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Lucky Streak Paperback – April 11, 2013
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Lucky takes the wise course of not starting his story with a bang, but with a whimper by telling his story slowly and narrating his involvement in the zombie outbreak from just BEFORE the outbreak.
Lucky lives a double life. During the day he is working off his parole at Mrs. Brown's hardware story, while at night he is responsible for a streak of successful burglaries. Then, after he does a job he hears from his police officer father that they are closing in on the thief, however, his next-door single mom neighbor and her family is being evicted. So, after blowing the money that he's been saving from his jobs on paying her rent, he needs another job, and he needs one quick.
However, his intel man, Snake, wants to quit and finish college, so they agree on one more job. However, circumstances are developing beyond their control, and that the crap is starting to hit the fan, as Lucky finds out when he has dinner with his family, his mother, Dad, his father's sister, the pregnant Aunt Linda, and her partner, his other Aunt Crystal, both of whom are also cops. He learns from his father that he may be a person of interest in the burglaries and that his father is scared. Although he refuses to say why, his father informs Lucky to get ready to run to a prearranged safety place.
Snake then informs him that they have an interview with "Floyd" a hard-nosed criminal type. Floyd is not exactly a man you say no to, so they are tossed into the deep end of crime as they are informed that they are needed to pull a big-time crime. This is in the form of breaking into a gun dealing pawn store and steal a shipment of AK-47s and M-4s. Floyd is desperate, nervous and willing to pay twice Lucky and Snake's rate, and he wants them NOW. Well, okay, our dynamic duo now know that something is up, Floyd never pays more than he has to. Needing to relax before the job, they go to a stripper bar to relax, where they are attacked by "drunk" and Snake is scratched.
Then the crap really and truly hits the fan. It's a set-up, the cops are waiting, Lucky and Snake are busted, and Lucky's relatives are informed and the two are jailed where his Aunt Linda works. Snake dies, and then comes back, well, hungry, as do a lot of the city's inhabitants, and they storm the police station looking for some take-out.
Lucky's story is narrated in three parts, and this is roughly the first third with the second third telling of his escape from the city, and his survival in the countryside. With the third part dealing with Lucky learning that the outbreak may be in remission and of his redemption through the rebuilding of his life, his family, and his city. He even gets a girl friend in the form of the beauteous Portia. But all good things have to end, and the zombie remission may just be temporary, and old habits are hard to break, so to make ends meet, Lucky goes back into the housebreaking business.
And then . . .
This is not an explosive apocalyptic zombie novel. There are zombies to be sure, but Grannon has created a more character driven novel rather than the horrific gorefest. The novel's narrator, unfortunately, seems a little too, ummm, idealistic. Lucky pretty much conducts himself on the level of a boyscout, as he turns down the hot chicks who throw themselves at him, always blushes at their suggestions, he doesn't swear much, drink, do drugs, and pays his neighbor's rent. Even his burglaries, are pretty mild crimes in and of themselves. On the other hand, Lucky is a pretty likable sod, even if he thinks somebody who is thirty is "old" (!). In fact, it is with characters that Grannon does a good job. Sure, his characters aren't particularly deep, but he does a good job at making them distinct personalities. Grannon also does well with the pacing of Lucky's story, not everything happens all at once, as there's a steady ebb and flow to it all.
It was also a pleasant surprise in that Lucky doesn't get excessively graphic in narrating his story. Yeah, there are the mandatory headshots, rotting bodies, and zombie action, but Lucky has a more hopeful personality, not letting his story be as cynical or as nihilistic as many of his contemporary's survivor stories are. While there are hints of bad behavior from other people in other places out beyond Lucky's sphere of existence, he and the people around him are usually just folks trying to do the best they can in a bad situation. They all just keep trying to help each other.
On the negative side, dang it, I hate it when a character starts their story off by telling you how their story ends within the first few pages. Yes, for all intents and purposes, Lucky pretty much tells you how his story ends and you spend the rest of the novel hoping that some small miracle will happen to change Lucky's outcome. Still, Lucky is a natural born storyteller, and so Lucky gives his zombie story a more character driven direction than his contemporaries who want to give you their stories in the form of a constant stream of nihilistic gut munching, graphic sex, unending violence, and bloody death.
There is even room for a sequel, as Lucky gives us hints that he has learned that this just might be a man-made plague and that people were deliberately infected.
The novel also has a good introduction by Ursula K. Raphael that actually talks about the book and its evolution, and ISN'T more about the introductory author or is laden with fatuous praise and hyperbole.
Unlike some print-on-demand books, "Lucky Streak" has a great cover by Shawn Conn that actually illustrates something, that's Lucky, his mom's dog Rusty, and the late prima donna and drama queen Donna Eggan arriving at Lucky's for dinner.
Lucky, aka Barney Pinocle, is an eighteen year old kid who has a rap sheet, spending days of his misspent youth getting caught for various heists, some of which he was guilty of and others he was not. Lucky is a good kid though, and with a father and two aunts in law enforcement, they have both watched out for him and also given him tips to avoid getting caught (unintentionally). Lucky's tale in flashback begins with a heist he is pulling off, stealing a valuable antique from a local home. He describes with pride how he avoids getting caught, and works with his partner, Snake, to fence the goods once he has made his escape. After that, Snake is nervous about getting caught another job, but Lucky needs the money after helping out his neighbor with her rent. You see, Lucky is a good guy despite his bad habit of stealing. Before and during the second heist, there are hints being dropped about the impending zombie apocalypse, but they are fairly subtle, and wouldn't make someone who wasn't completely paranoid too concerned. But when both Lucky and Snake get busted for the heist, and zombies start popping up all over the place, all subtlety is gone and hell breaks loose. Lucky manages to escape, holding out at a campsite that is pretty far removed from civilization. He outlasts the zombie invasion in hiding, returning to his hometown of Hutchinson, Kansas, to find many of the people he knew and cared for dead, but his parents, and the girl he had a crush on, still alive. But as Lucky finds out soon enough, the zombie menace is far from over for him and the rest of the world...
The author has created a story that moves along at a quick pace and gives us a chance to really get to know Lucky, who is just trying to make his way in the world both before and after the zombies come. He is a thief, but a good guy who helps those in need. He lives up to his nickname, Lucky, on more than one occasion, but it would seem given his overall circumstances, his luck isn't all that it is cracked up to be. The story is entertaining and an easy read, and I was able to appreciate a story that comes from close to my neck of the woods, since I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, not too terribly far from Lucky's stomping grounds. I've probably only passed through Hutchinson, where most of the story takes place, once or twice in my life, but I could tell that the author has a good grip on the layout of his hometown and uses that to his advantage in this story. Overall, this is a fun and entertaining tale of one person's life and times during the zombie apocalypse, both during the first wave and the second of the undead.
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