Saturday, January 7, 2017

A New York Hit Man Runs into Trouble in Shaky Town

This is a very good first novel from screenwriter Scott Frank who wrote the scripts for "Get Shorty," "Out of Sight," and a number of other very entertaining movies. It's at times bloody, amusing, and heart-breaking, and it features a great cast of memorable characters.

Principal among them is a New York hit man named Roy Cooper who flies to L.A. to carry out an assignment but who then gets caught up in an earthquake and any number of other potential disasters before he can safely get out of town after completing his mission.

Roy sensibly parks his rental car a couple of blocks away from the home of his target, but once the job is done, he gets turned around and can't find the car. As he's searching for it, he stumbles onto a group of young gangbangers who are robbing an elderly jogger. Frank intervenes, but disaster ensues and Frank winds up shot. 

A witness sees it all go down from his window above but, not surprisingly in this day and age, instead of calling the cops, the idiot films the whole thing with his phone and then sells the video. The video goes viral, and Roy is mistaken for a hero, which leaves him hospitalized and in deep trouble. Roy had been off the grid for a very long time and now suddenly he's on everyone's radar, including that of several people who would very much like to see him removed from the scene altogether.

In fairly short order, Roy has both the cops and a lot of bad guys hunting him down. One cop in particular, Kelly Maguire, has problems of her own that are almost at least as bad as Roy's, but nevertheless, she will soon be hot on his trail. Also in (more or less) hot pursuit are a couple of the young gangbangers who feel dissed by Roy's interruption of their crime and who are determined to build their own reps, in part at Roy's expense.

Meanwhile, the damned city is still shaking from aftershocks and it's almost impossible to get anywhere, at least very quickly, because of the damage to the roads and bridges. This complicates matters for all concerned. This is a very well-told tale with crisp dialog, great plotting and very well-drawn characters. All in all, a story that seems to end a lot sooner than the reader might wish.

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