SUGAR OF LEAD by Almer John Davis


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An Anglo embedded in the Korean gang culture of Southern California undertakes a journey of revenge, only to find he ultimately seeks redemption.

Utilizing the backdrop of Malibu, along with the accoutrements that ill-gained money can buy, Davis has penned a story that is fairly standard in both plot and genre tradition. Michael “Sugar” Pierce, by status of his Caucasian ethnicity, is an outsider in the Korean mobster hierarchy and therefore is never completely trusted by the majority of his criminal colleagues. Yet, as the adopted heir of a mob boss, he is nonetheless “family.” When the man he thinks of as his brother, Simon Rhee, is murdered, Pierce is compelled to avenge his death. But the fact that Rhee’s wife, Katherine, is now a widow creates an awkward situation for Pierce–he has long and secretly been in love with her. In addition, Pierce must deal with conflicts not only within the gang but between him and the almost supernatural presence of its leader Wu Li. As boundaries become blurred, bodies pile up and Davis’ intentionally vague accounts of criminal activity grow ever more confusing. Here, the thriller becomes crushed under the weight of its literary ambition. The narrative jumps back and forth in time, and there are issues with punctuation, tense and run-on sentence construction, as though flashes of Bret Easton Ellis had wormed their way into the story. Though there are truly effective scenes of well-crafted violence–Davis has done his James Lee Burke/Cormac McCarthy homework–Sugar of Lead lacks a convincing emotional counterpoint, making it better suited for the illustrative squares of a comic book.

A sprawling effort that has plenty of promise, but attempts to conquer too many literary possibilities.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 978-0-7388-5205-8
Program: Kirkus Indie
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