JUICE by Robert Campbell


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With Campbell (Alice in La-La Land, etc.), the style--rococo-to-raunchy dialogue, droll narration, dank L.A. atmosphere--is almost always far superior to the storytelling. And that's especially the case with this new patchwork of cops-and-sleazeballs: a tale of crisscrossing greed, swinery, and lust that's too loosely labyrinthine to work up much momentum. Detective Eddie "Panama" Heath, with erstwhile partner Wilbur Monk and a Chicano policewoman called Missy, is assigned to a new task force aimed at organized crime and vice. A prime target: vile usurer "Puffy" Pachoulo, whose henchmen use beatings (and killer dogs) on borrowers who fail to make the outrageous weekly interest payments. So Campbell's pinwheel narrative focuses on an assortment of Pachoulo victims: a bookie who unwisely starts competing with Puffy; a Porsche dealer who borrows $100,000 to expand his business, only to find the business taken over by Puffy; pathetic Billy Ray, a handsome cabdriver and compulsive gambler who still (at 43) dreams of an acting career. And some familiar, half-effective complications arise when cop Panama rekindles his passion for Billy Ray's wife, the gorgeous Lisa. Panama is never fully drawn enough to be a compelling hero, anti- or otherwise; there's only half-involvement, too, in the hapless supporting cast and the predictable plot. But there's no shortage of page-by-page pleasure for fans of Campbell's neo-Runyonesque delivery, his darkly comic violence, and his hip colorations--which at their best are on a par with those of Charles Willeford, Elmore Leonard, and George V. Higgins.

ISBN: 671-66624-X
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
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