- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1St Edition edition (June 8, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312601883
- ISBN-13: 978-0312601881
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,321,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Buy Back Hardcover – June 8, 2010
The Amazon Book Review
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From Publishers Weekly
Set in the New York City art world, this well-paced caper novel from Wiprud (Feelers) will likely appeal to Elmore Leonard fans. Brooklynite Tom Davin works in the morally ambiguous field of what he terms corporate recovery, returning stolen paintings, documents, and collectibles to their owners via their insurance companies for a finder's fee without getting the law involved. Tom locates those who took the valuables, then negotiates a price with the insurers. When Tom crosses the line into criminality by arranging for the theft of three paintings from Brooklyn's Whitbread Museum in order to sell them back to the insurance company, the scheme goes awry—his thieves lose the paintings to some other crooks. As Tom tries to figure out who ripped off his crew, he narrowly avoids getting killed several times. The baffling abduction of four cats that Tom's ex-girlfriend abandoned raises the stakes. Readers will want to see more of the captivating Tom Davin. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Tommy Davin recovers stolen art for insurance companies, but his ill-advised love for a Las Vegas chorus girl has left him owing a dangerous Brooklyn loan shark more money than he can repay. So he commissions an art theft that goes wrong, and the insurer hires him to recover the missing paintings. Soon, the people he approaches in his investigation are being killed by a sniper, and Tommy may be next—if the loan shark doesn’t get him first. Like Wiprud’s excellent Feelers (2009), the setting is Brooklyn. Countless writers have used the borough as a locale, but few invest it with the kind of flaky denizens Wiprud creates. Tommy is a giant who worries about his karma, uses tantric yoga exercises to manage stress, and fancies Latin bands led by Xavier Cugat and Perez Prado. His barber is an ancient Italian who reminisces about slitting customers’ throats for the Black Hand. His masseuse, Delilah, dispenses common-sense psychotherapy and preaches the “power of possibility.” His assailant is a lovelorn Russian assassin. Buy Back is a strange, entertaining, comic brew. --Thomas Gaughan
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Tommy has one week to find the paintings and pay Vince. To make matters worse, those involved in the art theft begin dying, their heads literally exploding when a sniper shoots them during broad daylight on Brooklyn's crowded streets. Soon afterwards, a powerful mobster, Jimmy Robay, and two detectives, Doh and Crispi, suspect Tommy of the killings. A colorful group of people aid Tommy during his struggles to stay alive while solving the mystery of the stolen artwork; they include his hired snoop, Blaise Jones, his lawyer, Carol Doonan, his thirteen-year-old nephew, Skip, his masseuse, Delilah, and Bridget, a prostitute.
Brian M. Wiprud's action-packed "Buy Back" is a unique crime drama that defines pulp fiction. Written in the first person from the point of view of the protagonist, Tommy Davin, "Buy Back" is a novel that chronicles the events of an art theft that doesn't go as planned. Greed and revenge lead to betrayal, proving there is no honor among thieves. There is much violence, some of it very gory and disturbing, which escalates towards the novel's final shootout. Also, there is a vast assortment of bizarre characters, which are typical of pulp fiction. One of the strangest is the loan shark, Vince Scanlon, who owns the innocent-appearing Vinnie's Toys and gives puppet shows for children; Tommy refers to him as the Pink Monkey. Naturally, there is the requisite Mafia. Members have odd nicknames, describing body parts, such as "Flat Face," "Eye Bags" and "Jo-Ball." Please don't ask me about the last one.
Perhaps the strangest character of all is Tommy Davin. This tall, handsome, muscular man has no trouble getting a woman in his bed; he just can't seem to keep her there. He also seems to be a magnet for beautiful women with serious issues. His latest one, Yvette, a Las Vegas Show Girl, leaves him with her four cats and a $15,000 debt. A love-scorned Russian mobster, Gustav Urushka, keeps leaving hilarious love letters on Tommy's door after catnapping the cats (the Fuzz Face Four). Unfortunately, Tommy, who can't read Russian, doesn't realize the danger he is in when Gustav's letters become threatening. Don't expect gratuitous sex. All of Tommy's sexual conquests happened in the past. The director of the Whitbread, Sheila McCraken, is another of his past sexual conquests who now hates him. He does, however, have a good relationship with his lawyer and masseuse.
Tommy refuses to carry a gun or inflict bodily harm on anyone. Violence creates negative energy as taught to him by his masseuse. Tommy is very much into Karma; he truly wants to believe that good things happen to good people; and he performs tantric breathing exercises to calm himself during stressful situations like when the sniper is pointing a grenade launcher at his head. Personally, I believe that most all of the characters in "Buy Back" are bad; some, however, are more amoral than others. After all, when art is stolen, whether or not it is recovered, insurance companies must pay and those costs are passed on to the general public, which consists of you and I. Nevertheless, what I do like most about Tommy is his witty sense of humor. For example, a Motel No-tell is a Bump-and-thump in Brooklyn. I had to keep a running list of street terms that he used such as flipping, tripping, tweaking and acting out. FYI: Tweaking means to kill someone.
After Delilah shaves his beard, Tommy realizes how much he looks like his father. Tommy fears he is too much like his father who committed suicide. However, he must have idolized him because he is always quoting his father's quips. My favorite one is: "Luck is the fruit from the tree of persistence." The philosophical Tommy believes that life is like a scrap yard; we are composed of fragmented experiences and emotions that are melted together, negative energy is hopefully extracted, and the remainder is forged into something new. Tommy is also a painter; he has a degree in art history from Brooklyn College, which enables him to recognize expensive paintings.
I like the setting for "Buy Back": Brooklyn in late October. Most of the action occurs along Smith Street where residents are decorating their stoops with carved pumpkins, corn stalks and plastic skeletons. The weather is cold and blustery. The author takes his readers from the extravagant offices of the Whitbread Museum and the Williamsburg Savings Bank Building to the filthy environs of the Gowanus Canal and its nearby scrap yard.
If you are a fan of gritty, action-packed crime drama with low-life characters, then "Buy Back" is definitely for you. What sets this novel apart from the others is Tommy Davin, a large, humorous con artist with unique ethics. It is no wonder that critics and fans of Brian M. Wiprud are already clamoring for a sequel to "Buy Back." Other crime dramas with humorous protagonists who made me laugh out loud are Douglas Corleone's "One Man's Paradise," Thomas Kaufman's "Drink the Tea" and Brad Parks` "Faces of the Gone."
Joseph B. Hoyos
While we learn about the art theft and forgery industry-with a seemingly valid insider's view of that secret society-what elevates this humorous caper novel is the language and inner dialogue of Davin, who strives to be Zen in a violent and dangerous milieu, and who does tantric breathing exercises to calm himself when others are trying to kill him. Author Wiprud, with eye for irony and an ear for the Brooklyn patois, renders him as a hulking, sensitive, likeable yet morally questionable character. At its best, the writing reminds me of Damon Runyon's, which dealt with similar characters and settings two generations past. The novel's first words give a taste of Tommy Davin's take on his changing Brooklyn:
"I sat across from Huey LaMouche at one of those little cafe tables, surrounded by one of those little cafes. The French kind, with Toulouse-Lautrec posters and croissants and coffee that makes my belly hurt. It was a sunny Monday morning in Brooklyn, cold and October."
While Davin walks and talks with the "goofballs," that is, low-level Brooklyn crooks, he also holds a degree in art history and an interest in Eastern philosophy and questions philosophic, threaded throughout the novel to good effect. Davin continually wonders and asks whether good things happen to good people, whether karma has any effect in this life. While he himself attempts to do good-albeit as he defines it-few others he encounters look beyond their own immediate self-interest, which lends some realism to a novel with over-the-top plot elements that string out a bit too long.
Nonetheless, hanging out with Tommy Davin in Brooklyn for 300 pages seeing how under-the-radar art theft works, witnessing how the borough is changing, and wondering about some of the enduring questions is time well spent.
Tommy has some debt problems since his girlfriend Yvette left for Vegas leaving him with her IOUs to Vince Scanlon. He knows he better pay Vince off even though it is not his debt as Vince believes in extended definitions of relationships when it comes to breaking body parts. Tommy persuades three buddies led by Huey to steal three paintings from the Whitbread Museum so he can collect the recovery fee from the insurance company. The plan works, but as his pals leave the museum with the art, they are mugged by two thugs with guns; the paintings are stolen from Tommy's thieves. NYPD suspects Tommy is the mastermind while Vince wants his money now. Finally there is the insane Russian who obsesses over Yvette by stealing her abandoned cats.
Brooklyn is becoming too hot for Tommy as he plays dodge ball with a "debt" collecting mob, the cops, and the cat thieve; the first is deadly; the second is a lock up; but the third is bewildering. All this insanity goes on while he seeks the thieves who stole from his thieves. Buy Back is a superb amusing over the top of the Brooklyn Bridge crime caper in which readers will expect Elmore Leonard to show up.