IN THE HAT by Dannie Martin


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 In his second novel, ex-con Martin (The Dishwasher, 1995) delivers crude but effective takes on the outlaw life in northern California. Vernon Coy is living large near Fresno on the sizable earnings of two handsome, good-hearted hookers--his wife Paula and Angela Perry (a.k.a. Curly), who's waiting for Weldon (Vern's elder brother) to complete a 16-year sentence at Soledad for armed robbery. Thanks to the ladies, Vernon has the money and time to work the local cock-fighting circuit with fellow felon Melvin Nix, pitting a tough old bird named Gatorbait against all comers. But Vern's orgiastic idyll comes to a sudden halt when white supremacist gangsters order his death in the mistaken belief that he betrayed one of their crank factories in order to obtain dismissal of prostitution charges against Paula. Though Weldon warns his brother of the impending hit, Vern is preoccupied with tracking down Curly's brother Sam, who's absconded with the working girls' jewelry and a large sum of cash. Despite the lip service he pays to the wisdom of avoiding needless violence, Vern lures Sam to a deserted beach near San Luis Obispo and shoots him to death. While he's on this mission, Paula is killed in a car bombing engineered by the none-too-bright torpedo who was assigned to liquidate Vern. With help from wily Grady McCall (an aging jailbird who was his brother's cellmate), Vern nails Paula's murderer while Weldon butchers a couple of culpable neo-Nazis in their prison bunks. In need of big money to retain top-notch legal counsel for Weldon, Vern comes up with a high-risk/high-reward scheme designed to put all members of his ad hoc family on Easy Street and, perhaps, get him out from under the racist mobsters who still want revenge. An engaging if utterly amoral and occasionally discontinuous narrative, replete with authoritative detail on penitentiary mores.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-83335-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1997