Six times daily, Jimmy Coates has to die to titillate the audiences at Big and Bigger Jones’s Wild West Park, working a double shift (three shootouts per shift) because he’s desperate for money. Pressuring him for it is a mean-spirited drug dealer/loan-shark named Ray Harp. Jimmy is into Ray big time, and Ray is growing impatient—and when Ray grows impatient, unpleasant consequences ensue, brought about by three thuggish enforcers who enjoy their work. One is a former member of the Phoenix PD with a particular reason for wanting to inflict pain on Jimmy. He’s Aaron Limbe, who became an ex-cop when Jimmy—thinking he could rely on the anonymity he’d been promised—traded certain cop-incriminating information for a pass on a grand larceny rap. Actually, Jimmy has got trouble on a variety of fronts. There’s Richard, for instance, his oh-so-respectable brother, whose solid citizenship doesn’t prevent him from maneuvering Jimmy out of his inheritance. In retaliation, Jimmy decides to knock over four of Richard’s dry-cleaning establishments and use the money to pay off his debt. But then an odd thing happens to Jimmy’s petrified little heart—it gets hammered. He falls helplessly in love with his brother’s restless wife, setting off a chain reaction that makes good turn bad, then bad good, as Jimmy gets more or less what he deserves.
Kostoff (A Choice of Nightmares, 1991) writes well enough for a place in the neo-noir vanguard, but be warned: you really have to like noir, because it’s hard to like Jimmy.