Sunday, February 19, 2012

Books: Ray Banks, Tom Piccirilli

Wolf Tickets by Ray Banks Originally, this story was begun many years ago as a collaboration between Banks and one of my other favorite authors, Ken Bruen. Two of my favorite writers working together: what could possibly go wrong? Well everything and nothing - the story is simply extraordinary, but because it didn't fit in any preconceived genre and contained a lot of British and Irish slang, it was deemed unpublishable and languished in a drawer for years until seeing the light of day as an electronic book. It's a crackling story, one of Banks' finest, the story of two old army pals, Cobb, a down but not out Englishman who just kicked a coke habit, but can't kick the habit of stealing from thrift stores and Farrell, an Irishman, who is on the trail of his girlfriend Nora who has split with 20,000 euros of Farrell's money along with his favorite jacket. Hooking up in Newcastle, they try to track down Nora and get the money back. This is where things go off the rails. Nora turns up dead outside of a trailer where Cobb and Farrell were holing up. Finding out that the mysterious Frank O’Brien, ex-con and drug dealer, was behind Nora’s death, leads the duo down the road to revenge. This was a very well told story, rife with dark yet hysterical humor. Banks splits the narrative into two first person accounts of the protagonists, showing differing views of the events and their bickering like an old married couple. Ray Banks has the total package here - a ripe story, memorable characters, dark humor and a rollicking pace that never lets up.

Clown in the Moonlight by Tom Piccirilli A teenager lies dead in the woods and soon becomes a morbid and lurid attraction for his classmates who file by the body. The unnamed protagonist is also a student, an abused outsider and loner who has served time in prison and psychiatric hospitals, and is irresistible to the girls. Learning that Ricky Kelso aka “The Acid King” is responsible for this murder, he allows himself to be lured to a drug fueled party where Kelso and his inner circle hold court in a blood and sex soaked bacchanal. After Kelso is arrested and commits suicide in jail, the narrative shifts. The protagonist is now a few years older, holding down a menial job after high school, when he falls for another femme fatale, one who is involved in a witches coven, one that practices bloody rituals by moonlight. Once again lured into a situation beyond his control, he has to fight for his very life and sanity in order to survive. Haunted (sometimes literally) by the ghosts of his past, he strives to make the best of himself delving into law enforcement and finally becoming involved in one of the most notorious cases in New York City history. The story was unusually choppy for Tom Piccirilli, who usually weaves together a very tight narrative. This one skips and jumps, then ends abruptly with a lot of unanswered questions. Perhaps this novella is the trial run for a full length rewrite of the story - it certainly has potential.

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