(Tyrus Books; Jan. 18, 2013)
E-book via Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Bill "Boo" Malone and his buddy, "Junior" McCullough, grew up in an orphanage together, fighting off juvenile predators like a pair of musketeers. From this rough start they bonded and eventually became bouncers who run a business -- 4DC (Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap) -- in Boston.
4DC isn't a private detective agency, security company or repossession outfit; basically the firm provides guided muscle to club owners who are anxious to keep the riff-raff from running a riff on their racket.
In other words, 4DC cracks skulls and shows unwanted guests to the door. On occasion, it even throws guests through it.
We are literally talking a seat of the pants operation here, as you will see every time there is vomit, feces or blood to fall into: Malone and Junior still keep in touch with clients by beeper. Their office is in the basement of a seedy nightclub not far from Fenway Park. Like the Danny Trejo character, "Machete," They don't text. They also don't tweet or Facebook, and have to go to a brainy friend who did time with them at the orphanage to even use a computer.
Under normal circumstances, chucking out the trash is enough to keep them more than adequately busy and a week or so away from food stamps. But much to their surprise, when the local District Attorney's daughter runs away from home they find themselves hired to track her down.
The job means big money: $25,000 plus expenses, depending on how fast they work. There are two conditions, however: they aren't supposed to go to the cops and they are absolutely supposed to keep a lid on the girl's disappearance; the D.A., it turns out, is running for higher office and is worried that his wild-child daughter may queer his chances for election.
Keeping the story out of the prints may not be possible: the girl, Cassandra, has disappeared into the rabbit hole of kiddy porn, snuff movies, drugs and the Irish mob.
While our less-than-dynamic duo is looking for her, heads are cracked, some of them permanently; shots are fired, some of them fatally. Our heros are threatened, rousted by cops, worked over by crooks and hassled by pretty much anybody who walks by with an axe to grind.
They find there are really only two hard and fast rules in the missing persons business: (1) watch out for the bad guys; and (2) watch out even more carefully for the good guys, because they are going to turn out to be bad guys, too.
The Hard Bounce is a first novel by Todd Robinson, the editor and impresario at Thuglit, an online mag that specializes in "writing about wrongs."
|Todd (Big Daddy Thug) Robinson|
It's a classic of its type, told in first person by Malone, a tough-guy's tough guy who can dish out punishment like Frank Castle, but takes it like any of the rest of us might: with copious quantities of blood, long periods of convalescence, gaping gunshot wounds and a skull that seems likely to shatter with the next gorilla's love tap.
Robinson, who is also known for his short fiction in such publications as All Due Respect # 1,and Danger City, offers plenty of hardboiled action in this first novel, as well as the kind of wise-ass dialog that always puts a grin on my face.
For example, of himself and his partner, Malone comments, "We were less bouncers than babysitters with a combined weight of 470 pounds (mostly mine) and about ten grand in tattoos (mostly Junior's)."
In describing an aimless game of after-work pool ("Fewer people got as much as we did for our four quarters. If one of our matches ended in less than a half-hour, we were unusually hot."), he notes "Junior viciously smacked the cue ball off the nine ball. With a hard clack the nine and the cue bounced off the rails and both dropped . . . Not only did he scratch, but he was playing solids."
Later he mentions a bartender at the club where he and Junior maintain their office: "Big, loud and with more brass than your average marching band, Audrey was something of a local legend."
And in recounting the drive to a meeting, he says "In case you didn't already know, Boston's streets are a wheel man's wet dream. Unlike in cities that were actually designed, Boston's planners simply paved over the old horse trails. There's never a simple route from point A to B. To get to B, you have to turn toward point N, bear left, head north past point square root of 173, back to N, then ask directions."
I don't want to mislead you: for a Boston crime novel, this is not on the same level as the best of George V. Higgins (see, for example, The Friends of Eddie Coyle) or Dennis Lehane's hair-raising Gone, Baby, Gone.
But it stands up quite nicely next to a lot of Robert B. Parker's Spenser stuff, which ain't too shabby.
The criminals are interesting, the protagonists are both fun and funny, and the mayhem occurs frequently enough to satisfy the Raymond Chandler dictum, "when in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand." I'd give Robinson's first a four-and-a-half on the noose-o-meter.
Sit down and enjoy it with a bottle of Sam Adams or a Narragansett Ale. It would be a good way to spend a few hours over this long labor day weekend.