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Beat Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 28, 2010
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Writers of detective fiction, perhaps to counterbalance their protagonists’ superhuman talents, frequently afflict them with an addiction, usually alcohol, or in the case of Sherlock Holmes, cocaine. Schwartz’s Heyden Glass, LAPD homicide detective, likewise shows an all-too-human weakness, but he is a sex addict. In Beat, the department puts him on administrative leave in order to get straight, but he falls for a cyber sex worker named Cora. She is based in far-off San Francisco, and soon Glass is making weekly trips north; then Cora goes missing. Glass sets out to find her and learns she is a pawn in a deadly game of corruption. Her Russian crime lords want to keep her in tow because she gives them a hold on a crooked police administrator. The cops try to wave Glass off by showing him emails in which she ridicules him roundly. Sick at heart and ready to give up, Glass learns Cora is only 15, and he is back in the fray. Beat is an old-fashioned nail-biter that the not-too-squeamish aficionado of the hard-boiled genre will enjoy. --Steve Glassman
“Just as I thought there wasn't an original take left on the detective novel, along comes Stephen Jay Schwartz and Beat. Fast and slick, this book is a great ride!”--Michael Connelly, New York Times bestselling author of the Harry Bosch novels
“Stephen Jay Schwartz writes with a paintbrush and expertly guides us through the gates of hell into a world where sex and violence merge into a toxic yet highly addictive alternative reality. Hayden Glass is a character we’ve not seen before, with fiendish impulses and a desperate desire to overcome his past. This is one of the most darkly sexual books I’ve ever read and I devoured it in one suspenseful sitting. Schwartz pulled me in and held me captive from beginning to end.”--Katie Arnoldi, Los Angeles Times bestselling author of Point Dume
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Top customer reviews
Hayden Glass, an LAPD Robbery-Homicide detective is a sex addict. After witnessing the abduction of a hooker whom he thought liked him (he learns later what an act it was,) and with whom he thought he was in love (he has difficulty separating love from lust) he follows her abductors to San Francisco where he becomes mired in a morass of crooked cops, really evil Russian mobster/pimps, and the FBI, all of whom have differing motives for getting the girl back. It seems she was a witness to a murder that would implicate a high-ranking police officer. The mobsters want her for blackmail and the Feebs need her to bring down the crooked cops. Hayden feels impelled to save her, although his motives are anything but pure. Toward the end of the novel, one of the Russians makes this clear, "Would you like to know what you are to me, Detective? You're my demographic. You're the reason these girls exist. I simply supply the demand. If there weren't a market for this, I wouldn't be here. You're the market. I can't believe you don't get that. You've got to be the stupidest son of a bitch I've ever--"
If you are in any way offended by explicit sex or extreme violence, avoid this book. I'm not but did find the gory finale excessive if not unbelievable. Still, Schwartz has created a very sympathetic and tormented character. It will be fascinating to watch him develop in what I hope will be a long-running series.
The author actually shows some talent for characterization, which somehow makes it even sadder that his novel is so bad. You get the sense that he might be a capable novelist 20 years from now if he works hard at it, but he has been done a serious disservice by whoever deemed his work fit for publication now.
I really can't overstate how bad this book is. Its premise is compelling - a homicidal, sex-addicted maniac of a cop torn between his addiction to prostitutes and his desire for redemption - but it never gets beyond being a premise. Schwartz has no idea how to tell a story - one unbelievable coincidence follows another, and there is no consistency in the characters' beliefs and motivations. It reads as though he started each scene having forgotten what he wrote in the previous scene.
Although Schwartz writes scenes of violence in fetishistic detail, it's obvious that he knows nothing about it. As the story begins, his hero gets shot in the chest, spends a few hours in the hospital, signs himself out, doesn't take care of the wound - remember, a bullet wound in the chest fired at point-blank range - and yet the injury doesn't stop him from getting in fights, getting severely beaten, compulsively masturbating, and having sex with a woman who has always loathed and feared him, but has inexplicably changed her mind.
The cartoonishness and near-incoherence of this novel might be entertaining if it weren't for its aspiration to seriousness; that its subject is underage girls being prostituted and tortured seems exploitative in a book this trashy.
When Schwartz isn't trying to write narrative or shock the reader, his writing can be engaging. When the characters are just interacting with one another, they're so three-dimensional that you care about them and want to know what will become of them. The answer, sadly, is "Not much."
This book is presented as a mystery novel, but the only mystery is that it ever found a publisher.