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I've been a house painter, dishwasher, broiler cook, private detective, military intelligence analyst, and I spent nearly 40 years as a reporter covering crime, 26 of them for the San Francisco Chronicle. These days I write science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime fiction, and I blog about books, films and crimes that don't receive sufficient attention from the mainstream media. I would like to be Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett or George V. Higgins, but all of them are dead so I'll just stick with what I am already doing. . .

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bite Harder: Sid the Homicidal Helper Monkey Takes on the Mexican Mafia

  • Bite Harder
  • By Anonymous-9
  • 163 pages
  • (Blasted Heath; September 1, 2014)
  • E-book sold by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • ASIN: B00M49DRDM
have to admit: I used to feel about monkeys the way many people feel about clowns: sure, they can be entertaining, but there also is more than a whiff of the horrific about them; they are, after all, little misshapen homunculi, twisted simulations of humankind. 

I cringed at the nasty little fellow who created so much mayhem as the mascot of the Black Pearl in Pirates of the Caribbean. I detested the cousin who seemed constantly to thwart security guard Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum.

Carl Hiaasen didn't knock me out with the bad monkey who played such an important role in his last book, Bad Monkey. I didn't even think much of Cheetah in the Tarzan flicks -- and that chimp's highjinks seemed restricted to clapping and doing back flips while grinning maniacally.

Note that I said I "used to" feel that way. That was back in the days before I met Dean Drayhart, Anonymous-9's marvelous wheelchair-bound vigilante, or his sidekick and abettor, Sid, the homicidal helper monkey.

It gives me great pleasure to report that Dean and Sid are back and better than ever in Bite Harder, A-9's wonderful sequel to her hilarious crime novel, Hard Bite.

As you will recall, Dean was horribly maimed and his daughter killed when they were crushed by a hit-and-run driver while visiting Knott's Berry Farm. Left crippled and one-handed by the collision, Dean is seeking vigilante-style revenge by engineering a series of slayings that target gutless vehicular killers who flatten and then flee.

Sid, meanwhile, is his "trigger-monkey," there to help Dean get from one crime scene to another and to administer the coup de jaw when necessary -- hence the titles, Hard Bite and Bite Harder.

In Bite Harder, Dean has been unmasked as a serial murderer by the cops. As if the police weren't enough, he has also become the target of a murderous Mexican Mafia family after dispatching its only member who wasn't a drug dealer: Ambrose Malalinda, a divinity student who fled to avoid punishment after killing a man with his Mustang.

When last we saw them, Dean was awaiting trial under lock-down in L.A. County Jail while Sid was being spirited out of Los Angeles by Cinda, Dean's sex-worker lover and partner in crime. 

All three were being sought by the murderous Malalinda Family -- particularly its psychotic doyen, Orella, who was already half mad with grief over the loss of her son, but lost her few remaining marbles after her nose was accidently shot off during a scuffle with Sid.

Cinda and Sid take it on the lam. Dean is the target of an unsuccessful jailhouse murder attempt and a kidnapping by the Malalindas.

Divulging more details would ruin the book; suffice to say that the action is hotter and heavier in Bite Harder than it was in the first book and Anonymous-9 conjures up another platoon of low-life characters to goose the story along, with a chase that ranges from Humboldt County to the San Bernardino Desert community of Adelanto.

Think about that for just a moment: here are two books packed with action, flight from cops and killers, gunplay and violence even though their protagonist, Dean, is a man with only one arm, whose head lolls without support, who can't walk and can barely sit upright without assistance. Drayhart goes way beyond the limits of any normal action hero. In fact, you could just as easily call him an "inaction" hero. The only part of his body that seems to still work normally is his brain.

And, frankly, he seems to outgun and over-match everybody else in these two books when it comes to the equipment inside his head.

It isn't giving too much away to say that Orella engineers a confrontation with the cripple and his monkey that has to go down as one of the most bizarre attempts at vengeance in all crime fiction -- a confrontation that will either leave you laughing hysterically or stunned into gob-smacked silence by its utter and complete weirdness! 

A pair of books about a handicapped vigilante that makes you laugh? You may think I am joking. I'm not, believe me. But much of the time, A-9 most definitely is.

(aka Elaine Ash)

Why is this author smiling? (courtesy of Anonymous-9.com)

She serves up her clearly preposterous plot twists with exactly the jolt of humor that makes Dean Drayhart and Sid seem a plausible crime fighting team. The second book, like its predecessor, is full of passages like this one when Cinda checks into a hot-sheets hotel while hunting for Sid back in the Southland:

The film -student desk clerk asks no questions and avoids her eyes. He's not a bit fooled by the way she's dressed or by anything she could say. A young woman around his own age checking into a room at night. No ID. Paying cash. She's a sex
worker.His employer rents rooms to sex workers. There's a good-sized elephant in the room but they get around it by pretending each other doesn't exist. Kind of like Mormons running into one another at the medical marijuana dispensary.

I dare you not to laugh at such wittily well-crafted prose!
I am already looking forward to Drayhart III. A word, however, to Anonymous-9: Puh-leeze don't monkey around with your winning formula! Just keep on doing what you have been and you will have me eating out of your paws -- all four of them! 

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