Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Korean War Vet Finds Love and Trouble in the Early 1950s

Tom Decker is a Korean War vet and an ex-con. Now back from the war, he mixes paint for customers in a small New York town in a hardware store that once belonged to his father. But his father went broke during the Depression and was forced to sell the store at a huge loss to a wealthy man named Smith before hanging himself in the basement of the family home. The hardware store is still named Decker's, but instead of owning the business, Tom is forced to work for the sniveling son of the man who swindled his father out of it.

Understandably, Tom has a huge chip on his shoulder. Since his father lost the business, Tom has served time in prison and distinguished himself as a Marine in the Korean War. Now, when he's not mixing paint, in his spare time he's robbing banks in an effort to accumulate enough money to buy the store back.

When a beautiful, sexy woman, walks into the store one day in need of a gallon of paint, Tom mixes it up. He also falls head over heels for the customer. She's immediately attracted to him as well; the fireworks begin, and only after the fact does Decker discover the the woman is the ex-wife of a New York City gangster who's currently in jail. Ex-wife or not, Decker is soon in hot water on that score.

Decker's partner in most of his robberies is a bar owner named O'Neil, and when one of their heists goes wrong, Decker finds himself in even deeper trouble with both the cops and the mob anxious to get their hands on him. In consequence, he's going to have to be particularly resourceful and especially lucky if he even hopes to stay alive, let alone fulfill his dreams.

This is an especially good debut novel from Kevin Roberts who is himself an ex-Marine. The setting in the early 1950s is very well-rendered; the characters are interesting and believable; there's plenty of action, and the plot moves swiftly along. I really enjoyed spending time in Decker's world and in his company, and I'm looking forward to the second book in the series.

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