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Gutshot Straight: A Novel Hardcover – January 5, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Berney, author of the collection The Road to Bobby Joe and Other Stories, proves just as adept at longer fiction in this fast-moving caper novel, which smoothly blends humor, action and romantic frisson. Charles Shake Bouchon steps out of a California prison resolved to stay free and clear; 48 hours later he's effectively double-crossed powerful Armenian L.A. mob boss Alexandra Ilandryan, ripped off dangerous Las Vegas powerhouse Dick the Whale Moby and impulsively rescued exotic con woman Gina Clement, who may be the most dangerous of the three. Extremely rare, highly unusual religious artifacts play a key role as the 42-year-old Shake attempts to extricate himself from a situation that gets more complex and deadly by the hour. Shake is a quick-thinking fellow with dreams of owning a restaurant, but if fate is kind, he'll return for the same kinds of adventures as those Berney recounts in this engaging debut. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Charles “Shake” Bouchon leaves prison intending to go straight. But, within hours, lovely, lethal Lexy Ilandryan, head of LA’s Armenian mob and Shake’s one-time lover, has him running an “errand” for her. The task seems simple: drive a car to Las Vegas and turn it over to Dick Moby, a 400-pound sadist who runs a strip club. Moby will give him a briefcase that he is to return to Lexy. Shake needs the three large Lexy hands him, but he quickly learns that nothing is as it seems; in short order, he’s ditched by a gorgeous young stripper who had been stuffed in the car’s trunk and is on the run from the Armenians and Moby’s able henchman. She’s also searching for the briefcase, which contains a priceless religious relic. Virtually every character is memorable, and the chemistry between Shake and Gina, the gorgeous and devious stripper, is brilliant. The plot turns are constant, and the dialogue is sharp. The bad guys are wonderfully scary, and the locales—Las Vegas and Panama—are vividly drawn. The estimable Elmore Leonard might be very pleased to call Gutshot Straight his own. --Thomas Gaughan
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Needless to say, Shake and Gina short-circuit Lexy and Moby’s plans and form an alliance in which neither can resist, nor trust the other. Their hurried peregrinations take them to Panama, where the potential purchaser of the ‘relics’ resides. A nasty and conniving bit of business himself, he is aided by a local antiquities dealer; Moby is aided by an enforcer with a pure heart and Lexy is aided by an enforcer who is completely heartless. All of these individuals chase one another, chase the McGuffin and, in general, provide the reader with about 6-7 hours of exceptional fun.
This is a fast and enjoyable read, evoking the skills of Carl Hiassen, Norman Partridge, Elmore Leonard, Dave Barry, et al. In short, this is prime crime fiction with beaucoup humor and (non-explicit) sex, horrific villains and flawed but loveable protagonists. The plot is marvelous, the settings neat, the characters memorable.
Note that there is a sequel, Whiplash River, an Edgar-winning standalone (The Long and Faraway Gone) and a new Shake Bouchon novel (Double Barrel Bluff) coming next month (October 11, 2017). If you have not yet encountered Lou Berney’s fiction, prepare yourself for a major treat. LB is a major new voice in the world of crime fiction.
The book is a bit of a genre novel, but I'm not exactly sure just what genre. I see the comparisons to Hiaasen and Leonard, and that's fair enough. Problem is, Hiaasen is great when he's good, but darned inconsistant. Leonard, well frankly I've always found Leonard to be very overrated--simply making all of your characters flawed does not make a great novel.
The author here manages to avoid cliches and kept me guessing. There was a lot of humor and the two main characters remained a match for each other which in and by itself was cool to read.It's a caper, a getaway, a romance,misdirection, action and humor. The reason that I'm writing this review is that I came back to check if he'd written anything else. Alas, no, and not likely too either. The author is a highly successful screenwriter which I understand is easy money if you have the knack. He wrote this during the strike to make the payments on his Porsche or whatever. Even if this is the only one, the book is still very worth reading.
Shake leaves prison and takes the bus to Los Angeles where he is met by Lexy, his ex-lover, boss of the Armenian mob. She has an errand for him which will earn him a cool $20, 000. All he has to do is drive a car to Vegas and fly back with a brief case.
Shake makes it to the Vegas city limits when he hears thumping and thinks he has a flat tire. But when he opens the trunk he finds a woman gagged and trussed up. He checks into a motel and let's her loose to clean up. Gina cons him with a story that she is a Mormon house wife, drugs him, cuffs him to the plumbing and runs off with the briefcase that he was supposed to deliver to Lexy.
Now the story takes off like wildfire. Not only must he chase after the girl but now he has Jasper the giant enforcer for Moby the whale after him. Did I forget to Mention Dirkan, the bald Ukranian assassin, Lexy's mean man who is in the mix?
The characters are so well described that each one is a story on their own. Gina, the beautiful but devious stripper, Moby the Whale, a fat, heartless mobster, Jasper, the Whale's gentle giant enforcer, Dirkan (see above), Lexy, Shake's ex-lover and.Armenian mob boss.
They are all after a brief case that contains rare religious relics estimated value of $6 to $8 million, The chase goes from Vegas to Panama with so many twists and turns until it ends in in a carousel of armed players pointing guns at each other.
This was a very entertaining yarn. Good way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Reviewed by Roger Shepherd
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