SIDESWIPE by Charles Willeford
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SIDESWIPE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Willeford's black-comic novels featuring Miami cop Hoke Moseley (Miami Blues, New Hope for the Dead) manage to sustain suspense despite plots that are unabashedly disjointed and/or digressive. And this third outing is the most unconventional of all--with two entirely separate stories, in alternating chapters, that don't link up until the last 40 pages. Story #1 follows overworked Hoke, 43, as he goes through midlife ""burnout""--starting with his sudden descent into catatonia after breakfast one day. Taken to recuperate at his rich father's house on Singer I. near Palm Beach, Hoke begins functioning again--but decides to simplify his life, to quit his job and get by as live-in manager of a small apartment-building (complete with kooky tenants) owned by Moseley, Sr. Complications crop up nonetheless, of course. A visit from 14-year-old daughter Aileen has a nightmarish (but funny) end when Hoke discovers that she's secretly suffering from bulimia. And there's a brief busman's holiday when Hoke solves a series of local robberies. If story #1 is shambling, low-key character-comedy, however, story #2 is an unnerving mixture of pathos, farce, and grotesquerie--as timid Stanley Sinkiewicz of Riviera Beach, 71, a retired auto-worker and utterly ordinary sort, finds himself caught up in a bizarre, clearly doomed adventure. First Stanley loses his wife (no great loss, he decides) when he's unjustly accused of child molestation. Then, during his few hours in jail, Stanley meets Troy Louden, a cheerful, articulate psychopath (a veteran robber/killer) who wins the naive, lonely old man's heart. And soon Stanley is in Miami-where Troy has planned a big supermarket heist with a pathetic gang: a would-be painter from Barbados; a curvaceous would-be stripper with a dreadfully disfigured face; and Stanley himself--as reluctant money-man and passive accomplice. The heist turns into a ghastly bloodbath, with Hoke's former partner Ellita (now very pregnant) among the wounded. So, as Hoke returns to Miami to lead the investigation, the two plotlines merge--in a quick, rather perfunctory track-down of poor Stanley. Still, even if readers feel disappointed (even tricked) by the lack of clever, suspenseful interweaving here, the chapter-by-chapter entertainment is rich, distinctive, disturbing--with a grimly fanciful view of human nature reminiscent of Thomas Berger.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 1987
Publisher: St. Martin's