DRAWING DEAD

A ribald debut novel of sting and countersting—with one eye on Elmore Leonard and the other on the impossible dream of a cabin on a solitary Minnesota island. The island dreamer, Joe Crow, ex-cop, ex-doper, turns down coked- up broker Dickie Wicky's request to find his roving wife Catfish's current lover and pay him $10,000 to disappear—but when a wild poker game leaves Dickie holding Crow's marker, Crow, still hoping to raise money for a down payment on that cabin, agrees to work off the debt by running Dickie's errand. He doesn't know that the search for Catfish will be only the first of a series of increasingly tricky bait-and- switch games, since her ``love stud''—Tommy Campo (a.k.a. Tommy Paine, Tom Aquinas, and T.K. Jefferson)—is half of the Tom and Ben Show, a pair of deuces already on the run from Chicago tough guy Joey Cadillac and his envoy Freddy Wisnesky. Whether Crow owes Dickie or Dickie owes Crow, every new twist—from another poker game where Crow meets Ben to a quick tumble with the insatiable Catfish—leaves Crow more and more tangled in the Galactic Guardians Fund, Tom and Ben's comic-book scam; Dickie's endless stream of moneymaking propositions; and Joey's search-and-destroy mission against Tom and Ben and anybody who's seen them. So, taking a deep breath, Crow ropes his punk neighbor Laura Debrowski and his irascible father Sam O'Gara into a scheme that'll rake in the cash by appealing to the bad guys' worst instincts—if it doesn't get Crow & Co. killed first. A first novel that's overplotted within an inch of its life, but relaxed and consistently entertaining—with some great poker and a positively sunny view of its lowlife principals.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-79374-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1993

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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