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Citizen Vince Paperback – June 17, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

Jess Walter, who steps back in history for his third novel, brings back an "utterly inventive" tale of crime and politics (Washington Post). Walter, whose previous books include Land of the Blind and a non-fiction account of the Ruby Ridge massacre, Every Knee Shall Bow, seems to have found his stride as a novelist. Critics praise the author’s ability to straddle—or shatter—the conceits of the mystery novel, while offering a sincere, at times hilarious, rumination on the challenges of citizenship and the price of freedom. Except for the Seattle Times’s vote against the stream of consciousness chapters that delve into Reagan and Carter’s minds, the pundits all agree: Citizen Vince is the real deal.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

It's October 1980, and laid-back loner Vince Camden never misses a morning making maple bars at the doughnut shop he manages in Spokane, Washington. And he rarely misses a night relieving locals of their bankrolls at an after-hours poker game, selling his hooker pals pot at cost, and running a lucrative credit-card theft ring. Vince has landed in eastern Washington via the witness-protection plan, and he is starting to like the simple pleasures, including receiving his first voter-registration card. So even when a hit man, a local cop, and Mob-boss-in-waiting John Gotti get Vince in their crosshairs, he keeps trying to figure out if he should pull the lever for Reagan or Carter. This tale of unlikely redemption works because of Walter's virtuoso command of character and dialogue--along with a wicked second-act twist. The novel is also a gritty love letter to Spokane and all the other second-tier cities where residents don't realize how good they've got it, and with its Capara-like spirit, it serves as a surprisingly satisfying antidote to the avalanche of cynical chatter emanating from this year's political campaigns and commentators. Frank Sennett
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (June 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061577650
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061577659
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jess Walter is the author of six novels, most recently the New York Times bestseller Beautiful Ruins (2012). He was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award for The Zero and winner of the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel for Citizen Vince. His short fiction and essays have appeared in Harper's, McSweeney's, Playboy and other publications. He lives in his hometown of Spokane, Washington.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Redemption is one of the big themes in fiction and narrative film. Alas, the sheer pervasiveness of redemption stories means that they really have to sparkle to stand out. Here, Walter flirts with greatness but never quite achieves it with a semi-crime story set in the days leading up to the 1980 presidential election. Vince Camden is a donut-maker in Spokane, Washington, living a fairly quiet routine of work, sleep, and late nights of cards at Sam's Pit -- a place kind of like Cheers, but with cops, crooks, and hookers as patrons. (This was a real place at 528 E. 2nd St. that shut down in the early '90s after several police raids.) The reader quickly learns that Vince is in the FBI's witness-protection program, having given evidence in a small-time New York mob case after getting stuck with a loan he couldn't repay to people that really don't like it when you don't repay loans. In addition to his donut gig, Vince is building up a little nest egg by running the same credit card number scam he ran in New York and dealing a little pot. He's even got a little romantic interest, with a crush on legal secretary who comes in for donuts every day, plus the hooker with a heart of gold he met at Sam's Pit. With his new identity, he's even eligible to vote for the first time, a symbol of his "rebirth" that becomes a totem of his new life.

However, as in all the great noir films, the past comes a-knockin'. First, his partners in the credit card scam start getting all squirrelly on him, and then a face from "the world' shows up. "The World" is, of course, the East Coast mob scene he ran away from. And like all good heroes from Mythology 101, Vince realizes he must journey to the underworld to face his demons in order to actualize his redemption.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jim Kershner on July 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As wise-guy stories go, this one is uncommonly thoughtful. Walter's sardonic and suspenseful story -- about a small-time crook trying to go straight -- is populated with a cast of vividly drawn, constantly unpredictable characters. Wait until you meet the off-kilter Det. Charles, to name just one. Yet Walter adds another, deeper layer. He infuses the story with a running meditation on the importance of one vote in a democracy. Vince Camden had his voting rights taken away as a felon, but now he has a new identity in the witness protection program and he's free to vote in the 1980 election. But why should he bother? And who should he bother to vote for, Reagan or Carter? Walter smoothly turns these election-year questions into metaphors for the issues in Vince's life. Crooked or straight? Petty selfishness or civic responsibility? Mobbed up in New York or mowing the lawn in Spokane? As it turns out, one vote doesn't affect the outcome, but it sure has an impact on the guy casting the vote.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Jess Walter never stops surprising. He followed two excellent nonfiction works --- EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW and IN CONTEMPT --- with OVER TUMBLED GRAVES and LAND OF THE BLIND. CITIZEN VINCE, his latest novel, mixes a strong, present tense narrative with historical events to present a dark, restless study of lives gone awry.

CITIZEN VINCE isn't a novel that readily fits into a particular genre classification. There are elements that certainly will appeal to readers of crime fiction, but it's also a character study, one that explores the concepts of second chances, redemption, and even penance against the backdrop of the week leading up to the 1980 Presidential election between incumbent Jimmy Carter and former California Governor Ronald Reagan.

The storyline is fairly straightforward. Vince Camden is a two-bit thief from New York who has been witness-relocated to Spokane, Washington, where he works a "public job," if you will, running a donut shop. Camden is supplementing his income playing poker in the early morning hours and being the conduit for a credit card scam. He has settled into a reasonably quiet, secure life that includes --- for the first time in his adult life --- the chance to vote for president.

Camden has no idea how fragile his situation is until a mysterious killer appears in Spokane, looking to take over his credit card operation and wipe him out permanently. As if this wasn't enough, Camden finds himself embroiled in the life of a local politician and emotionally torn between a prostitute and a legal secretary. Camden believes that the source behind his imminent demise is back in what he refers to as "The World" --- New York.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Thriller Lover VINE VOICE on June 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book, which was the surprise winner of the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Crime/Mystery book of 2005. In winning this award, Jess Walter beat out more prominent titles such as the LINCOLN LAWYER by Michael Connelly and HARD REVOLUTION by George Pelecanos.

This book is, without question, exceptionally well written. Walter is a truly gifted writer who knows how to write dialogue and create truly original characters. This is a very clever, funny book involving two-bit criminals, very similar to what Elmore Leonard writes (but better, in my opinion). I read this book in one sitting, which is the ultimate compliment I can give a book. I also laughed out loud several times.

I suppose the major flaw of this book is Walter's decision to introduce real people as characters. Throughout this book, we meet future mob boss John Gotti (in a card game), future Speaker of the House Tom Foley, and we even get scenes from the point of view of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. None of these scenes are particularly believable, especially the scene with Reagan, whom Walter portrays in the most negative fashion possible.

I would, however, recommend this book to people who enjoy well-crafted prose in the spirit of Elmore Leonard. If you prefer character over plot, then this is the book for you.

Personally, I would have given the Edgar to the LINCOLN LAWYER, but I think this book is a worthy winner.
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