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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hell and Gone, by Duane Swierczynski ($14.99) (due 10/31/11)

This is the second in a projected three-book series about Charlie Hardie. I'm hoping there will in fact be a third book (Point and Shoot, projected release date 3/12), because there was a lot of hanging by the fingernails from a cliff at the end of this one.

Fun and Games was the first book. To my loss I have not read this, but Swierczynski encapsulates the first book's action very well, as in: therewasashootoutoverthepeoplehewassupposedtoprotectandanactressgotkilledbutCharliewasinnocent,gotshotandkidnappedoutofthehospital.

Charlie is a tough guy, apparently too tough to put under with an ordinary amount of anesthesia. He unexpectedly wakes up to bizarre scenes: in an ambulance after he's been shot or finding he’s stuck on a life-support system in the trunk of a car. The next thing he knows he has (mostly) recovered somehow and is now handcuffed to a chair. His arch-nemesis, a female assassin, is telling him he is the new "warden" of a facility where they keep "monsters."


You probably have the (correct) impression that this is not a normal book of crime fiction. It's very visual in a ka-bam, pow-y sort of way, but there are also a lot of nods to old-time pulp fiction. Swierczynski hits his readers between their eyes with his fast movements. For example, the book starts this way:

During the past fifteen minutes Charlie Hardie had been nearly drowned, shot in his left arm, shot in the side of his head, and almost shot in the face at point-blank range.

Now he was sprawled out on a damp suburban lawn handcuffed to a crazy secret-assassin lady who liked to sunbathe topless. He figured things could only go up from here.
The quotes Swierczynski adds before each chapter warrant a book report all by themselves. A lot of them are from incarceration fiction and movies: from "Papillon" to "Cool Hand Luke" to the campy "Shock Corridor." Toss in a sprinkling from cult classics, books and movies also featuring man vs. The Man.

Reference Kafka, Sarte (also quoted), or any other existential dude you want, add kick-ass action, gnarly and grotesque dudes and dudettes who could be good or bad or both or actors, and shake everything up thoroughly until you are verging on a headache, and serve.

My best advice is to stop saying "What?" every few minutes as you read the book. Go with the flow, enjoy the staccato ride, and wait in sweaty and grimy anticipation for Point and Shoot.

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