A rousing, well-researched thriller by an author who should be encouraged.

WEST OF SIN

A THRILLER

A debut novel features Las Vegas casinos, the Russian mob, and a greedy sex worker.

The first part of this tale exemplifies the grim adage that if hapless heroes didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck at all. Jennifer Williams is in Vegas for a commercial real estate convention. Having caught her lover in bed with another woman, she rushes blindly out of town only to stumble onto a robbery in progress at a convenience store in Pahrump, Nevada. Enter Matt Crocker, an impromptu hero, who kills three thugs who work for Russian mobster Vladimer Dudka. Now the Russian mob is after the duo to recover some serious money and wreak vengeance. The Russians have also managed to kidnap Ashley Thomas, Jennifer’s co-worker. Rescuing her involves a very complicated scam to be pulled off at the Stratosphere Tower on the Strip. And it works. In the meantime, the protagonists are hiding out at the Prickly Pear Ranch, where they meet Vegas and Scarlett, two sex workers who enhance and advance the plot. Just when it seems that Jennifer and Matt are getting a break, Scarlett, in it for herself, betrays them, and they are back in Dudka’s murderous hands. More troubles ensue, including shootouts and desperate escapes that are quickly thwarted. This is a very impressive first novel, offering rigorously researched details. Some of the ingredients—Las Vegas, the Russians, a hunky hero who blushes on cue, lawmen who pepper their speech with acronyms—are clichéd but to be expected in a thriller. Fortunately, Lewis knows how to deliver plot twists, things most astute readers will not see coming. His prose style fits a caper set in Vegas. Call it hard-boiled (think Raymond Chandler and John D. MacDonald) and street-smart with a fillip of flipness (“ ‘It’s an awesome plan.’ Scarlett’s tone was indignant. ‘The FBI has no jurisdiction in Mexico. I have a friend who’s been down there since she was indicted for selling ecstasy. She turns tricks at this dive bar in Ensenada. I’m going to buy the bar…and spend my days drinking piña coladas on the beach’ ”). Vegas—the sex worker—deserves special mention. She is an appealing character: sweet as a favorite sister, perky as a cheerleader, strangely innocent, and an expert in cool stuff like parachuting and casino security.

A rousing, well-researched thriller by an author who should be encouraged.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73401-570-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Red Granite Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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