to disagree. This book is truly awful - the title character just does one stupid thing after another to drive the plot and it is difficult to work up any interest in what happens to him.