Friday, April 25, 2014

Forgotten Books: Dead Cat Bounce - Norman Green)

(I seem to be in a stretch of not having time to read much except the books I'm editing, so here's another rerun, this one from October 18, 2006. It's pretty appropriate, though, since I haven't heard much about Norman Green, nor read any more of his books myself, since I wrote this post seven and a half years ago.)

I didn't really intend for it to work out that way, but this is the third novel in a row I've read about professional criminals. First was the unnamed con man/narrator of David Dodge's THE LAST MATCH, then the Dolly family from Daniel Woodrell's WINTER'S BONE, and now Stoney, Fat Tommy, and Tuco, a trio of scam artists operating in New York City and New Jersey. The protagonist of this one is Stoney, a likable guy despite his profession. Estranged from his wife and two teenage children, Stoney is trying to clean up his act by quitting drinking. He has no plans to give up being a grifter, though, which is good because his special talents at crime, along with those of his two partners, come in very handy when some secrets about his family are revealed and danger threatens his loved ones.

Some books come out of nowhere and surprise you. I'd never heard of Norman Green, despite the fact that he's published four other well-received crime novels, including SHOOTING DR. JACK, which introduced Stoney, Fat Tommy, and Tuco. This is a perfectly fine urban hardboiled crime yarn with a suitably twisty plot, but what elevates it to an even higher level are Green's perceptive portraits of the characters involved in that plot. His heroes are borderline losers who are trying, sometimes with success and sometimes not, to hang on to their dignity and find something worth living for, and they come up against some suitably psychopathic villains. Green's dialogue is excellent, and he's as good as anyone I've read lately at getting to the heart of things with a few well-crafted lines. This is highly recommended and one of the best books I've read all year.

(Indeed, it made my Top Ten in 2006.)

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