A petty thief bucks one system to join another.
Notching his first felony at 15, Marty Hagen, the quintessential New York City street kid, has a rap sheet to be reckoned with by the time he’s 36. Not that there’s anything really lurid on it—certainly nothing violent—it’s just nonstop. And then suddenly, almost by accident, Marty becomes a person of interest to the feds, a circumstance that leads to a new name, a new location, and the makings of a new life. Farewell Marty, hail Vince (Camden), reborn, as it were, courtesy of the Witness Protection Program. Though at first Spokane, Washington, rattles his urban sensibilities (“Everyone drives everywhere, even the ladies”), Vince soon grows fond. He gets to like the quirkiness, discovers that the measured pace suits him after all, allowing time for an interest in things that would once have seemed exotic: presidential politics, for instance. The time is 1980, eight days short of the election between Reagan and Carter, and Vince plans to do what he’s never done before: vote. Moreover, there are women in his life, two of them, actually, good women in their differing ways. He even likes the kooky job the feds have found for him, donut maker—manager of the estimable Donut Make you Hungry establishment. Then, after two equable years, enter Ray (Sticks) Scatieri, hit-man extraordinaire, emissary from the mob, with an overdue bill in his bloodied hands. Well, exactly who sent him? Why now? Is there a way Vince can square himself in time to render the contract null and void? The answers are admirably unpredictable. This, in fact, is a story full of wonderful small surprises—among them Vince’s way of finally achieving citizenhood.
Dispassionate and compassionate by turns, and always engrossing. Walter’s best by far (Land of the Blind, 2003, etc.).