CROWDED LIVES by Clark Howard


and Other Stories of Desperation and Danger
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Not all Howard’s heroes are ex-cons, but they might as well be. They’ve all been around the block, made more than their

share of mistakes, and taken their lumps, usually without complaint. A hit man who refuses a commission goes into hiding, afraid

that everybody who looks twice at him may be carrying a bullet with his name on it. A Vietnam veteran plots revenge on the

commanding officer who sent his troops into a cloud of Agent Orange; a ward of hospitalized WWII soldiers schemes to find

the whereabouts of the lost love of one of their mates before he dies. A has-been boxer trains for a big bout without realizing

he’s been set up; a New Orleans clarinet player skips around town one step ahead of a creditor’s enforcers long enough to audition

for the Jazz Hall of Fame. Howard’s ex-cons unerringly make a beeline from the joint to go after the men who sold them out,

plot robberies that will set them up, or check into buildings awaiting their chance to get friendly with young women. In every

case, there’s no mystery about who’s guilty—anybody worth caring about—but only about whether Howard’s protagonists will

succeed in their fatal plots, get rescued from their own worst nature, or, in the trickiest of these nine stories, succeed but fail


Mostly, though, the grim logic of Howard’s heroes (City Blood, 1994, etc.) is so persuasive that the few (and relatively weak)

happy endings here, which offer just enough false hope to juice the other stories, are even more depressing than the others.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-7862-2366-9
Page count: 173pp
Publisher: Five Star
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2000


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