Brian McNulty sets them up for the usual suspects, one of whom may be setting up Brian.
The veteran bartender is filling drink orders and minding his own business when a figure out of his past strides into the Midtown Sheraton. Big John Wolinsky, a friend and mentor from Brian’s salad days, is now a heavy-hitter in the food-and-beverage league, one of the hotel chain’s regional managers. He’s in New York to fire Brian, he says laughingly, making it clear there’s no chance of that happening. In the unsettling period that follows, however, Brian isn’t sure he’s lucked out after all. Big John has things on his mind, things that recall the time a dozen years ago when they were “young and foolish together” in Atlantic City. And Brian’s convinced that Big John will have no trouble involving his old buddy in whatever troubles him. As a direct result, Brian finds himself shoved around, warned off, and shot at—threats he might meet more constructively if only he knew what he was doing to offend whom. But he doesn’t, and Big John won’t tell him.
Brian (Beware the Solitary Drinker, 2002) is likable enough in a feckless sort of way, though the thin, digressive plot isn’t likely to encourage readers to belly-up.