It’s all meant to be self-consciously amusing, but much of the humor is tedious, and quirks stand in for character.

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OVENMAN

A novel of pizza parlors, skateboarding, tattoos and piercings—needless to say, it’s a portrait of the ’90s.

Narrator When Thinfinger is the eponymous character. He’s a denizen of Florida, lover of Marigold, friend of Blaise and aficionado of skateboards and street bikes, his favorite being a “Haro with the kinky triangular frame.” Although he’s recently lost his job as pit cook at Ken’s Barbie-Q, life is looking up when he finds a position as Ovenman at Piecemeal Pizza By The Slice, a microcosm of the weird subculture When inhabits. This is the kind of place where people are identified by their social or culinary functions rather than by their names—or rather, their function becomes their names: Thin Pie Guy, Pasta Dude, Front Girl, Salad Bitch. Ovenman literally makes notes of things (“Pizza is Power”; “I am Ovenman”) all on post-its that he puts on whatever surface is available, including his body. The plot is episodic: Marigold breaks her back trying a maneuver on a bike (at Ovenman’s behest); Ovenman tries to get away with whatever funds he can embezzle from Piecemeal; Ovenman gets pierced against his will in the most painful place imaginable at Second Skin Piercing; Ovenman seeks out his “biodad” in Ohio for an abortive homecoming. Ovenman tends to simplify life to conform to his self-acknowledged limitations. When he sets a lock combination, for example, it must be 23-3-7 because it’s the only one he can remember. (It spells “beer” on a telephone.) He describes a shirt as having a smell of “total MoonPie wrapper.” In a spasm of insight toward the end of the novel, Ovenman exclaims: “Suddenly I am risking my job, the only real connection I have to anything in this life.” At least here he acknowledges that the stakes are fairly high.

It’s all meant to be self-consciously amusing, but much of the humor is tedious, and quirks stand in for character.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-9776989-2-9

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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OVERHEAD

Tennis pro, Vietnam vet, and intelligence operative Brad Smith, who first served in Dropshot (1990), quits an irritating job in Texas to head for Montana, where his unusual skills are needed to open a new tennis resort and locate a murderous nearby secret agent. Well, whom else would you call to clean out the spies plaguing a mysterious Air Force lab just a backhand away from a troubled tennis camp? The debt-ridden sports resort, just bought by Smith's old tennis and spying pal Ted Treacher, provides the perfect cover for Smith—the only tennis-playing spy in America capable of recognizing his old archenemy Sylvester, the Soviet spy responsible for the death of Smith's late Yugoslavian tennis- playing wife. Sylvester, operating with a completely new face fresh from the plastic surgeon, is in Big Sky country to snatch a bit of strategic-defense technology from the research lab whose powerful secret electromagnetic pulses have been giving the local children leukemia. Also neighboring the resort is a secret toxic- waste dump owned by a beautiful but ruthless capitalist hussy who wants to close down the country club so she can get her toxic wastes back. Smith has to sort out all these secrets while cleaning up the financial and managerial mess his chum has made of what should be a fabulous destination for rich tennis players. Sylvester shoots at him, a sadistic deputy shoots at him, and Ivan Lendl shoots at him. Bodies pop out of the golf course. Credibility crushed in straight sets 6-2, 6-0, 6-1.

Pub Date: June 20, 1991

ISBN: 0-312-85143-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

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A tense, complex, and cleverly plotted work of international suspense with more than enough heroic gusto for future promised...

SPIDER 2-3

A hotbed of deception, terrorism, and global intrigue fuels this debut thriller.

Inspired by the works of Scottish adventure writer Alistair MacLean, distinguished former music manager-turned-novelist Vallier admits that his book finds “parallels to much of its story in the real world.” His narrative opens with both a communications technology expert and a military sergeant stalked and killed in Berlin. Stella Fincrest, a young South African heiress to a family empire and the lover of former British army Special Forces agent Jim “JP” Peregrine, is kidnapped while the couple enjoys a romantic Caribbean holiday. At the center of these crimes is powerfully connected Islamic terrorist Barakah Malekka, a man with ties to the 9/11 attacks. He hopes to surpass that historic carnage with a meticulously calculated extremist mass murder plot to infiltrate a military research and development center in South Africa (where Stella is director), steal a Russian nuclear ballistic missile called Spider 2-3, and deploy it, killing millions in Israel. Meanwhile, JP, finding the disappearance of Stella alarming, and foreseeing this as just one piece of a larger nefarious scheme, joins forces with British intelligence agency MI6. Will Stella surrender the company’s security access information, setting in motion Malekka’s plan to steal the missile and destroy the facility? As intricately presented and unpredictable as the action is, Vallier is careful to fully develop his characters as well. He establishes both beneficial chemistry and enemy antagonism throughout, while JP uses his years as a resourceful intelligence agent to untangle a snarl of espionage efforts, blatant attempts on his life, and  ambitious plans to stop Malekka’s mass annihilation scheme and rescue Stella, hopefully unharmed. Also adding texture are descriptions of the technological wizardry employed by both sides and exotic atmospheres that the author expertly depicts with both literal descriptions and evocative historical background, particularly on South Africa. This breathless, first-rate novel’s gripping, satisfying conclusion leaves plenty of room for sequels featuring JP, the “Falcon.”

A tense, complex, and cleverly plotted work of international suspense with more than enough heroic gusto for future promised installments.  

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9908811-4-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Jaguar Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

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