Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Lives of a Former Boxer and a "Massage" therapist Intersect in L.A.

This is a dark, gritty novel set in contemporary Los Angeles and featuring two principal characters, Nick Pafko and Jenny Yee. Nick is a former boxer who had a promising career until he accidentally killed an opponent in the ring. After that he was never able to deliver another punishing blow and his career rapidly went south. Now he cobbles together a living, taking whatever menial jobs he can find and living on the margins of society.

Jenny is a young "massage" therapist who gives hand jobs to the clients who patronize the apartments where she and a number of other young women work for an actor who's fallen on hard times named Scott Crandall. Crandall was never very good as an actor and now, well past his sell-by date, he can't even land a part in a crappy cable TV series. While he's trying to recover his glory days, Crandall is surviving by renting several apartments and living off the profits of the women he puts to work there.

Jenny is smart and ambitious; she's going to school and assumes that her job as a "masseuse" is simply a stepping stone that enables her to make a lot of money to give herself a good start in life. Then one day she reports to work to discover that a couple of thugs have raped, beaten and robbed two of the other women working in the apartment. She flees the apartment and gives up the job. Later, though, needing money, she returns to work but only upon the condition that Crandall hire someone to provide security at the apartment where she works.

Crandall hires Nick to provide the security and so Nick's life now intersects with Jenny's. The rest of the story unfolds as dark forces threaten both of them. Nick, Jenny and Scott are well-drawn characters and so are the minor members of the cast. Schulian, who is a sportswriter by trade, provides an especially interesting look into the mind of Nick Pafclo and portrays the seamy side of the massage business and a fairly unflattering portrait of the women who work in it, Jenny excepted. But the story moves very slowly and doesn't contain as much tension as one would normally expect from a book like this. A good read, but not a great one.

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