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THE SMACK by Richard Lange



Pub Date: July 18th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-316-32762-6
Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Down-on-his-luck grifter Rowan Petty is talked into taking part in an iffy get-rich scheme by Dandy Don, an ex-con in Reno, only to be set up for a fall.

A crew of Afghanistan soldiers in cahoots with Afghan truckers has siphoned $2 million in ghost payments and kickbacks to Los Angeles, where it has been hidden by Tony, a wounded young veteran. Don promises Petty a big chunk of the cash if he can put his hands on it. Posing as a plumber, Petty searches the kid's apartment for a possible hiding place. An armed thug sent by Don bursts in demanding the money and is shot dead by Tony, who is so rattled by the thought of going to prison that he offers Petty a share of the $2 million if he takes care of the body. Petty devises a scam to abscond with all the money. Standing in his way is Diaz, the coldblooded vet behind the original theft, who is back in the U.S. Petty's situation is further complicated by two women: Tinafey, a smart and sassy hooker he falls for, and his long-estranged 21-year-old daughter, Samantha, who is diagnosed with a serious medical problem. As he did in the gritty Angel Baby (2013), Lange brings a fresh dimension to noir by making parenthood a central theme (Petty's father was a failed gambler). Petty's romance with Tinafey, who becomes his reluctant accomplice, can get a bit squishy. Like his protagonist, Lange "ha[s] a soft spot for hookers." But he is such a breezy, stylish writer that even scenes that in other hands would be filler, like those in which Petty indulges Tinafey's shopping and sightseeing desires, have something to reveal.

In this breezy page-turner, Lange shows off his uncommon ability to combine toughness and tenderness.